Post Academic

Taking a time out *after* grad school: The personal benefits

Yesterday, I wrote about the novel–and completely impracticable–idea of taking time off after earning your Ph.D. as a way to take stock of where you stand in academia.  Of course, the kind of ambivalence I described regarding the professional side of a career in higher education might only be the result of being on the ego-bruising job market, and not some kind of existential state seeking out these insights.  Since it’s all-too-easy for soon-to-be Ph.D.s and recent doctorates to get on the academic job cycle hamster wheel, but hard to get off, whether with a tenure-track job or by leaving the profession behind, maybe a cooling-off period wouldn’t be the worst thing to think things through.

Here are a few “life” life things I probably woulda and shoulda appreciated more, if only I took the time and psychic energy to jump off that hamster wheel, even temporarily…

1. Living conditions: Being on the academic job market really warped my sense of priorities, both in the present and for the future.  The odds of the academic job market are geared to failure–in MLA fields, not only are the odds you’ll land a job about 1 in, say, 200 these days, but there’s maybe a 10% chance you’ll even make the first cut of a convention interview–so there’s a baseline feeling of anxiety and miserableness fighting over the few crumbs being offered.  It was easy for me to obsess over the process–or, rather, the Academic Jobs Wiki–as if more attention to it would yield a better result.  As a result, I kinda forgot why it is that I was seeking a job in the first place, and I’m not just talking about whether I liked teaching or research.  For me, the job is a means to an ends of enjoying my life, which, actually, was already pretty great and fun, so long as I didn’t get caught up in the vicious circle of job market-induced self doubt.

Why my life was/is so great, after the fold…