I have been reflecting lately on what it is that makes wanna be academics cling to the idea that if we just ... (insert whatever academic activity you like) ... then all our dreams of a full time permanent job will come true. I think I am mulling over the same general theme that JC at "From Grad School to Happiness" (http://leavingacademia.blogspot.com.au/) calls "magical thinking".
Now that I am out of the whole hoopla that perpetuates some of the more demented myths around academic job hunting, I can see with a cold detachment how wanna be academics develop a kind of Munchausen syndrome when it comes to thinking about their career prospects. It's a really complicated psychological trick that enables so many people to put up with terrible circumstances in the hope that all those years invested in their career goals won't turn out to be a total waste of time*.
(*please remember that "by total waste of time" I of course mean "profoundly edifying yet with no meaningful improvement in one's employment prospects". It's just easier to use the short-hand version.)
I have heard of some of the most outrageous circumstances that people in unsecured academic employment will put up with. And thinking back on my life up until this year, I realise I have been pretty much guilty of doing the same thing. In general, it all boils down to not being able to earn a viable living and convincing yourself that it's ok that you don't because one day - ONE DAY - you will get a "proper" job.
The question is: how many years are you going to keep convincing yourself that this is an acceptable way to live?
Part of the complex pyschology of all of this is that you will have also bought into the idea that it takes time and sacrifice to get one of those jobs. Repeated failure to get a job will have been reinforced by your networks which say "oh, the next one will be yours, keep ...!". This of course enables anyone who diviates from this trap to be classified as not committed or serious enough to be an academic. Which is clearly not true. It also enables those within the trap to make the most ridiculously complicated justifications for why what happened to their no longer academic colleagues won't happen to them. In effect, they will do anything within their power to ignore the very obvious evidence in front of them about their actual job prospects.
As I am sure everyone who has decided that enough is enough has discovered, when dealing with those "on the inside" so to speak, you will find yourself being told why you should jump back in. And I am sure I don't need to say - just IGNORE THEM. Don't be seduced by the rantings of the delusional. You've made the break and you're on the road to normality. While your post-academic life might not be rosy all the time, it is DEFINITELY better than living the compromised existence that you were.
It can be hard to not feel judged or defensive about the choices that you have made when faced with the absolute certainty of someone who has not yet been able to accept the truth that you have, but don't get sucked in to justifying yourself - it's your life - to someone who is still living a lie. You will never convince them of the truth.
My tip in these situations is to instead grab an adult beverage of your choice and then ask them about their research: that way you can occupy your mind with more interesting things while sipping your beverage and letting them spout some nonsensical words for a while. Then, depending on your level of general appreciation of the said individual, when you notice them running out of puff, you can either say "Oh, how interesting - good luck with your next grant application" and hope that they stop talking about academic stuff or "What do you think about the recent funding cuts to higher eduction...?" and watch them turn green as they are forced to come up withe more convoluted explanations of how they will survive. Then get another drink.