Thoughts on life after the PhD
Some things take forever, and somethings happen really fast.
Only a couple of months after I made the decision to essentially forgo an academic career, I now find myself, for the first time in seven years, working a 9-to-5 job. (Well, technically a 9:30 to 6:00 job with an hour-long lunch break, but you get the idea.)
It’s hard to believe that I haven’t done this in seven years. Of course I’ve worked during that time, but as I’m discovering, working freelance or working as a T.A. is very different from what I’m doing now.
I’m lucky in the sense that my new job is with a company that I know and used to work for, that I work with people I know and like, that the salary’s decent and offers opportunities for advancement (sheesh, did I just write that?), and that I get to do a lot of fun and creative things on a regular basis. It’s all very new, but after just a couple of weeks of office life here are a few impressions:
Things I Love
1. Having short-term projects with a clear purpose.
2. Feeling very good at what I do and being appreciated for it.
3. Getting to do a variety of different things every day.
4. Interacting with people on a regular basis.
5. Making a living wage and feeling fairly secure about my future.
6. Getting paid to learn a lot of random and useful skills like html, Photoshop, and video / sound recording.
Things I Don’t Love
1. The commute. Jesus. Two and a half hours round-trip each day, much of it spent pressed tight against other bodies. Moving soon.
2. Lack of free time. What a luxury it is to be able to make your own schedule, and to do things like go to the bank and pick up your dry cleaning on a weekday. My weekends now seem to be 90% catchup.
3. Uncertainty in workplace social situations. I think I’m navigating this one pretty well, but after years spent working solo, it’s a bit tricky to re-acquaint yourself with the social norms of an office, which are very different from the social norms of an academic department. Luckily my office seems a lot more laid-back than most.
4. Monotony. Some days are dull, and some days I feel like I’m just number-punching. But then I remember that there was plenty of monotony in my grad school life as well. I know the message we get these days is that you should tirelessly seek out a job that fulfills and rewards you every minute of the day, but, well, I just don’t think that’s realistic for most of us. I’m happy if the job is rewarding more than half the time, which this one is so far.
5. Inability to focus on academic stuff. When you spend eight hours working, it’s very difficult to come home and try to write about Japanese literature and film. I try to work on weekends, but that hasn’t been easy either.
There’s also, I realize, a grieving period in a situation like this. I grieve the classes I may never design and teach, the seminar discussions I won’t have, the groups of like-minded people that I won’t interact with as much, the book I won’t publish, the great epiphanies I won’t have. In short, I grieve the death of my own personal “life of the mind” dream. But as I pointed out before, I just don’t think that dream was a viable one to begin with. And many of the things I miss I can and will still get, in different ways.
More updates on the grad life vs. working life situation are sure to follow. In the meantime, I really need to start exercising more regularly–apparently a sedentary work life is a ticket to an early grave. Luckily it’s a pretty long walk to my train station, so hopefully that counts as cardio.
writing•translation•scholarship on Japan (and a few other things)
tales of travel, research, and life
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