Quit or Fail: How to pick up the pieces after academic and PhD abandonment?
November 24, 2009 12:44 PM Subscribe
How have you reconciled failure vs. quitting? How have you managed to pick up the pieces of your most passionate undertaking after dropping it? Is the desire to reinvent myself and undertake a new passion/direction just a mechanism to hide the pain of giving up?
posted by Gaeacon to education (7 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I recently graduated with a Master's (conciliatory?) in Ecology from a top program. For 2+ of 3 years I dealt with either crippling depression (I think I'll just stay in bed for the week...month...quarter) and second guessing my ability to succeed in my PhD program or the delusion that I could remain cavalier and continue shooting from the hip all the way to the hooding ceremony.
I got tired. I chose not to continue on the PhD path and decided to puruse my "true passion" - communicating environmentalism and inspiring social change within a broader audience. I've done tours of duty with two non-profits that vary widely in their sphere of influence and method of promoting environmentalism/conservation. I haven't been enthralled by either and find myself still looking at the horizon....
I have been feeling nostalgic - I miss collaborators/old friends, I miss exciting tropical field site, I miss comfortable fellowship, and I really miss feeling like I am creating my life rather than just floating by. At the time, I was convincing myself I wanted something different, something more in line with my dreams. Now I look back and think "I had it good! If I just did the work and didn't fall victim to the distraction of something bigger and better....if I would have dealt with the depression (self-induced I think), bad habits, cavalier attitude...I would be well on my way with research".
Maybe it is mostly hindsight and the grass is greener type of thing. I can't rid the nagging feeling that "I want to quit PhD to pursue this, my real passion!" is really just a self-deception disguising "I am failing because I refuse to make positive changes in my life and would rather do nothing". I am tired of this "can't fail if I don't try" attitude, and I basically spend everyday of work at non-profit thinking about how I messed up.
How do I overcome this failure/quitting and regain creative control of my life? Where do I go next? I am drowning with real-world problems (paying bills, finding a new job) and feel like I am inevitably drifting further from pursuing my "true passion" - my supposed reason for getting out of PhD early!
I want to stop defrauding myself. I know that I was fully capable of doing the work I just "chose" not to. The worst feeling is not knowing if I was justified in that choice - was it because of laziness, fear of failure....or truly because I wanted to do something else (as I struggled for months to finally convince myself and then report to others) - it just all seems like lies