December 11, 2008, 12:01 am

B has a great post up at her place. You want a little taste? Well, the first one’s free:

When people with PhDs (or in graduate programs) talk about doing something other than professing, we always do so in terms of their “leaving” or “quitting” academia. When I left my tenure-track job, I talked abut it in terms not only of leaving a job, but possibly of leaving the profession, though that’s not really what I wanted to do…

But the truth, I think, is that part of what’s so painful about “leaving” academia is that we usually aren’t leaving by choice. More often, academia is leaving us, and all we’re doing is having to slowly come to the point of acknowledging that we’ve been left alone in this big apartment full of books, maybe with a cat or two, and a big pile of bills on the counter. Academia, that bastard; he just up and walked one day, and it took us a while to realize he wasn’t going to come back.

Oh, you know, maybe we could maintain the fiction that the relationship isn’t over. We could seek him out, hang around in the background picking up a few scraps of part-time attention when he needs someone to fill a gap in his schedule and hoping that at some point he’ll realize/remember how great we are and we’ll get back together on a full-time basis. Maybe he’ll even propose someday, and we’ll say yes–of course! does anyone ever say no?–and it’ll turn into a lifetime commitment.

The whole post is a useful reminder of what an absurd crapshoot a career in the academy is. I mean, I feel incredibly lucky to have my job. But that’s just it: I feel lucky. Because I am. How many scholars out there are every bit as smart as I am, work just as hard as I do, have CVs that are identical to mine? And how many of them have jobs they hate? Or don’t have jobs at all? What a weird profession.

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