I’m Not Sad About Leaving Academia

Fuck it.

It’s kind of strange really. The internet is full of sorrowful bloggers, agonized dissertators, and post-academic therapists trying to figure out (or help others figure out) what else they can do or what their lives are supposed to be about now that they can’t find a job in Artisan Button-Making In Medieval England or whatever.

But oddly enough, I don’t really feel that sad about it on most days. Mostly, I feel relieved. You mean I don’t have to feel like shit anymore all the time? Great! You mean I don’t have to live under my adviser’s sweaty thumb anymore? Hooray! If I never have a job again it will be because of this piece of shit economy, not because I went to grad school (although that didn’t really help either.) Mostly, I just wonder about all the other things I could have done with the last, I don’t know, decade or so. Cure cancer? Become an astronaut? Probably not. But I could have done SOMETHING! The argument has been made that grad school really just institutionalizes a lot of really smart people for years and years until they’re no good for whatever that ‘something’ is anymore. I think there’s truth in that. I hate the fact that I got sucked in because I thought I was smart and smart people should just go to school, like, forever, which just shows you that I’m not as smart as I thought.

I’m not upset to be leaving academia so much as I don’t like having to face my own gullibility. And my rapidly dwindling bank account. I was never really informed about how terrible, terrible the “life of the mind” can be from an economic point of view. But it’s not anyone’s fault. If someone told me, I wouldn’t have listened.

The latest with the volunteer project (supposedly the subject of this blog) is that I have two gigs lined up for week after next that I am excited about (if excited is the right word when it comes to anticipating, you know, reading bedtime stories to homeless kids.)

In parting, I leave you with the words of Louis Menand from The Marketplace of Ideas, I think, because, why not?

“The suffering of underemployed Ph.D.’s is great because their devotion is so remarkable in a culture defined by marketplace values. Far from being a cultivator of the humanities, the academic labor system has destroyed dreams and stamped out passions; it routinely drives gifted and idealistic people to the brink of despair and beyond it. It has done so for 40 years now, and there’s no end in sight. The enemies of intellectualism—for whom the word ‘professor’ cannot be uttered without a sneer—have no greater ally than the wasted lives of so many would-be academics.

Graduate schools ask students to behave like idealists, but the schools act like the corporations they train students to despise. That contradiction could only last so long before all the talk about ‘love,’ ‘calling,’ ‘the life of the mind,’ and ‘apprenticeship’ became so obviously dishonest that such words can only provoke mockery and anger in our time.”

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