The issue keeps coming up a few times as I weave my way around and through and in the blogosphere - how to manage relatonships as you move out of the academic life for the great unknown of world beyond the campus. I mean relationships with people you may have bonded with over endless coffees and bitch-sessions about the trials of your graduate years and other people who have been a key part of your lifestyle for such a long time you barely remember how you met, but just know, that you are firm friends.
A few bloggers have wondered in print, how to "break the news" that you are moving on, and some people have noted how hard it is for some of those people in your life find it impossible to really accept the fact that you are indeed leaving. I would also like to note that in this period of transition, when you are questioning everything that you thought you knew, you are going to realise that perhaps a few of your friends are not really that friendly any more.
These are the people who might otherwise be referred to as "fairweather" friends; that is, they're happy to hang out when the going's good, when you're happy and fun to be around, but that haven't learnt the finer details of how to really be your friend when the rough patches occur. Something as radical as changing your entire life course (ie being an academic) and re-evaluating your goals in your quest for gainful employment outside of academia is quite possibly going to bring some uncomfortable tests of the strength of the friendships you have.
As you learn more about yourself in the process of finding out what else you can do, there are going to be moments when you thnk: "Oh, I never realised that ... is not making me happy." And, since you're on this path of radical transformation, this thought might be followed by "And that's going to change right now". If this happens to be a person that is not making you happy, it's hard to make the necessary transformations. Afterall, you have a history together, you know each other well. Your lives may be quite intertwined.
You won't regret it though. If you really can't remember the last time someone helped you out when you needed it, then perhaps they are a fairweather friend. And maybe you're fine with that, and maybe you can leave the relationship in that way - as someone to have fun with when you're in the mood. The trick is to find that right balance, so that you do have a level of reciprocity that you are happy with. Don't be afraid to make changes if you need to. It's your life - why replace academic guilt with another kind?