Sunday, February 13, 2011

Academia to Industry

J's been thinking about the possibility of moving his attention to industry or government jobs instead of academia.  There's lots of good reasons for this, and most of them mean that things will be better for me (except for the possible cheap tuition), but I got incredibly freaked out.  He says there's no way he wouldn't finish his PhD (too damn close) but the seemingly sudden change from life in academia to "What would it be like to work at Mac?" at first seemed like an odd lapse of attention.

We had a friend who got married. Less than a year later that friend decided he was gay.  That freaked me out too, because nobody had any idea! These things coming out of nowhere, when you think you really know somebody, things that change the game plan, this is the feeling I got. The, I-can't-control-anything feeling.  So, even though Industry gives us better options, I couldn't shake the feeling there had been a bait-and-switch.  Why had I been waiting around all during grad school?

There wasn't really a fight, just me wailing and throwing out some tired whining about tying myself to someone and following for the rest of my life (yeah, find an answer in there that you can live with).  If Industry is such an option, why was this the first time we'd talked about it?

It also made me realize that a lot of things I get angry about, information I was never given, wasn't necessarily information he had at the time.  When we got married, he never thought it would take him over six years to get a PhD.  All the sweet things he told me, he really believed.  It was my fault for believing it and not doing my research.  I also realized that I am SO LUCKY that I didn't have the drive to go to grad school.  I'm not that guy.

Ugh, cans of worms over here.  Lots of love and devotion, but a whole lotta worms.

Happy Valentine's Eve!

[UPDATE: I just wanted to make sure that the anecdote about the friend coming out was not to say that coming out is horrible, but the situation was an unnerving surprise.  Everyone wants the one they love to be truly happy, but my heart breaks for her every time I think about it.  It's hard not to think about how I would feel in that situation.]


  1. Sometimes, I think it could just be about being fed up of the world of academia. We've had this discussion too and it's not an easy one.

    On a tangent, do you read PhD Comics?

  2. I would hope a person would get fed up working in academia AFTER graduation, but it's not so. It's almost like some faculty are *trying* to kill off future scientists. Unfortunately, this isn't an aspect I am allowed to rant about online, in respect of J.

    I have read PhD comics, and have used their forum to get insight into what J's going through. I used to think it was silly, now it just makes me sad.

  3. Job security, flexible hours, great pay, what's not like about tenure? It's just getting there that's hard. But to get there, there's intense competition, frustration, rejected papers, some politics, a lot of compromise and well, just a lot of pressure.

    It's not very different from life in general. To me, the hardest thing about academia seems to be not letting oneself feel isolated. It's easy to lose track when you spend most of your life working in a tiny area in a highly specialized field.

    When the person you believe in finds it hard to believe in their own dreams, it starts to get crazy. The last year is always the hardest.

  4. A PhD not becoming a professor is actually *not* - or should at least not considered to be - a huge change of course, but rather the normal way of life. Given that each professor only needs one person to replace him/her, it is obvious anyway that not all PhDs become professors. This is not a particular tragedy, nor does it imply that the PhD was a waste of time. (Except perhaps if the whole PhD was horrible and J *only* did it to become a professor. But then again, he might also have found being a professor horrible in that case, so who knows....)

    J's potential change of mind is fairly common: At the beginning, "becoming a professor" seems like the most obvious path, a bit like the many kids who want to become whatever mommy is or a teacher, because they know these jobs. A bit later, when you grow up and learn about other options, eh, then being a teacher may no longer be your dream job.

  5. I went through my undergrad thinking I was going to be a poet, and I kick myself for having been so silly. So I see him coming to this thought and I try to compare that. Which is silly also.

    I'm feeling a lot better about it now, and more so when I see how much lighter it's made his step. It's a good Valentine's Day.


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