Last night while the world was quiet and dark, a still quiet voice inside me spoke very clearly.

As a baby slept next to me and a dog snored loudly next to him, I whispered to myself, “I don’t want to be a professor anymore.”

I’ve been circling around it and playing with the idea for a little while. Inevitably, however, someone either talks me out of it or my decade of brainwashing kicks in. Why have we all convinced ourselves that what we see and hear is incorrect? That the only legitimate option for a PhD is teaching? Everything else is failure?

I’ve had four job opportunities fall apart since I graduated a little over a year ago. Four. One for my progressive beliefs, two for loss of funding, and one for being pregnant.

I’m tired.

It’s not working and I don’t know why I’m not legitimate until the magical unicorn professorship fairy visits my home and grants me my wish. It’s not even my wish anymore, to be honest. It was, and I’m really good at it, but something I loved no longer exists.

This thing I really and truly loved is buried under toxicity, politics, anti-motherhood, hoops, misogyny, racism, budget cuts, and anti-intellectualism. All of it is so unappealing now.

The thing is whenever it’s pointed out, few people disagree with me. But someone leaving or deciding not to enter in the first place triggers something in this community. Leaving is not taking control of my life/career. Looking for other options for my skills are not seen as a healthy and obvious option. Instead, we’re a waste, we just weren’t talented enough, we’re quitters, our topic was too obscure (or too over-saturated), we didn’t network enough, we should volunteer to work for free, blah blah blah…

Though I know the facts are on my side, I feel this way even about myself. Deep down I’m telling myself all the ways that I’m such a loss/failure/waste.

I’m starting a conversation with a few people to figure out what other options really are out there for people like me and I’ll be sharing them in this space. Maybe it will encourage other people to break out of a bad system. I can only try for myself though.

I had/have so many dreams of what I want to do that don’t involve professorship/committee work/frantically trying to publish enough for someone else.

I want to write, I love writing, but not because I have to for my survival. I want to write because I have something to say. I want to learn how to edit and work a podcast. I want to edit and run a site that serves to educate the community. I want to experiment and make mistakes. I’m insanely good at database and records work. I’m a researcher, but I also love group work. I believe in public education on religion. I believe religious dialogue is the solution of so many global problems.

I have skills. I have experience. My two masters degrees and doctorate were not a waste. I have value outside of being “Professor Stephanie Bliese”.

One thought on “Dear Academia: it’s you, not me

  1. You have a tremendous amount of value. It is a challenge for those of us who don’t fit the mold that others have deemed worthy. Moving back to the south has challenged me in ways I was not quite ready for! Or maybe I was, but didn’t want to HAVE to be. (If I am considered mouthy and aggressive in Chicago, just imagine what I seem to be in Atlanta!) But our inherent worth is not bound up in what the system deems as worthy. Sending you love and light and wildly radical ways of being you in this world.


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