In academia, success is often quantified by publications and accolades. But, there lies a less spoken truth – the reality of feeling like an academic ‘failure.’ This journey is not just about navigating the market standards of academia but also about confronting our inner challenges and redefining what success truly means to us.
The Unforgiving Academic Market: The Market Is The Market
Thirteen years since my Ph.D., I find myself in a paradoxical state. With only a handful of publications to my name, I often feel overshadowed by the daunting expectations of the academic market. Some say that the publications are good, but the market often does not see that. The market, an unforgiving and has no feelings. It is just supply and demand. It does not pause to consider the quality or the impact of your work; it only counts and compares.
You will know if you are in it.
How can you possibly quality? A premade cake at the grocery store is the same as a fresh cake from a chef, right? It serves the same function.
But, man, you can sure compare quantity.
The Journey of R3ciprocity.com
My venture, the R3ciprocity Project (R3ciprocity.com) was born out of a desire to create a support system for academics and researchers like me. Despite investing $100,000 and countless hours, it remains largely unrecognized by my peers. Each morning and evening, I dedicate myself to this project, fueled by a passion for helping others in academia, yet the echoes of market indifference ring loud.
I get it. It is not a publication.
They are right. Why should the care? The market is the market.
It is silly of me to not recognize the market.
The Perception of Perfection
The whispers in academia often label me as someone difficult to work with. “He seeks perfection,” they say, or “He takes too long to publish.” These perceptions, though hurtful, are a stark reminder of the academic culture where the pursuit of perfection and rapid publication is often prized over thorough, thoughtful research.
I know. You know if you know.
But, I am countless of many. I can name 100 others I would put in my situation, and that is just friends and colleagues. They are all wonderful, smart, and doing important things.
But, the market is the market. You can’t change it.
Disassociation as a Coping Mechanism
So how do you cope with the market?
I have learned the art of disassociation. This means mentally separating myself from the incessant pressures of academic life.
It’s not about escapism but about finding a balance. When I work, I switch off emotions to view my work objectively, as just ‘work.’ This mental shift helps me navigate the highs and lows with a sense of detachment.
I view myself as working out – I don’t let rejections sting so much any more.
But, they still do.
Finding Solace in Personal Life
In contrast to the demanding academic world, I find solace in the simplicity of my personal life. I focus on my family, walks, and my dogs.
These moments are my sanctuary, a stark contrast to the relentless pace of academia. They remind me that there’s more to life than publications and peer recognition.
Hearing a bird or feeling the cold breeze. That is what matters right?
I am on this side of the dirt, and this is glorious.
The Guilt of Self-Care
Admittedly, I often grapple with guilt when taking time off. Academia instills a sense of constant productivity, making it challenging to justify a day of rest.
Despite this, I’ve learned the importance of setting boundaries for my well-being. It’s okay not to write 10-15 pages every day. It’s okay to take Sundays off.
Self-care is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Rejection and Resilience
Rejections and non-responses are part of the academic landscape. Each rejection, whether it’s a paper, a grant, or a job application, chips away at your confidence. You do loose hope.
But over time, you learn to internalize a different lesson – resilience. You learn to say “screw it.”
You start to understand that rejection is not a reflection of your worth.
The Irony of Failure
There’s an irony in being labeled an ‘academic failure.’
It frees you from the constraints of constantly seeking validation from the market. Or, maybe I seek it more? It allows you to critically evaluate the system and find your path.
In this journey, I’ve discovered a liberating truth: I am more than my academic achievements.
What if we reframe ‘failure’? In academia, failure is often seen as a lack of publications or not securing a tenure-track position.
But what if failure is a stepping stone to something greater? What if it’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and redefine what success means to us personally?
What if each non-response and rejection is just a simple truth: You don’t match your reality. You are a square peg in a round hole.
The Value of Being ‘You’
Through my journey, I’ve learned the importance of embracing my identity beyond academia. Being true to oneself is the greatest form of success. Your value doesn’t diminish because of a lack of recognition from the academic market.
You are remarkable for your perseverance, your creativity, and your resilience.
So what if the R3ciprocity Project fails? So what if I never publish again.
I still have my family.
If my family pass, I still have my dogs.
If my dogs pass, I still have walking.
When I no longer can walk, I have smiles.
A Message of Hope and Perseverance
To those feeling the weight of academic pressures, remember this: You are not alone.
Your journey, with its ups and downs, is uniquely yours.
Embrace it. Learn from it. Grow with it. Recognize your worth, irrespective of market standards.
Continue to push forward, not for external validation, but for the fulfillment of your passions and the love of your craft.
As I continue my academic journey, I am constantly reminded of the importance of self-acceptance. The academic world will always have its standards, but it’s up to ourselves to choose how we define our own.