Went to happy hour last week with fellow grad students. This is something of a weekly ritual for us. Everyone (nearly everyone anyway) strokes my advisor's ego and we can all complain together. Something like this seems to be universal in nearly all departments or should be. There's nothing like bonding over misery. Anyway, that's not the subject of my post.
At one point during this happy hour I was deep conversation with two other students graduating, or planning to, this year. They were both staying in academia and on the job market. One works in anatomy and thinks she has a shot at something this year. The other is fairly certain he doesn't stand a chance but he keeps sending out applications anyway. They've both set their sights low and are hoping for something that may come close to paying their bills. And they think I'm the crazy one for leaving this insanity.
Incidentally, both of these people deride the various fields I'm considering for my career change. I'm fairly certain anything other than the faculty-approved post-academic options would cause such a reaction. This angered me, at first. I went home from happy hour wondering if I was making the right decision. So, now I was angry and angst-ridden. What a way to spend a Friday. Thankfully, I also have a large supply of local wine to pass the time.
My advisor, if you're curious, has gone from quasi-supportive to apathetic to actively preventing other grad students from speaking to me. It's the sort of petty power manipulations I've come to fondly associate with my snake-pit of a department.
So why the anger and angst? I do try to be supportive of my fellow grad students' inexplicable hopes for academic jobs and only offer advice on some things they should negotiate for when they finally (maybe) get job offers. I strongly urge them not to become adjuncts. What angered me was the apathy and arrogance I get towards my own decision. I'm starting to get the response many post-acs get: apathy towards anything other than academic jobs and arrogance as they assume I simply couldn't cut it in academia. Considering that I am unwilling to stall my life for another 2-5 years working for sub-poverty wages for the outside chance at a TT job...maybe I couldn't cut it in academia. I've made peace with that. This led to my happy thoughts.
The next day I realized that my angst had passed with my anger. I wasn't annoyed about leaving academia and what people thought of that. I was annoyed that they didn't support me, as I expected friends to do. That's some sort of progress, I think. I care less of others' attitudes about my choice and more with their actions as "friends." Hopefully the next step is full on f!&% it mode. I'll say it again: this is MY life and MY choice. If I want to make a living wage, have hobbies, free time, friends, and a life with the one I love, that's my decision. You can keep toiling in the bowels of the Ivory Tower, if you like. I support your choice. Heck, I'll even buy you a beer and offer you a couch if you need to crash in whatever city I end up in.
Speaking of progress, I've started emailing folks for informational interviews. That definitely qualifies as progress. The best part? Folks are responding. They answer my questions and don't even waste time asking why I'm leaving academia. It's just a lot of "here's what I do" and "here's what we look for in new employees" and "sure I'll pass on your request to other people." Go non-academic network!
I'll keep y'all up to date with the transition - probably sans alliteration and alphabetizing but one never knows.