Unhappy Professors Should Quit
Here are three reasons why unhappy professors should quit:
1) We are the ones most likely to whine and be envious, making academia unhappy for the others.
2) To get smart people back into the world, rather than neutralized in academia.
3) So we can stop whining and face other challenges. Maybe we can learn something. Maybe we can recover the more effective and enjoyable parts of ourselves, the parts that look forward to life.
When is the best time to quit? Probably before tenure, before we are too entangled in commitments and responsibilities. Although a post-tenure departure is a good way to fold departure into a mid-life crisis, and perhaps make something out of the crisis. The problem is that a pre-tenure departure will feel too much like failure for many people. That is why so many advanced graduate students are unable to opt for a more appropriate career despite their boredom and bitterness–because change feels like failure.
Of course, it takes a lot of self-awareness and some courage to quit. That is why unhappy professors rarely do it. . . . . I actually find that my motivation to resign is much stronger when things are going well. I feel less less constrained and emotionally constipated, with a clearer mind and a greater sense of possibilities. Whining (or even the temptation to whine–I’m actually not much of a whiner any more) is a space of retreat from possibilities.