I’ve been having a down couple of days. I kept waiting until I felt better, or more optimistic, until I wrote a post. I have a habit of wanting to only present a positive spin on things. But fuck it. Being depressed, anxious, and fearful is part of this process too. Might as well come out with it all.
To start on a positive note, though (mostly to remind myself), this is not the worst it’s been. The decision to leave academia has made me feel both lighter and more free, along with really freaking terrified. For the last six months or so it feels like everything has been more extreme on both the good and bad sides of the spectrum. The last couple of days have been manageable in ways that past days have not been. Just a few weeks ago I spent days crying, telling myself that I’m making a huge mistake and that I’m a failure. Not just that I failed, but that failure actually defines who I am. I think the difference this week, and it’s a difference that is useful, is that the bad feelings are directed more at external sources. I feel bitter. And a little trapped.
When I feel down about all of this, I start thinking that I’m giving up security for insecurity, even though that is absolutely not true. I have to keep drilling it into my head that the chances are very good that if I did go back on the job market, I would either get nothing or I would get something in a place or department in which I could not stay. By leaving now, I am likely just getting out ahead of the inevitable.
But it’s hard to make it feel that way. Probably because I’m still working out my plan for the next steps. This coming year is going to be all about transition. I will be finishing my dissertation while exploring career options. I’ll be waiting for more information about where my partner will be after this post doc year ends. I’ll hopefully be taking concrete steps toward a new career or at least a new job that will work for a while. Maybe at some point I’ll figure out how that whole 9-5 things works.
Sometimes I feel optimistic about this. Last week I thought to myself that I have been a pretty excellent grad student while feeling deeply ambivalent about the work I’ve been doing. So, how awesome could I be when I felt deeply committed to and energized by my work? That was comforting. Today, I’m more focused on the fact that I have no idea what that work is. I wonder if work is something that I will ever enjoy or feel excited about. I start resigning myself to accept something that pays and doesn’t eat up all my time so that I can do things I enjoy with the rest of my hours. I worry that I am adolescent for wanting something other than that. And if that’s the case, why don’t I just stick with academia. Then I remember that it is much too late for that now and feel lost. And then the bitterness. At that, and the various factors that mean I have to wait before I can move on to the next thing, whatever that is.
You see how this cycles. So, that’s just a small window into a baddish day. A day, though, that will end with Harry Potter. Which, you know, should put things into perspective. I mean, at least I don’t have that guy’s problems. No Voldemorts here. Just me and my uncertain future. Which can’t last forever. Right?