The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond

Ep 25. Healing from/in the academic space

May 12, 2022 Carmela Season 2 Episode 25
The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond
Ep 25. Healing from/in the academic space
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Mela talks about processing the academic years that's ending & shares affirmations for those who are leaving and those who are staying.


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Interested in starting your own podcast? I host The Millennial Phd on Buzzsprout and I love it because, for me, it was the easiest and most user-friendly podcast hosting site. Follow this link to sign up, and you'll automatically get a $20 Amazon gift card included in your sign up; plus, it helps support The Millennial PhD. Happy podcasting!

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Speaker 1 (00:09):

Welcome to the millennial PhD, a podcast about creative survival and beyond. My name is Dr. Carmela Muzio Dormani, and I'm a sociologist, dancer and creative consultant from New York. In these episodes, you'll find inspiration, ideas, and actionable tips for building new pathways forward in work and life. You'll hear from artists, activists, creative entrepreneurs, PhDs, and professional pivoters. We talk about radical humanity and practical steps to follow your dreams even in the context of challenging social conditions. Before we jump into today's episode, a quick reminder to follow the millennial PhD on Instagram and to please take a minute to rate and a review the millennial PhD on Apple podcasts. Your rating really helps the show reach as many listeners as possible. You can learn more about me and get access to free creative resources on the millennial PhD Instagram page I hope you enjoyed the episode. 

Welcome back to the millennial PhD. I'm your host, me and today's episode is about healing from and within the academic space. For any new listeners who don't know, we typically alternate between interview episodes and solo episodes on the show. So every other week I have somebody on to conduct an interview and talk a little bit about the path that they've built for themselves. And then in between, I put out these solo episodes where I talk through topics that are resonant to, ooh, a lot of academics, recovering academics, artists and creatives. So today's one of these solo episodes, and here we are at the end of the semester and I'm personally in that gooey part where live classes have just ended, which is very exciting. And at the same time, I am swimming and grading and soon to be swimming in, uh, assessment and kind of end of semester meetings. 

So it was an interesting time, but definitely a relief to be done with the semester. And the purpose of this episode is really to take a moment and kind of pause and process the academic year that just passed. And I also wanna acknowledge that for some of us, this may be not just the end of the academic year, but it may be the time period that is the end, uh, the moment at which you're stepping away from academia, right? So I know that for some of us, cuz a lot of people have been leaving academia, this may be have may have been your last semester. And if it is, congratulations, I can't wait to see what you do. Uh, for others, I know it's maybe we will have this summer break or a pack to summer full of tasks that we may or may not get to. 

Um, we, we we're gonna be alright. And I know for some of us it may be a very brief little break before the summer semester starts. So it's a little, little bit of a tricky time. And again, at the same time, the point of this episode is to just acknowledge and take some time to process what this academic year was for you. It's just something we don't always necessarily have the chance to do because part of academia is then constant chugging forward and it's always the next task, right? Um, so the semester for me, I find also is always particularly hectic toward the end. The grading picks up, the assignments, pick up the student support oftentimes picks up, especially this semester and in the, the last couple of years. So I'm taking a moment now and I invite you to take a moment now to process the year that just passed. 

Um, and by that I mean, as you're listening to this, maybe just think a little bit about what came up for you this year. What got your time and attention? What got pushed to the back burner? Um, and what got your mental and emotional energy and your creative energy, does that align with what you find valuable and what you want and or need for yourself? So this could be something that you just think through a little bit, or if you wanna take a moment to write through those thoughts, this is a great time to do that. And I had this episode planned for this time of year, obviously, but the timing is also personally really good for me because I have been thinking extra <laugh> in the last week or two, um, about just how deep the indoctrination runs of the idea that the tenure track, assistant professorship path is the gold standard for success, quote unquote success as an academic or somebody who's pursued a master's or a PhD and is trying to figure out that path forward. 

Because at this point, it, it does seem like a lot of us, we know in our brains, we know in our minds that it doesn't totally make sense, right? The conditions as we know, are so often exploitative, the jobs are not there. Sometimes even for folks who do make it into kind of that, that particular pathway, they still find themselves in abusive environments. Um, and the the money is often not great <laugh>, right? Um, or even very livable. And then of course there is the contingency of so many academic jobs. So we know a lot of this in our brains, especially now cuz more and more people are being vocal about it and are talking about stepping away or are talking, you know, more loudly about what their experiences have been. And at the same time, I think we continue to hold this idea sometimes in our bodies and in our minds and, you know, clutch onto it even though we kind of, we can logic our way out of it, but we're, we haven't necessarily been able to totally throw this off, right? 

It's still the thing against which we compare, right? So it's like, well, maybe I'm going to do this instead of that gold standard tenure track academic job line. And so I've just been thinking about that, that idea and trying to deconstruct it for myself and invite you to deconstruct it as well. Cause it really is truly and deeply nonsensical, right? And especially because there's so many opportunities to make impact and also to just do something that brings you joy and use your creative energy and for which you will be paid a fair wage. And that's not to say if you're staying in, in, in academia, it's not to say that that choice is invalid because, because the choice to stay is valid and so is the choice to leave. But it is also a moment to really kind of deprogram ourselves collectively from that indoctrination and from that idea that this is the only path forward or that this is the best, best path forward. 

And that taking something else, taking another path is settling, right? But it says not settling, it's doing something else. And in a lot of cases we may be able to be more effective in those other pads at the things that we wanna do. Whether you're just thinking about what's good for you mentally, emotionally, or what's good for whatever you care about, whatever messaging, political and social ideals or just, you know, whatever kind of you believe in and wanna put out in the world is not necessarily the case that the traditional academic job is the path through which you can best do that, right? Um, so I'm, I'm, I'm inviting myself and, and, and you and anyone listening to really also listen a little bit to what our bodies are telling us and what your body is telling you. And if your body is tightening up and telling you, I absolutely do not want to put together a job, talk for next year's academic job market, like that just sounds miserable and I curl up inside myself thinking about that, then maybe it's because we are holding a lot of wisdom in our bodies and in our emotional reactions that we can learn from. 

Okay? So it's, it's a little hippie dippy, but it's also something that I feel can be really useful for us, especially because many of us, if you pursued the bachelor's degree or the master's or the PhD or whatever practice you pursued, a lot of us have been trained to be very, um, cerebral or very much about the life of the mind. And so giving some honor and giving some weight to what our bodies are telling us can be a powerful tool. That being said, as I mentioned a moment ago, I don't, I don't want to seem like I'm saying, if you're saying that that's not a great choice, I ha I'm, I'm still partially in academia. I have a full-time academic position that's non-tenure track, but it is full-time. Uh, and so I just wanna validate the fact that if you're choosing to stay, that that's great. 

That may work for you and it works for a lot of people and hopefully that means that we can build something a little bit better and a little bit healthier going forward. And if it's time to go and if it's time to do something else and take your skills and take your energy in a different direction, that's definitely valid as well. So I'm gonna share just to, in the second half of this kind of short mini episode, end of semester reflection episode, I'm gonna share a few affirmations and ideas for if you're staying, and then a few affirmations and ideas for if you have decided to move on. So if you're saying, if you're staying, I just want us to hear and to think through the fact that it is okay to protect your boundaries. They belong to you, they're healthy, they will guide us, and that's your choice. 

And it's completely valid to to, to build those and to stick by them. The second thing I'd wanna add is that there is an increasing kind of critical mass of people who are trying to create new pathways and new ways of being, building new ways of being within academia. And you can be a part of that, right? Drawing up a new version of what this whole thing looks like. I mean, it's cha, it's, you know, it's the cracks, the cracks are really visible and it's changing anyway. So we, you know, if you're staying, one of the things that you can do is be part of building something new by example or just by surviving within it. That's enough. That's plenty. And the third thing I'll say is that whatever does bring you joy or energy within that academic space, the reasons that you're staying under the right conditions can be worth fighting for. 

And if that's what you're feeling compelled to do to it, it's exciting. The, if it's teaching, if it's mentorship, if it's your research, the area that you feel compelled to continue researching, if the environment works for you, then fight for it and fight to make it as healthy and as equitable and as non exploitative as possible for yourself and for others. Okay? So there's a lot of, there's a, there's a lot of joy to be had and it's often a little thin on the ground in academia. So whatever pieces of that you can hold on to and build upon, that's, that can be really powerful for the environment itself. And for you, if you are leaving, if it's time to step away, if it's time to move on, your choice to move on is, is valid. It's, we shouldn't even have to say it's valid, it's smart, it's compelling, and the road that you're building forward, it may be straightforward for, for some who are, who know where they wanna pivot into and have a field that they're interested in going into. 

And it may also be winding for you. And if it is, you can trust yourself to build that path as you go. And the journey along it is going to be worthwhile, is gonna bring you the economic security that you need. It's gonna bring you the joy that you need. It's gonna bring you the creative flexibility that you need. And I can't wait to see what you do with that. The second thing I would say is that you are smart and skilled, and if you move forward with humility, you got this, what you're going to do is working. And the last thing that I wanna say, the third thing for affirmation for if you're leaving, is that the ceiling has just been blasted wide open for you. There are so many possibilities and as, as lovely as some academic pets can be, or they can seem like they bring some security and some perks, they're also extremely limited. 

And the ceiling is, can be low, right? There's one path and there's really, you know, not a ton of mobility within it. There's not a ton of imaginative pathways to build, but for you, as you step away, the opportunities just became wide open. And there's something very exciting and very refreshing about that, especially if you're someone that is 5, 10, 15 years into the academia journey. If you're five years into grad school or 10 years in, or, uh, you know, have been around for 15 or 20 years, we've spent then a long time being within a very particular tunnel. And that was supposed to be that one academic path, but now the abundance of opportunities that become available can feel, can really lighten your, the way you feel about it, can really lighten the load that you may or may not be holding if that appeals to you and if you give it the opportunity to. 

So I'm very excited to see what everybody does moving forward. Let me know. I, I, I love to hear from folks. So if you, uh, wanna reach out, email me at the millennial PhD on Instagram, the millennial PhD. Uh, or you can connect with me individually if, if you like seeing dance videos, you can connect with me at Mela uio. But wherever you connect with me, I would love to hear, are you leaving? Are you staying? How did this academic year go for you? Are there some things that you're processing and working through right now? And what are you looking forward to moving, moving forward now? So that's it for today's episode. Next week we'll be back with an interview talking about, you know, some similar topics and I hope everybody has a safe and wonderful end of the semester and good luck with whatever stage you're at and working through right now. And that's it. See you next time. That's it for this week's episode of the Millennial PhD. You can find more content, resources and information on Instagram at the millennial PhD in this collective moment of reevaluating our relationships with work and exploitation. I look forward to connecting with you and building stronger bonds of community and collaboration. I would love to hear from you via email at the millennial PhD with any feedback, comments, questions, or concerns, or if you're interested in coming on the show as a guest. That's all for now. It's been real. See you next time. 

Speaker 2 (15:29):