I know you all love a bit of Roxette :)
Just the other day it hit me. With stunning certainty and clarity. My academic career is over. OVER. O-V-E-R. Over.
And I think I am ok with that. I mean, sure, it's hard to take that all those years I spent slogging away in pursuit of such a defined goal have amounted to, well, not getting what I wanted, but, at the end of the day, I will get over it.
For quite a while after the initial euphoria of actually getting a job wore off slightly, I started doubting whether I was really doing the right thing and was wondering whether it was worth hanging on to the academic life a little longer. I was toying with the idea of continuing to do what I have been doing "in my spare time". And then one day, I was sitting down at the laptop and realised "WTF am I doing? It's a beautiful sunny day outside and I am telling myself I should be looking up unbelievably dull journal articles in order to force myself to write another dull journal article that only five people will read." So I stopped. And went for a walk instead. Which was a far more enjoyable activity than writing journal articles I must say.
I think I can get used to this life.
Since then I have been thinking about failure and what it means and how we cope with it. Of course, a week out from the Olympics, there are going to be a lot of tales of triumph and failures coming up shortly. But think about it - athletes go through the same thing at the end of their careers. The difference is though, that athletes know they only have a short time to shine and have to make the most of their physical ability while they can. This is not something ever mentioned in academic circles of course. Anyway, my point is that making that call, about when to retire, when you no longer love the sport, you've lost the passion or your body can't take it anymore, are all the decisions that an elite athlete is faced with.
If elite athletes can cope, then I am sure someome with a PhD can. We've had just as much training and have similar levels of comittment, so there's no reason why we can't find that requisite ability to redeploy when necessary. I know that for a lot of former athletes there isn't much glory to be had post-career, but perhaps that's also something that can be different when your "sport" is academia and it's not so much physical strength/ability/prowess/talent etc as mental capacity that's been finely tuned.
Anyway, I will be watching the Olympics and wondering about the "also rans". For me, their the stories that are more inspiring than winning medals.