Academia, my lost love

Dear academia,

it's been nearly two years since we parted. When we just met, I was so in love. I wanted to be with you, gather data and write papers for you. I wanted to science with you and spent many of my waking (and supposed-to-be-sleeping) hours thinking about you. I wanted to stay with you and worked so hard to try and make that happen.

But then, when I was all disgruntled and unsure whether us being together was really what was best for me, I decided to leave you. I decided to join industry. In industry, the building is shiny, the people have had training on how to communicate and I was even offered a permanent contract.

But when I look out of the window of that shiny building, I can still see you. I hear about you at home from my husband and from friends. And now that the honeymoon phase with industry is over, and I see the cracks in the shiny building and the fact that even with communication training, people are sometimes still jerks - but in a politer way - I miss you. I miss doing research without the boundaries of what is commercially useful and what is important to convince the people who need to prescribe or buy things. I miss being able to think of a project entirely by myself and write it down in the hopes of being able to execute it some day. And mostly, I miss the dream of being important someday; having my own lab that does breakthrough science and wins prizes for it.

And I don't know if this means I should try to get back together with you, academia. Or that I just forgot the disgruntled bits and only remember the good times we had together. Or that - perhaps - I can figure out some way to have a threesome.

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7 responses so far

  • becca says:

    Re: politeness-
    yes, "nice" is different than "good".
    People aren't better in industry. If anything, they are more selfish. But they are far less likely to subject people to a particular type of blunt criticism.

  • Anonymous says:

    "People aren't better in industry. If anything, they are more selfish."

    I don't know about better, but in my experience (PhD and then 10+ years in industry, now back in Academia), I have never seen selfishness in industry on the level that I have seen -- and continue to see -- in Academia. Many more bloated egos here, too.

    As to the OP: give it time. You didn't just leave Academia in a huff, did you? There were years of disappointment and frustration that convinced you to go, no? You've got to make choices between things *as they are*, not as you'd wish them to be. Watch out for that! I sometimes fall into this trap myself....

    • Zuska says:

      Agree.
      I went from academia to industry to academia to industry. I loved my work in all places but only in academia did I feel abused by higher-ups (as opposed to annoyed) and disgusted by unethical and obstructive behavior.
      Assholes can be found everywhere; my experience was industry had better protocols for dealing with them.
      It may be that I just worked in exceptionally good companies & extraordinarily bad academic environments. But part of my professional life was to analyze academia's challenges for women. And I began to feel uncomfortable about urging women to consider academic careers. Industry's no shining city on a hill for women but I think it's easier to make a normal life (not least in choosing where to live rather than the job choosing for you, and being able to actually live w/one's partner),get good pay, and leave work at the office when it's time to go home.

      • babyattachmode says:

        Thanks for your insight, Zuska. I think the big difference is indeed that people here are not afraid to share that they have a life outside work, which is quite the culture-change from academia where many people still think that the best way to be a scientist is to do science 24/7.

  • babyattachmode says:

    " You've got to make choices between things *as they are*, not as you'd wish them to be. "

    Yes, very true. I've actually made this mistake before as well in an actual relationship...

  • ivy says:

    Despite what your loveheart implies, you are still sciencing. You are sciencing every single day at your job. You have not lost science, you have lost academia.

    Academia ≠ science.

    I feel to imply that if you are not in academia you aren't in science does a massive dis-service to everyone, including yourself.

    • babyattachmode says:

      Yes you're entirely right and I've actually argued that to several people myself, but it wouldn't fit in that sentence if I had said "academia'ed" instead of scienced 😉

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