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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

So I'm trying to figure out who from Duke Lit posted this AskMe. I've got a list of likely candidates...

Fresh out of college, I made a radical career switch, leaving my undergraduate field of study ("A"- a science) to enter a PhD program in a completely unrelated field ("B"- a humanity). I’d always wanted to be an academic, but my abilities and interests were varied enough that this seemed like a viable prospect in either area, and a bad senior thesis experience, combined with a lot of youthful idealism and immaturity, convinced me that B was my Destiny.

Over the years following, it's become clear that I was very wrong. Job prospects for PhDs in Field B are terrible. I'm on a different philosophical/political page from 99% of colleagues in my discipline, so I find it hard to "gel" with the group sensibility. I really, really miss analytical/quantitative thinking, and I worry about losing those skills if I don't use them. Most importantly, though, I don't really respect the work we do (heck, even senior scholars call it "aimless and irrelevant"), and I feel that I can't respect myself intellectually, professionally or personally as a scholar of B.

Unfortunately, while I was figuring all this out and coping with the ensuing depression, five years flew by, changing a youthful misstep into a substantial career detour. I'm now entering the final phase of my Ph.D program, faced with a put-up-or-shut-up situation: either (1) finish my dissertation and commit to a life, however crappy, in Field B, or (2) write off the past five years as a loss and try somehow-- but how?-- to jump ship yet again and re-establish myself in Field A...