I don't want to be a professor, I just want to be a lab tech who reads a lot.
November 3, 2011 9:49 AM Subscribe
Help me quit grad school.
posted by anonymous to Education (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a second year graduate student in physical chemistry. I'm finding that I'm really unhappy with academic life, to the point where my performance and motivation to keep up with my responsibilities are suffering. The idea of continuing in an academic career fills me with dread; if my problem were just "grad school is tough", I think I could push through my funk, but it's really "grad school is tough, and I don't see any reason to continue."
Today, I picked a fight with a professor, because I felt our latest exam had been unreasonable and that his own statements supported my assertion that it was not an appropriately paced exam (he'd specifically compared it to a qualifying exam, in which we have approximately 3x as much time to complete an equivalent amount of material.) He denied it, we went back and forth a bit, he told me to come see him in his office. And the thing is, I know I was wrong to pick a fight. I know that, in the scheme of things, what I said would make no difference, and that adapting to apparently-impossible expectations is part of the whole game. But I am so thoroughly sick of it, of the idea that we have to constantly adapt ourselves as they move the goalposts back and back, that we're just supposed to accept it and self-medicate on our own time with alcohol and black humor. It's childish, I know, and I kind of hate myself after reading what I've written there, but I think it's indicative of something that I've been realizing a lot of different ways: academia is not a realm where I can be happy. There's a fundamental incompatibility.
I don't know what to do. I can't focus in my classes, or on my work, because I just fantasize about leaving, about going somewhere else and doing something else. I've managed to hold it together on talent (I know that I have the aptitude for grad school, and I think that's part of the problem: I bought into the "If you can, you should." mentality.) I lucked into a great adviser, someone who I have a very good working relationship with, and that makes me feel really guilty about leaving (he's new faculty, tenure-track; I was one of the first students to join his group and I feel awful when I think about how I'd have wasted his limited time, money, and work if I left now.) I'm also afraid, because I don't know what I'd do if I left. It's a hard economy, and if I don't think I'm qualified to do much more than grad school.
I'm sorry, this post is turning into an incoherent mess. Here are the questions: What have people done before? Should I just grit my teeth and stick it out for a Masters? Are there any jobs left, at all, for people with a B.S. and some teaching and research experience? How do I tell my adviser, my professors, that I really don't want to be there any more, especially since it's quite likely that I'll need a few of them to act as references if I want to find a job?