November Funk

Maybe it’s the weather: cool, drizzly, and with snow somewhere in the forecast. But there’s definitely something angsty in the air. I’m not even teaching this semester and I still had to take some “me” days last week, and it seems as though the web is abuzz with similar feelings of  grad student uncertainty, regret, disappointment, and indecision. (Although I guess when you frequent blogs about ambivalent academics and ex-grad students, you shouldn’t be too surprised at the particular feelings such experiences might  give rise to.)  Some of my own recent reading:

“PhD in English Useless Destroyed my Life”: A Selloutyoursoul Reader Writes In

A Tale of Graduate School Burnout

When Your Loved Ones Don’t Get It at On the Fence

Got a Lot of Leavin’ Left To Do at WorstProfEver

And I know it’s a little 1998 of me, but thank God for the Internet! I love reading these tales of disappointment, burnout, and leaving. Of indecision. Of starting over. Of advice, both tender and harsh. And it’s not just schadenfreude, it’s exactly what a grad student in a November funk needs to read (especially, as one commenter recently suggested, if friends and family are the last people to consult about a major career change).

After years of feeling unsure about myself, my place in the world, my place in academia, the place of academic in the world, etc., etc.,  it just feels great to see a whole list of smart, savvy people negotiating the same kinds of fears, questions, and decisions. And even though my life hasn’t actually changed — I’m still working on my dissertation, still having awkward encounters with faculty members who avoid eye contact in the hallway — I feel like I have this fantastic secret: I’ve found an amazing place where just thinking about leaving academia is okay, and actually leaving can even be cool.

So, if you’re a fellow grad or post-academic in that November funk, find your community, and say hello.

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10 Responses to “November Funk”


  1. 1 James November 23, 2010 at 1:55 am

    That’s an awesome little post and it is cool….I felt the same in my final days hearing the conversations in offices and realizing I no longer was in the game….whatever your decision you got the support of many people. Thanks for posting this. James @ selloutyoursoul.com

    Ps keep your eye out for a new Chronicle of Education article about sellouts like me.

    Keep your head up and make sure academe can afford to keep ya talents around the halls

  2. 2 alternativephd November 23, 2010 at 9:36 am

    @James: Thanks for stopping by and saying hello! Thanks also for the head’s up about the Chronicle article about sellouts — looking forward to it!

  3. 3 Michael November 23, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Chalk me up as suffering from the funk. I’ve found tons of blogs about this topic over the past few weeks, and I think a lot of them are recent additions to the blogosphere as opposed to long-lasting blogs that I happened to run across.

    I’ve been contemplating a series of blog posts myself about my disappointments with academia, my discipline, and what academia has done to me physically, emotionally, and socially. I honestly think I could write a book on it, but no one would take me seriously since I’m not a Ph.D. 😉 I haven’t quite found the courage to put my thoughts into a blog, but I have lots of thoughts ready to erupt!

    Yesterday I actually emailed my classmates telling them I was thinking of bailing. I asked them to tell me why I should stay. Interestingly, only one of them had a decent argument. The rest were just “you can do it” reasons. And the thing is, none of them want to be here either, so I don’t feel as though I am out of the mainstream.

    Face it. We are sadists. We enjoy knowing that other grad students are suffering just like us. I had to “hide” a classmate of mine’s facebook because she kept posting things about how great her life was (she is quitting and hasn’t done anything for over a year). I like her and respect her, but I just couldn’t read about how great life outside of the academy has been to her. The same goes for many of my friends who have “real” jobs, families, weekends, vacations, money, etc. They piss me off; not because of anything they have done, but because of what I have done–gone to grad school.

    Ok. Sorry for the rant. I feel better now.

  4. 4 alternativephd November 23, 2010 at 10:06 am

    @Michael: I’d be curious to see the blogs you’ve found! And I’m impressed by your courage in “coming out” to your peers about leaving. I’ve got a few people in my program that I can talk openly to about these things, but definitely not others.

    And point taken about being a bit of a sadist. Hard to deny — I mean, I think being in grad school gives that away, yes? =)

    And if you ever want to contribute rants/posts/anything to *this* blog, just let me know! I’m lining up some other contributors as well — I’m happy to have other voices on here. (And guest blogging anonymously would be fine.)

    alternativephd [at] gmail [dot] com

  5. 6 WorstProfEver November 23, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Hey, at least I ended with an upbeat video, because yes, life on the outside is so much better!

    Sorry, Michael if that pains you — but it’s true, so why not seek a little joy for yourself, eh? Or write a roman a clef about your experience. Worked for Kingsley Amis…

  6. 7 Eliza Woolf November 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I’m really enjoying your blog, alternative phd, and glad we can all share the November funk together! (I’ve added it to my blog roll, too.)

    And I completely agree with Michael: there are lots of new “what the hell do I do now?!” blogs all over the place by people who are either in grad school or fairly recent Ph.D.s. Why? Because everyone is looking to vent now that the shit has truly hit the fan and we know what lies at the end of the tunnel we’ve all been digging for ourselves.

    It’s like a bomb went off in 2008/09 and we still haven’t fully recovered. Perhaps we never will. Plus, now there’s a new movement afoot. People are willingly looking outside the academy for employment and wondering what they can find. It’s a mass movement in many respects and the academic establishment remains, as always, pretty much oblivious. Yay for us!

    **And, BTW, I’d love to read guest posts by current grad students here or at other blogs, mine included.

    • 8 alternativephd November 23, 2010 at 6:37 pm

      Thanks, Eliza! I really like your blog as well, and very much appreciate your comment that there’s a movement afoot, so yay for us!

      It’s also good to know that there’s at least some interest in grad student guest posts…guess I need to get on that!

  7. 9 Anthea November 24, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Totally like your post and agree wholeheatedly. I’ve added your url to my blogroll too. I agree with Michael and Eliza, yes..the shit has hit the fan and we’re all saying ‘Wow’…! I suspect that the academic establishment might not be able to hear us possibly because they’re in the equivalent of a sinking ship…somewhat the equivalent of the Titanic…and they can’t hear anyone else who’s not on their ship or perceive the enormity of what is really happening.

    It’s really good to find kindred spirits when something major is happening since one realises that somewhere else on this large planet, doesn’t matter where, that someone else ‘get’s’ one personal and perhaps private nightmares.


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