I am going to take a few minutes to be frustrated about something.
I really don’t understand what the heck is up with people trying to tell me it’s a bad idea to leave grad school, causing me to have to endlessly justify my decision over and over and over again and making me feel increasingly vexed about my choice. I don’t see really what the difference is between grad school and any other job– you work, you get paid (kind of), you deal with co-workers. In fact, grad school, and academia, to those who aren’t in love with the culture, is even more of a hassle than other jobs. Just like anything, it is fun for people who love it and annoying and terrible for people who wish they were doing something else. And for me, grad school has been interfering with my other goals and aspirations, and I don’t desire to work in an academic department. Or deal with writing papers. Or deal with department politics. So what is so terrible about leaving? I can go back if I want to. When I got my Bachelor’s degree I graduated with one of the top five GPAs in my entire graduating class. My GPA for my Master’s is a 4.0, and though I haven’t gotten my grades from this summer I assume I’ll have around that for my year of Ph.D work. I have fantastic teaching evaluations, professors who would write me letters of recommendation. I’m not leaving with my tail between my legs, failing my classes and skulking away because I can’t teach. I’m leaving because I want to leave grad school, I’m not enjoying it and I want to do something else for a while. My “family of choice” thinks it’s a good idea, as does one of the biggest deal professors at FSU, an awesome person who has guided me with the combined skills of a mentor, a father, a professor, an advisor, and a friend, thinks that my decision to try something else for a while or maybe forever is an awesome idea. I have another friend/professor who thinks I am following a “calling” by leaving and maybe that’s the case. It certainly feels right to leave. Why can’t everyone else just see that?
There is some sort of weird stigma with quitting school, as if choosing to leave an expensive, high-stress environment with uncertain payback, that I don’t enjoy, and don’t want to do for a living, is crazy and must mean I have some sort of psychological issue or some other tragedy. As if I am failing as a person because I am leaving. Any job has opportunities, but most people who quit a job because they feel unfulfilled aren’t met with “but you might have been promoted!” or “But you might have gotten a raise!” or whatever. Usually people who quit a job are met with “Congrats, awesome! Such great opportunities await you!” But with quitting school you get the concerned brow-furrow and the personal questions. “Is everything OK?” “Are you sure you want to do that? You’ll lose so much work!” “Why just give up now?” Let’s take stock of things for a moment: I have one year, and not even a complete year, of Ph.D work. I have a Master’s degree, which of course in this day and age is the consolation prize of degrees, chump change instead of a respectable effort. I dislike the elements of academia that are unfortunately its defining characteristics in this day and age. So where exactly is the tragedy?
And so I have to go through the whole rigamarole over and over again: I’m too mentally exhausted at the end of most academic days to write, and I want to take a few years to try my hand at the writing thing. As a grad student I never have time for other things I love in the world, like painting, cooking, writing, knitting, whatever. I have to do those things on breaks instead of frequently. I want my evenings and weekends to myself again. I don’t enjoy writing papers. The fields I work in are currently dominated by academic trends I find unproductive, disingenuous if not (occasionally) downright despicable, and uninteresting.
Grad school was an awesome experience for me. I can parse academic writing. I have boss research skills. I can read (to some degree) ancient Greek. And I am going to use those skills, hopefully, to write. I know it is an insane crazy dream and I will most likely fail at it, but I don’t want to look back at my life one day and say “I really wish I had taken the time to try the whole writing thing. I had an opportunity and I squandered it.” So that’s what I’m doing. I feel fine in this decision, except when I have to endlessly justify it to everyone I’ve ever met. So everyone just leave me alone!