I think I’ve thrown myself a curve ball. After being away from loved ones for 4 months, through continuous & unavoidable stress & turmoil, and being instantly reimmersed into an olympic-sized pool of demands and deadlines; I find myself numb. Having lost my health, my smile, and a critical piece of my life; I sit here questioning whether it’s worth it. Don’t cry for me interweb…I’ll get through this…but it has been a rough night.
It’s a particularly rough night to come across the writings of Thomas H. Benton (alias for Dr. William Pannapaker, English Professor at Hope College). His essays about the shortcomings of gradschool (featured in “The Chronicle of Higher Education“) raucously resonate with reason at the moment. His focus is on the humanities, but I wonder if these thoughts are more broadly applicable to all of academia:
After reading some of these, the logical question for me is, “so what now?” I could just say “I love it,” but Tom would throw up in his mouth a little bit. It seems, however, that everyone in my program has found a great job after finishing; not all in academia, but the good news is that that’s okay. Perhaps this is the saving grace that keeps me motivated. The high bar remains at the academic level, but there are several lower bars I may clear, if not academia, that are still relevant, valuable & fulfilling.
Perhaps science (in general) tends to prepare students for a pool of jobs that better reflect & use the skill sets they’ve learned. Perhaps the idea of an “interdisciplinary” program (such as the NSF-funded IGERT program to which I belong) acknowledges this and better prepares it’s students for reality. Perhaps. The good news is that I’ve thrown myself this curve ball, I know it’s coming, and I’ve already adjusting my stance & swing.
The real question is whether I should be tossing myself a curve ball in the first place, when a slow lob or even a straight fastball would suffice? Because altering my stance at this moment is really messing with my balance (am I a 31 year old adolescent as Tom suggests?). And my loved ones also have to adjust; or not, sigh. Please don’t cry for me interweb; however, I will take a pat on the back or a hug, if you’re offering.