What scared you this year more than anything else? Did you learn anything new about yourself?
Leaving school was the scariest thing for me this year–probably in my entire adult life.
Let’s look back:
2004: I leave CEGEP to start a social sciences certificate at UQAM. I do very well in my first semester and I am surprisingly pleased by both my performance and how well I seem to be integrating.
2005: I start my English and Liberals Arts BA at Concordia. These three years will remain probably the best of my life. I met a lot of good, life-long friends. I had fun. I studied hard. I learned so many things, became perfectly bilingual, and made a choice to pursue the academic path.
2008: I move to Victoria to pursue my master’s degree at UVic. My boyfriend of only two years follows, leaving his family behind. Again, I meet great friends who I am glad to still call so. I also do well, meet interesting people and pursue interesting research.
2010: I move to Edmonton to start my PhD. I leave my boyfriend behind in Victoria (one of the worst mistakes of my life). I meet great people, especially Leanne.
April 2011: I’m starting to have doubts about my place in the PhD. My project doesn’t excite me, I’m not making efforts to publish and I feel generally frustrated about my chances of finding a job after I graduate. I feel like all of this will amount to nothing and I will have toiled away at a dissertation for a life of stress and near-poverty.
July 2011: I officially withdraw from my PhD and move to Vancouver, on a hopefully temporary basis.
Leaving academia after so long has been the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Academia is safe and cozy; there’s a structure, a system that I have come to know and can navigate well. No one is really ever ready to face the real world after years of being in an institution, of whatever kind.
The real world is scary. Not everyone loves books as much as I do. I can’t relate to everyone I meet at least on that basis. Not only is it hard to relate to people in general, but it’s also hard to relate to the world. How do people manage without semesters? How do they separate their year? This daily, non-stop grind without any boundaries is awfully terrifying.
I moved from a relatively homogenous environment to something that is scarily diverse. I can’t deal with all the stuff there is out there. My life was simple, clear, focused. Now I’m pulled in four different directions just to survive: writing, grading, community management and translation. There’s no clarity, no simplicity, no focus. I’m lost.
I hope that a job will help me regain this focus, but for now, I have to play with the cards I am dealt. The challenge is teaching me a lot about myself and my resilience. If I can get through this, I can get through anything. I am staying hopeful for the future because I am smart, talented and motivated. And I’ll make work for myself if that’s what it takes.