Shared with permission.
I recognize that you probably receive many, many messages. I’m sure a lot of them come from trolls. I don’t really expect a reply. I mostly just wanted to send this someplace safe. I’m not currently in a position to be able to claim my voice because I haven’t (yet) found a new job outside of academia.
That said, I recently (finally?) have come to the realization that academia wasn’t built for me, and I decided to write about that.
Academia wasn’t built for me. That realization has changed my life.
I was the first person in my family to earn a graduate degree, and one of the first in my family to attend college at all. I do not come from a socioeconomically privileged background. Growing up, my family lived well below the federal poverty line, and my bachelor’s degree was funded by a Pell Grant. All that said, I recognize that I’m a relatively-privileged, white, cis-gendered woman with a master’s degree. Still, academia wasn’t built for me.
I have a disability. Among other things, I suffer from chronic pain that requires medication and consistent medical interventions including physical therapy, in-office procedures, and surgeries. It’s exhausting. I, frankly, don’t know the exact amount I’ve spent on healthcare since starting graduate school, but last year alone it was over $8,000 – after insurance. Of course, these appointments and recovery from the procedures take time as well. I joke that managing my healthcare is my part-time job. The truth in that comedy is that balancing a full-time job, writing a dissertation, and managing my healthcare is exhausting. It’s taken me a while, but I have finally realized that juggling all those things and maintaining work-life balance is impossible. Especially because academia wasn’t built for me.
Academia wasn’t built for people with disabilities. Just like it wasn’t build for women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, or other non-white, non-cis, non-male individuals. I’ve been made to feel guilty for taking time off to work on my health and being firm about boundaries to protect my mental health (which only happened AFTER recovering from a mental health crisis).
For years I thought my failure to thrive in my doctoral program was a personal failure. I thought I was all talk and no substance. I thought I oversold and underdelivered on my potential. I thought I wasn’t strong enough or together enough to be successful. I thought if I knuckled down and pushed harder, I’d make it.
But I’ve come to the realization that the problem is not that I’m “not cut-out for academia.” The problem is academia isn’t inclusive, and it wasn’t built for me.
Instead of feeling like a failure, I’ll take my master’s degree and the marketable skills I’ve developed over the last 6 years in graduate school to a better-paying job that allows me to manage my health without spiraling deeper into debt.
Academia wasn’t built for me, and I’m moving on.