I graduated with a Ph.D. 5 years ago, taught as an adjunct at a community college for a semester, landed a tenure-track job in the middle of nowhere, landed a better tenure-track job, still in the middle of nowhere, and am now on the market again looking to move up. I've worked my ass off the entire time and have never had to stress about whether or not to leave the academy. I'm in, baby, I'm in for life.
But even if things hadn't worked out, I would have figured something out and made the Ph.D. worth my while. I would have found work outside the academy and never regretted getting a Ph.D. Indeed, I wouldn't have spent years dwelling on the faults of the ivory tower, or writing tortured blog posts (sorry, Eliza), or looking for other angsty ex-academics to share my miseries with. I would have just gotten on with things.
So when I see Ph.D.s fretting about how they “pissed away their youth and finances” earning a doctoral degree, and are now totally disillusioned with the academic job market and vicious tenure-track world , I wonder what all the fuss is about.
I mean, it’s just money, right? Weren’t you following your passions when you applied to grad school? Didn’t you enjoy spending your 20s thinking and learning, surrounded by smart/crazy academics, free to explore your interests, rather than sitting in a cubicle day after day making widgets and earning money. Didn't you love the thrill of working with Professor DryBones?
|I know your dream is to be me. Good for you.|
So what’s a little debt compared to the once in a lifetime experience of getting a PhD? Seriously? Why are you so bitter about everything? You made a choice: live with it. What’s there to be upset about? Grad school helped make you the person that you are now (even if that person is poor and a tad PO at the system and depressed, but that’s neither here nor there).
Sure, it’s nearly impossible to land a tenure-track job but them’s the breaks. Not everyone makes the final cut and, of those that do, not everyone actually enjoys the academic lifestyle. Because, at the end of the day, it’s still a job, like any other, not a magical prize at the end of a rainbow. So you either suck it up and make the most of it or fantasize about something better “out there.” The choice is yours to make.
Or, if you can’t find work as a full-time professor and are forced out of the academy, you do what you need to do: stop bitching and moaning and start looking elsewhere for employment. No point blaming others or wallowing in regret. Just get out there, find a job, and move on with your life. Let go of the past. Some of you just may not be good enough (or interesting or insane enough) to land an academic job, whether you've got a Ph.D. or not. I know it sounds harsh, but that’s life. It’s short, brutal, and unfair. More to the point: In the blink of an eye you and everyone you know will be dead anyway. In the meantime, why make such a fuss?
(Editor's note: I claim no responsibility for the opinions expressed in the above guest post!)