Can you give up your academic glamour?



Picture this: one day, after a morning when you desperately tried to cope with a schedule without anything related to your academic credentials, that continued with a less academic business meeting and an even less intellectual afternoon of careful family budget planning, you have a moment of truth. For almost ten years, or even more, you had had a hard time trying to get the best grades at the university and read all the complicated and sophisticated books included in the bibliography.

After you obtained your degree, you applied for grants while you continued reading, submitting proposals for articles in foreign languages, applying for jobs, and even adding teaching to your job experience. Your MA work went smoothly, but you also wanted to be one of the best students despite that the financial support was not enough, and you needed to work long hours for basic survival. Eventually, your professional achievements were impressive and you moved beyond the day-by-day subsistence. Happy to succeed, you considered that it would offer more freedom in pursuing your academic goals, buying more books and getting the independent funding for covering the participation at academic conferences all over the world.

And everything went so well that shortly after the MA was finished, you did not hesitate to enroll immediately in a Ph.D. program. Thus, you could keep yourself busy for another full 5-6 years, during which you learned how to juggle wearing different hats: your professional activities, the intense academic learning and, if time was left, a personal life. Preparing a Ph.D. means more than focusing on the exams and other bureaucratic aspects of the thesis. It means building a credible profile that spans collaboration to prestigious reviews, chapters included in serious academic volumes, and presentations at various conferences. Not to mention acquiring the proper academic skills and the never-ending work of editing and re-editing and editing again of your paper.

And suddenly, you are done. You may suffer for awhile because you don’t have too many things to do after you finish your regular 8-hours per day schedule. Or you may try to apply for a conference presentation, or write a book or maybe an article once in awhile. But as long as you are not directly and constantly connected to academic life, after a while you don’t mind if you have not read anything relevant to your topic of research for more than half a year. You may be happy now: you have an academic title, precious for your social recognition, and surprisingly many people may not have any idea of your previous unsuccessful struggle to balance the professional, personal and academic life. Your relatives will be proud or envious of you, and you may hear from time to time observations about your high IQ.

Otherwise, for the medium term, you may have in mind a very easy lifestyle, in which you will continue to read and also write, but when you need to do it without any pressure of the deadline and obligations to cope with various editorial observations and style requirements.

It is not fatigue or academic failure. It is simply the freedom to enjoy a temporary break that may last 5 months or 5 years or even more. The skills acquired during the long years of hard study are now part of your personality, so do not hurry to complain about the waste of time. Whatever you do, you will do it from the perspective of an intellectual-in-development. Don’t worry: you can’t stay out of the mind games for too long.

Author Bio: Ana Dinescu is a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.