I’ve just finished my PhD, and now I feel lost without academia

Sep 29, 2018 by

I was relieved when all the pressure and expectation ended, but I miss the intellectual way of thinking

I started my full-time PhD in 2014, and finally graduated this summer after having to extend it for health and financial reasons. I never thought I would succeed, but somehow I managed (even the dreaded viva examination wasn’t as scary as it sounds). For the first month or so after graduating, I basked in the relief and elation, absolved from all that pressure and expectation. But those feelings dissipated quickly.

Several months on, the wattage of doctoral graduation has dimmed. To put it simply: I feel kind of lost and empty. There’s something anticlimactic about post-doctoral life that has left me feeling directionless and with a sense of unarticulated potential. For the past three years I have been meeting deadlines, working non-stop and striving for something that felt bigger than I am, and now what? Just silence. This has left me feeling odd, sad and not myself.

I’ve come to describe this funk as a case of post-doctoral melancholy. To me, it’s a feeling of worthlessness upon completing a PhD, an introspective sense of grief over my intellectual deterioration.

Other postgraduates have similarly spoken of post-PhD blues or a post-dissertation slump, focused on the feelings of sadness and malaise following an intense period of study. For me, these feelings are best understood as my difficulties in adjusting to losing touch with my academic community and an intellectual way of thinking. There is this painful realisation, where I’ve questioned – on numerous occasions – whether my currency in the intellectual stock market has plummeted.

Outside of my academic supervisors and university colleagues, nobody really cares about the ideas and theories that I’ve spent five years researching and writing about. Neither can friends and acquaintances relate to many of the other features of academic life that occupied my attention: extortionate conference registration fees, avoiding predatory journals, the instability of casualised academic contracts, and the unrelenting demand for research output to bolster a university’s competitiveness in national league tables.

Source: I’ve just finished my PhD, and now I feel lost without academia | Anonymous academic | Education | The Guardian

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