I told my advisor I’m leaving the academy.

I swear, I thought I saw a flicker of inspiration in her eyes.

She told me a story about her summer, about how her air conditioner broke, about how, even as a tenured professor, she can’t afford repair. So she’s “living in the reality,” as she calls it, no temporary credit card salvation this time, and while it’s been 113 degrees in this city for weeks, this tenured professor goes without AC.

“Forget the money,” she says; “there’s only two African American courses on the docket this year. They don’t care about me.”

At a recent family reunion, she recounted, the “under-educated” members of her family shared photographs of a cruise vacation while her children remained indoors, hovering around vents set to full blast.

There are moment in life in which you know you’re going to cry, know it weeks, months in advance. Moments like weddings, births, deaths: you expect the tears until you nearly script them, pre-ordain them, anticipate them into existence. I expected to cry when I told her I was leaving, and I did cry.

Tissue in hand, she told me, “Now we can just be friends.”

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10 thoughts on “I told my advisor I’m leaving the academy.

  1. That is one hell of a response. It pretty well busts the myth that tenured faculty members have it made and are living the dream. What’s the point of working this hard when you can’t even afford AC?

  2. Beautifully written! How often things turn out this way!

  3. Wow. What a human response! Telling the adviser is such a tough moment… I think deciding to leave is the hardest, but this one is definitely a close second place.

  4. Vashti says:

    I think I’m going to have to have that conversation with my adviser in the next week or so. I am positive that tears won’t be involved, though, just guilt and fear of rejection….

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  5. This is so so sad. I’m sorry for you and for her.

    it reads like poetry too..

  6. MJ says:

    Wow, that was such a great response. You’re definitely more courageous than I am. I never got to tell my advisor in person that I was leaving. He was unreachable on field work in Alaska during the time I was wrestling with the decision whether to stay or leave, and when the opportunity arose to leave with the least damage financially, I had to take it without ever consulting him.

  7. Anthea says:

    Wow, what a response. As ‘University of Lies’ writes..she sounds in pain and full of sadness. I’m glad that you could tell her in person.

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