One of the wonderful things about the internet is the amount of people you can connect with when you’re making a decision; people who have left some trace of their experience making the same one as you at any given time.
Last year, almost to the day, I made a very hard life choice: I looked my Ph.D. career in the face, sucked in my gut, and said “I quit!”
I had been working at the program for a little over two years and was done with it. My topic was poorly defined, I was living in different city than the one my university was in, and I couldn’t see a professional future in academia.
It took me about a year to make the decision to leave the program.
During that year, I must have read a hundred articles and forum posts about whether or not to quit. Many of them very good, such as an article in The Economist titled “The disposable academic: why doing a phd is often a waste of time.”
Like many other articles I came across, I must have read that one a half-dozen times. Re-reading it to squeeze out every bit of advice I could.
During this near frantic reading frenzy, I noticed that there were a lot of really decisive people on the Internet. This realization did absolutely nothing for my self-esteem, until it occurred to me that they were giving advice from the other side of the decision.
Decisions take time. Difficult ones take longer. Don’t try and force the issue if you’re not ready. It’s OK to read a little longer, to think about things a little more, and to get another look at both sides of the issue before committing one way or the other. A decision is a process, not a moment.
But please realize this:
Until you make that Earth Shattering Decision, you’re stuck in a holding pattern, 30,000 feet up. You’re not going anywhere. You’re not committing to anything.
Once you decide something, anything, you’re free again.
You might find yourself in freefall, but at least you’ll be moving towards some experience. And that – taking the plunge with your life in your hands – is the only way you can ever really learn.