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SYNCHROSWIMR's Photo SYNCHROSWIMR SparkPoints: (0)
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7/15/08 11:58 A

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Thank you for the thoughtful response, VitaminJ. I really appreciate it. I am still thinking. I still haven't talked to my adviser. Thanks for some things to think about.

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7/14/08 10:14 P

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SS, I've been through the experience of leaving a PhD program. Ten years ago I was done with the didactics for a PhD in biochemistry and working on my thesis research. I was working with people who were doing multiple post-docs, not because they wanted to, but because they could not find academic jobs. In some of the sciences, taking a non-academic job (industry) is the kiss of death; you will never work in academia again. I had colleagues who were fully passionate about what they were doing -- the kind who wake up and reach for a journal article to read, and go to sleep reading articles. I, however, was not one of those people. Also, I was getting freaky about working endless days (and nights) in a lab, and losing sight of any real human benefit from my work.

Making the decision to leave was nearly impossible. I was so entrenched in what I was doing, and had come so far, that I could not see any possibility of changing paths. My initial thought was to go to medical school. That had been my original plan, and when I came to the decision to leave my PhD program, I fell into the comfort of applying to medical school, as much to appease my committee as myself.

Fortunately, I realized that this was my last opportunity to make my OWN choice, uninfluenced, about what I would spend the rest of my life doing. I made a list of what was important to me from a career:
1. a comfortable salary
2. flexibility in what I was doing in case I got bored (lateral moves without retraining),
3. the ability to go anywhere and find a job, and
4. working with actual people instead of labware.

When I started talking to people and investigating possibilities, the same career rose to the top over an over -- nursing. Yep, really.

My advisor talked me into hanging around for an extra two semesters to finish the requirements for a master's, which sometimes serves me and sometimes doesn't. Since I don't work in biochem anymore, I can't say that having the degree has given me a leg-up anywhere.

Now I am back in a PhD program, this time in nursing. I'm doing research that I love, and despite having three more years to go, I'm already getting sniffs for tenure-track academic jobs.

You can come out of this landing on your feet. But this is a time for careful thinking and planning. What do you REALLY want to be doing in five years, ten years? What do you want to be remembered for? That will give you the answers you need. It is reasonable to choose to leave your program to be with your husband, provided you can be happy with the effects that will have on your career. It is also reasonable to make mid-stride shifts into a career path that may suit your needs better. Beware of compromising your goals -- that will not lead to happiness down the road.

Edited by: VITAMINJ at: 7/14/2008 (22:15)
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6/25/08 9:37 A

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Thanks, Rosie.

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6/24/08 10:23 A

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Hey SYNCHROSWIMR,

Just read your initial post today. I agree with many of the comments others have made. It sounds like your current situation is making your studies seem like a barrier rather than something you enjoy. Ultimately, the credential may not be enough to keep you in a place when you feel like the rest of your life is elsewhere. These choices are always difficult you feel the pull between your career and other facets of your life. In the end, it's about finding what will help you feel happy and satisfied in all aspects of life.

I hope that your meeting with the career counselor and at the mental health clinic go well today!

BTW - I lived in SF for four years and it's a great place. The commute to Santa Cruz is long, but if you decide to head out that way maybe you can split the commute and live somewhere in the peninsula. It's cheaper and there is ample transportation for your DH to SF.

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Rosie

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6/23/08 2:50 P

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Thank you everybody. It helps to have lots of different views on the situation

Jessica, my DH is in San Francisco. I study Paleontology. There are related people at Santa Cruz, which would be a yucky commute, but ... a possibility.

I will meet with a career counselor and I have an appointment in the mental health clinic tomorrow morning. Thank you everybody

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JKLEISS's Photo JKLEISS Posts: 33
6/23/08 12:31 P

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Hey synchroswimmer,

I'm at Scripps in San Diego, and there's lots of geologists here, and there's lots of really good geology programs throughout California - it's a place of good rocks, and good earth quakes. emoticon Can I help you at all figure out what sort of options you might have in sunny CA? Also - I'd imagine your current advisor would be a good resource. When peoples' personal lives come in conflict with their academic pursuits, there's sometimes a colleague or collaborator or something that you can transfer to, and continue doing work related to, if not identical to, what you've been doing. Of course it depends on your individual situation, and your case of course is unique.

Let me know if I can be of help.

Jessica

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VANNATFAIR Posts: 561
6/23/08 10:19 A

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The most important thing should be your health and your marriage. I will be 38 this summer and I have a year and a half left to work on my doctorate. I attended law school after college and I did not like it. I was not happy so I left. I was later in a Literature doc program and I was not happy with it so I left. Now some may say that I was indecisive, but for me I had to find my way. There are always options. You have to find your own way, but ultimately, when you weigh your happiness and your marriage against obtaining a PhD by a certain age, your happiness and marriage should win every time. My favorite quote is "Keep in mind always the present you are constructing, it should be the future you want." If you want to have a happy future and happy marriage start today!!!


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6/23/08 7:17 A

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Wow. What an incredibly tough decision. It must have taken a lot to even get to the point of considering leaving your program.

I study clinical psychology so I am a bit biased, but I think it's very important to consider your mental health. At one point your PhD might have been your top priority, but that was before you were so happy in your marriage and had the circumstances change. How fulfilling will it be to finish your degree at the expense of your personal happiness? The answer is probably, somewhat fulfilling. How fulfilling will it be to sacrifice some career goals to be happier and to be with your husband, enjoying a great marriage? This answer is also probably, somewhat fulfilling. The important thing will be to weigh each of these. In addition to helping with your depression, a therapist will undoubtedly be able to help you think and talk through the decision. He/she can help you get to the bottom of where you stand on your priorities and what is the best way to balance them.

I think also that it is important to consider your options if you do decide to get your MS where you are now. What kind of programs are in the area your husband is in in California? Would they be at least an okay fit for your interests? Have you contacted them to see if they would consider you as a transfer student? What kind of career can you expect with an MS? If it is not exactly what you always imagined, would it be something that you could be happy doing?

Remember that dissertations always take longer than you think they will... it's possible that it will take more than a year to wrap everything up after you have collected all your samples. I say this not to discourage you but as something to consider in this equation.

This is an incredibly tough decision, I can't even imagine what you are going through having to balance all of this. Remember to take good care of yourself - get lots of rest, healthy food, exercise, and do good things for yourself, like read a good book, take a bath, go see a movie.

I think that a therapist with whom you can develop a relationship and who grows to know you and all the nuances of your life could really help you with this decision.

Best of luck, I will be thinking of you.

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SYNCHROSWIMR's Photo SYNCHROSWIMR SparkPoints: (0)
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6/23/08 1:21 A

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How do you go about deciding to leave a Ph.D. program? I don't already have a Master's, so I would change my topic to something I can do in a M.S. and take that and run.

Backstory:

I am in my 3rd year of a Ph.D. in Geology. I have samples to analyze from three years of field seasons (summer 2007, 2008 and 2009). I do not have samples from last year yet, nearly a year later, so if the trend continues, I can expect to have the final year of samples in 2010 sometime, then a year or so to work the samples and get data, then figure out what it all means. :-)

The complicating factor: my husband moved to California for a new (and wonderful) job. He loves his new job. It was great personally and professionally, and pretty close to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

So in the last 5 months, his depression has gone away and mine has become severe. I am back on anti-depressants and I am going to make an appointment to see a therapist as soon as I can get in.

I want to be with him more than anything. We have been married for 6 years, and being apart is hard.

I have to decide if I want to continue the program, which would mean being apart for 3+ more years, or stopping at a M.S. which would mean being apart another year or so, but then being 32 and either looking for a career or finding a program that will accept me (and finishing a Ph.D. at 37 or 38).

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