These are my last few weeks as an academic. I’m honestly quite surprised by my lack of emotion. I would have thought that this period in my life would have been really hard. That I would be sad, unsure, worrying that I had made a huge mistake, wanting to turn the clock back, feeling teary eyed about the fact that I may never be in the classroom ever again, feeling sad about leaving research unfinished. Nope. None of that. That’s good, right? So, why am I distrustful and nervous about this lack of emotion? Because I’m not aware of any overt feelings of happiness either. I seem to be approaching this transition in a very matter-of-fact manner. I’m changing jobs, yes it’s a little sad, but it’s also quite exciting, new life, new chapter – I’m sure there will be things I don’t like, but I’ll deal with them when they arise. Sounds rational, sounds mature – yes, except… I tend not to be either when faced with change.

Maybe this is a sign of personal growth, you say. Brimming with hope you ask, ‘Could it be that you’ve grown up CC, and have found a functional way of dealing with transitions? A way that doesn’t involve curling up in foetal position in your bathtub and drinking liberal amounts of gin?’ That’s what I was hoping for too – unfortunately, I’m still batshit crazy.

You see, this complete lack of fear and rational approach towards my career transition has been accompanied by intense mood swings regarding our upcoming wedding. Some days I am delirious with happiness, cannot wait to get married and see where we go next, so happy that I’ve found someone as wonderful as Mr. CC, completely at ease with our relationship. Other days I’m sad, unsure, worrying that we’re making a mistake, wanting to turn the clock back, feeling teary eyed about the fact that I may never move back to India after all, feeling sad about all the changes that are going to take place.

Hmm… doesn’t take a genius to see that connection, huh? Except it took me a month. I sat down to write an uplifting post for people out there who are thinking about leaving academia, and feverishly looking for information about others who had already done so. Did you do that? Because I did, and it sucked. I didn’t find much, thus adding fuel to my fears that once you left academia you just disappeared into a black hole of unhappiness never to be heard from again. So, I was going to write about how it’s great – yes, you too can leave academia without any feelings of regret and be quite matter of fact about it. There are no dirges playing in the background. There is no Greek chorus singing ‘There she goes, making the biggest mistake of her life. The failure who couldn’t hack it in academia’. Really, none of that is happening, you’re just changing your mind and getting a new job. And if you don’t like it you’ll get another one – like millions of people out in the world. No drama. No one really cares. They got over it a long time ago, now you just need to.

Yes, all of that is true. But, you also need to know that it is a huge change in identity and on an emotional level things might get a little crazy. And you might project that craziness onto other parts of your life. In fact, the more stable and sure you are of something, the more likely you’ll project your craziness onto it. Because it can handle it and fundamentally your mind knows that it is safe to be in there mucking about with it. Whereas the blank page that is your career during the transition, it is not a safe space to ask too many questions, so your mind will skitter away from it like cockroaches from light. It will be crazy, but not in the way you have feared. You may not have a hard time making the change, but you might have a hard time dealing with the changes. Unfortunately, this may manifest as worry about other things in your life. It’s fine, worry about those other things – it will give you something to do with all that nervous energy. But while you’re doing that recognize that it is just the mind dealing with change in the safest way it knows how to and remind yourself that the rest of your life is not going to shit and that eventually you’ll calm down and see that it’s true. If that fails, drop me a note – I have a bottle of Gin I’m willing to share. Actually, screw that, get your own bottle this one’s mine.

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