Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Emotional Transition: An Introduction

Hello, fellow quitter! If you’re here, it means you’re leaving grad school, or quitting the adjunct circuit, or bailing on the job market, or considering in some way getting out of academia. You've decided to pretty much change everything about your life as it is now, and everything about your hopes and dreams for the future. We've been there. We've done that. It's hard, but it is doable. 

ColoursCreative Commons License Camdiluv ♥ via Compfight

So, yeah: expect to feel a lot of intense emotions around the decision to quit. Expect to feel them for quite awhile after you’ve left, too. Even for folks who leave academia on good terms, who simply want a different direction and have no regrets, feelings of confusion, uncertainty, and turmoil can crop up. In a month or a year you might glimpse a CFP your diss would have been perfect for, or see a job ad that you would have loved to apply for if only... We all hit those rough patches. It’s part of the territory. Because academia is more than just a job, right? It’s our life. It’s our passion, it’s our hobby, it’s our bread and butter, it’s our social circle, our hopes and dreams, our health insurance, our visa, our sense of self. Leaving academia is more than just changing vocational goals, it’s leaving a whole world behind. I’ve heard it compared to leaving a church, or the military. It’s understandably difficult to disentangle that web when you decide to leave. Heck, a lot of people stay in academia just to avoid that messy process.

So the first thing we want to say is: your feelings make sense. Quitting is freeing and can be extremely rewarding, but I think we’ve all found it difficult at times. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling overwhelmed, confused, sad, or angry.

The second thing we want to say is: you are not alone. It’s easy to feel isolated when you don’t have connections to people who’ve left academia, especially if you feel like you can’t talk openly about it with your advisor/partner/friends who are still in that world. But you are not alone. For all of us, finding a community of supportive post-academics has been really valuable, and we welcome you to join our conversation! Fire up a blog and join our blogroll, or just drop us an email. In regular life, think about people you know who’ve left and dropped off the map. They’re still out there. Look up that guy who was a fifth year when you started and quit to become a teacher: find him on facebook and ask questions. Ask around. Talk to people. It really helps.

But for some of us, friends and journaling aren’t enough and the support of a therapist, sometimes even a psychiatrist, is essential. I know it was crucial for me. Anxiety and depression can be excruciating and debilitating. You do not need to suffer through this process. Find help. Ask for help. Accept help.  More on this TBA.

Where Angels CryCreative Commons License D. Sharon Pruitt via Compfight

When we started this project, we all agreed that the dearth of info and support for the emotional transition you undergo when you leave academia had to be remedied. We hope the resources in this section offer some of the solace, perspective, and advice you need to navigate these rough waters.

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