a) Quit Lit

Power and Privilege

b) Human Homework

Leaving the academy is a huge life shift and as the child of two psychologists (yes I know), I strongly encourage post acacadmics to do what my mom used to call your human homework.

Human homework is the act of finding some way to honestly reflect on and work with any kind of dissonance or disruption within yourself. It often involves truth telling about challenging experiences you’ve had and walking through the stories you’ve told and the emotions that resulted.

It is not avoiding what happened, or pretending it didn’t happen or trying to numb out. It is facing ourselves.

We never really finish doing our human homework, so this isn’t something you accomplish (although maybe enlightened people are done? I don’t know - I’m not enlightened).

For most, human homework is a set of questions, or a way to respond to emotions when you’re facing tough times. It’s about being deeply honest with ourselves about experiences that called into conflict our core ideas about the way the world works and what we are doing here.

There are about as many ways to do human homework as there are people in the world.

When you’re going through transitions this kind of work is vital because we are usually experiencing some sort of disruption in who we are, what we do, what we have to offer.

There can be very real, very important reasons why you might not want to face all of this emotional work. Not the least of which is that you have deep trauma or childhood pains. Please be gentle with yourself and get support if you need it Trust yourself when something feels too delicate to approach.

Blocks for Academics

One of the biggest imepdements to doing this work for people leaving academic positions is that many of us who are making these big transitions are also going through financial challenges at the same time.

It’s can be very hard to do deep emotional work on yourself when you don’t have any money. Heck the scarcity of not having money ITSELF can more deeply aggravate the emotional challenges you’re facing.

This is entirely real, you’re not making this up and I’m sorry if that’s where you are right now.

You CAN do human homework without it costing money. There are a ton of resources below, go to the library and look through the books you see until one of them speaks to you and do the exercises in the book.

Consider also that there are places that have resources for you even if you don’t have money. Consider asking for a price break because of economic hardship. Consider modalities where you can work with students or interns who are learning and can still give you quality care. Ask for help when you need it.

Another block for many academics, is the capacity to turn our very well-honed critical lenses onto the whole idea of doing any work on ourselves at all. In fields where we pride ourselves on being unbiased, looking at our inner landscape can be frightening and deeply challenging to our core beliefs. We may out of hand reject anything that is not scientifically based. We may see reject something out of hand because it contains something we judge to be “nonsense”. If you are an atheist or agnostic, you may find any mention of a higher power, God or even meditation or religion to be offputting.

In fields where there is a belief that a “good” practitioner in the field has already dealt with these things, there can be a block to being someone who has to do more work or to trying something that is not sanctioned by your field. You might have opinions around subfields or authors, you might be resistant to something a colleague has dismissed. You may also have beliefs around what people would think of you if they knew you were doing your human homework.

This is all resistance.

I believe that ALL people need to do their human homework. All of us need to take time to investigate challenging experiences, to reaffirm our core beliefs and to heal from disruptive events. I don’t think it matters what you do, but I do think it helps to move towards being a whole human.

Human Homework Resources

To that end, I’ve compiled a list of resources as a starting place. Some of these may intrigue you, while others may turn you off. Just find the resources or methods that make sense to you and work with those.

If you have other suggestions of resources for doing your human homework please contribute them.

Academics Doing Human Homework

Books and Programs

Specifically for Women

Meditation and Bodywork

c) Structural Issues in the Academy

Below I’ve listed a variety of topics I’ve seen talked about in Quit Lit and Post Academic circles. The purpose of this is to encourage you to think through the many types of structural issues that folks face in the academy as they relate to your story.

What resonates for you? What was true in terms of your experience? And what is missing from this list?

  • Academic precarity and economic instability
  • The contingent labor market and low-paid adjunct positions
  • Not enough tenure track jobs and the competition for tenure track positions
  • Academia is not right for me
  • Academia is right for me but I didn’t get a job
  • Academia is right for me but I hate teaching
  • Unfair teaching burdens
  • Student apathy
  • Student entitlement
  • Unprepared students
  • Broken K-12 System
  • Rise of student as customer
  • Rise of online education
  • Increased student tuition
  • Student loan bloat
  • The broken hiring process
  • The broken tenure process
  • The broken academic publishing process
  • Decreased university funding
  • Increased higher education administration
  • Low faculty salaries
  • Declining funding for research
  • The declining liberal arts
  • Anti-intellectualism
  • Classism
  • Geographic isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Grief
  • The “two body” problem
  • Raising a child
  • Raising a child with special needs
  • Having small children
  • Incompatible careers
  • Family illness
  • Divorce
  • Institutional racism
  • Everyday racism
  • Microaggressions
  • Mental illness
  • Workaholism
  • Institutional sexism
  • Everyday sexism
  • Sexual harrassment
  • Sexual assault
  • Assault
  • Verbal abuse
  • Gaslighting
  • Institutional inertia and unwillingness to address complex issues
  • Unequal emotional labor workload
  • Illegal behavior
  • Institutional politics and infighting
  • Sabotage
  • The trap of post doctoral positions
  • The trap of visiting assistant positions
  • The trap of adjuncting
  • Dropping out of a Ph.D program
  • The desire to do work that matters
  • The desire to do manual work
  • The desire to have a life outside of academia

e) Personal Finance Resources

Unique Money Perspectives