I have (99%) decided I’m not going to finish my dissertation. So how awkward was it when the next scheduled meeting of my dissertation support group popped up on my calendar?!
I went, if for no other reason than to explain to these people with whom I’ve been meeting, with whom I’ve shared mutual support, why I would not be with them anymore. It seemed wrong to sever the connection without a last meeting. So I went, and I told them…and then they got really judgy.
Not one single person said that leaving can be a legitimate choice, that one’s well-being is more important than a dissertation, that one shouldn’t write a dissertation to please others, or that leaving isn’t failure and there are multiple paths to success for those who embark on a PhD program.
It was strongly suggested that my dislike of writing my dissertation and my desire to leave must be due to a flaw in my character. Seriously. I won’t go into details here, but the specific flaw was named and a remedy was suggested … and a lot of assumptions were made along the way. None of these people know me well, or know how I spend my time, or know anything about my actual character flaws.
It was a disappointing and hurtful experience. Luckily, I didn’t take it personally — I don’t feel bad about my decision, but I do feel disappointed in those people. To be fair, I suspect that it’s extremely hard for someone who’s trying to write their dissertation, and not liking it, to entertain the notion that leaving is OK — the siren song of quitting is something to avoid when you keep your eyes on the prize. So probably it’s not their fault that they responded the way they did. Still, it hurt.
Also, grad school is a cult: if you try to leave, the other members will try to shame you into staying. I know leaving isn’t the right choice for everyone, and staying is the right choice for many, and I expected them to try to talk me out of it — but I didn’t expect it to be done so disrespectfully. I expected people to believe that I was expressing a legitimate feeling, and to go from there in trying to talk me into staying.
So, hey, grad school quittas, I’m glad you’re out there and I believe in you. Big hugs to the whole Quittanet.