What’s Old Is New Again

May 9, 2008 at 5:49 am 3 comments

One of the experiences that led me to create Having Enough was deciding four-plus years ago to leave my doctoral program after four years of graduate study. It was an agonizing decision at the time, but now clearly so the right one for me. After I left, I became a career counselor for graduate students at my research university for two years and saw the same angst I had felt, amplified, in many of the PhD students who came to my office every day.

I saw a cult of overachievers living under a single definition of success (read: tenured professor) that was wreaking havoc on the mental health of so many people who chose to pursue this path of higher learning. I saw the stats that showed high divorce rates among graduate students, and a Berkeley study that revealed a shocking number of graduate students who had considered suicide. And I saw a structure and culture of academic life that did not broadly support alternative definitions of success.

Once I released myself from the singular definition of success, everything lightened. I appreciate my graduate education, and use it all the time, but I’m glad I removed myself from that path and that culture (on an everyday level, at least). And I’m glad I became a counselor for a time there, to see that I actually did have something to contribute, and a way to make a difference for some folks.

So, now I’m a freelance writer/editor (my pre-grad school career made new) and a mom. I’ve kind of “been there, done that” with the PhD thing. And, yet, it keeps coming back to me in new ways, reminding me that although I may have moved past that particular stage and have opened up my own definition of success, there are still many grad students struggling and looking for a voice to tell them they can see things through other lenses.

There still may be a need for people “on the outside” to offer alternative ideas to challenge the academic status quo, and perhaps open things up for future generations of academics (my parents are academics, and I do still love and value higher education, and always will). And I still clearly have things to learn and do in this particular arena; it’s still offering me amazing opportunities.

For example, I’m thrilled to now be a part of a team of writers who make up the forthcoming Mama, PhD anthology, and the Mama, PhD blog on Inside Higher Ed. I’ll be offering career advice on transitioning from academia (or choosing whether to) every Monday on the blog (my first column is here).

I’m grateful to Caroline Grant and Elrena Evans, co-editors of Mama, PhD, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it — and to the amazing Miriam Peskowitz for introducing me to these fine women and editors.

What I keep thinking this week, as this new project launches and all the other bits and pieces of life occur, is that when we follow our passions and our gut, we really do end up doing the right jobs, landing in the right places, and meeting the right people who are going to push us where we need to go to grow. Following these parts of ourselves is not always easy — in some subcultures especially — and we certainly must experience what’s not right to appreciate what is.

But, boy, is it easier now to listen to those inner voices instead of the outer ones. Who knew?


Entry filed under: Career, Success/Failure.

Ah, There it Goes Using Our Brains

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shawn  |  May 9, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Congrats! I’ve come across other bloggers contributing to that blog as well. Should be a good resource.

    I think it genuinely takes being a mother to figure out what inner peace is, what success is and why most of what we see and hear thru the media is not what drives us any longer. Perhaps that’s the real reason the industry is changing so much.

    Do you hear voices, too? : )

  • 2. Dr. Paul  |  May 9, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I think the fundamental yearning of human beings is to experience freedom and liberty. Sometimes we define success in a way that systematically creates captivity instead. It has been interesting to me to watch the transformation in my own life and career. I still use the Ph.D., but have actually moved my practice farther away from the stuff that requires it. Watching your kids grow into adults causes some reflection about what’s driving you and consuming your time and resources.

  • 3. The Writer Mama  |  May 12, 2008 at 4:00 am

    Congrats, Megan. And Happy Mother’s Day!

    🙂 C


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You are visiting "Having Enough (In a Have-It-All World)"...

Blog Mission

To spark conversation about redefining success (as individuals, families and institutions) and to counter "never enough" messages currently circulating in our culture.

Blog Author

Megan Pincus Kajitani: Writer, Editor, Former Academic Overachiever and Career Counselor, Mom, Wife, Feminist, Gen Xer, Californian who believes that change is possible View Megan Pincus Kajitani's profile on LinkedIn

Books for Having Enough Kids

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