Sunday, July 22, 2012

"It must have been love - but it's over now..."

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.


  1. I needed this post! As I head to training, my mind is filled with "what ifs?" and this small, nasty feeling that the world has "wronged" me by not letting me become an academic. I am grateful and happy about this job and think it will be good for me but the whole transition POST finding a job has been way harder than I'd gambled!

  2. Maybe this is dealing with 'failure', whatever that means in such an uneven game, but maybe it's also the last stage of grief at leaving academia? But yeah, it's a great post to read - I hope I can get to the same stage myself.

  3. I had just been thinking about some of these same feelings the other day. This new job of mine will be part-time, which I preferred but had pretty much accepted would be difficult to find. So the other day this funny thought suddenly appeared out of nowhere and I began to think about the possibility of spending some of my 'spare' time digging around with some reading in the field, or picking up some of writing that I dropped months ago when I decided to put closure on this part of my life. How bizarre! Why was I doing that to myself, when my very precious spare, leisurely time could be spent on something more meaningful and relaxing. I quickly tried to put this thought in its place and told myself how ridiculous it was. I agree that perhaps this is all part of the process of grieving and will take some time to pass.

  4. Fantastic analogy: I was a competitive distance runner who left that path to become very serious about my studies and am now leaving academia in order to have time to do more sports (not competitively!). Academia is worse, I have to say, more emotionally draining, and there is less coping ability amongst participants. I have greatly enjoyed your blog in general, btw, and it's one of several that have inspired me to write my own.