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Why I am Leaving Academia

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Not long after I handed in my PhD thesis, one of my aunts asked me the dreaded question: “What now?”. I remember floating the idea that I might leave academia and being met with incredulity: “After all this? But… you’ve done  all this… ”. I understood where she was coming from. For years, my family and friends had watched me grind away at a thesis that almost no one would read. Surely, they thought, once the PhD was done, the hardest would be behind me and I would finally get to experience the glitz and glamour of being a university lecturer. As anyone who has worked in research already knows, they were seriously mistaken.  Today, almost a year after I officially became Dr. Herring, I resigned from my postdoc at Ghent University. There are several reasons that motivated this decision but the main one is that I no longer enjoy the work enough to justify how demanding it is. I already felt this way during my PhD. As a grad student, I could not take a weekend off without experiencing disp

In these dark times, Radiohead has taught me to embrace my sadness

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  In the final throes of 2020, my partner and I were talking about how sad we were both feeling. We attributed our low spirits in part to seasonal depression, in part to pandemic fatigue. We had been listening to Radiohead, a band whose sound is so reliably melancholy, that a data analyst recently used quantitative methods to determine the “ gloom index ” of each of their songs. In an attempt to manage the overall gloom index of our afternoon, I changed the music to something more uplifting. Understandably   perhaps, at the end of an objectively dreadful year, I could not bring myself to sit quietly with my sadness. But on my walk home that day, I wondered why our first instinct is so often to push our feelings to the side. I decided to give gloom another chance and, through my earphones, I heard Thom Yorke airily lament that he would laugh until his head came off. I am extremely late to the Radiohead party. So late that no one really remembers what music sounded like before it was

Feelings From the Before Times

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On two separate occasions in the past few days, I have hugged someone and realised they were hugging me harder than I was. By the time I noticed and tried to reciprocate, the moment had passed, the hug was over.  *** I dance, I laugh, I speak, I drink. But I am stuck. I need to trick myself into feeling it all again.  *** I have a picture of his arms. In the picture he is tearing up daffodil petals and arranging them around a cup on the green floor. I am the only one who can see the movement in the picture. I like thinking about his hands. *** I am no longer worried about making a singular, lasting contribution to human knowledge. I do sometimes worry about being alone.   *** Why am I feeling so hopeful right now? Everything is so incredibly shit in the world. But I am sitting outside, a few drops of rain are falling on my laptop, and I am smiling to myself.  *** I always thought I was too much of a hypochondriac to ever start smoking again. But addiction has a way of makin

Weird Dreams I Had

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I'll update this every time I have a dream I think is at least mildly interesting and not too unsafe for work. I usually find it boring when people recount their dreams, but no one is forcing you to read this. Feel free to leave your interpretations in the comments. 30/01/2021  I subscribed to a service that delivered vitamins and the way it worked was that you sprayed the vitamins into your nose using a banana shaped contraption. I had seen some kind of advert for this service and I had thought "I need this". I found the contraption in a shop and as I was queuing to pay, I accidentally removed some kind of safety seal. This made a loud noise and people turned to look. I said: "Don't worry! I was going to buy this anyway!" The vitamins were delivered by falcon. When you bought the banana device, you got your own falcon. As I was walking home from the shop, I noticed my falcon had escaped. This was worrying but I was also impressed by how beautiful it was. At

Not Another Piece About How the Pandemic Has Distorted Our Perception of Time

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It has been 283 days since I watched Emmanuel Macron announce that we were at war with a virus. Clutching a bottle of tepid beer and clenching my jaw, I heard the man in charge of the French army say the words " Nous sommes en guerre " six times. With each " sommes ", the president's subtle lisp intensified. Each " guerre " pressed further home the seriousness of his hyperbole.  283 days is a long time. As Shon Faye recently pointed out , the first babies conceived during the pandemic have now been forced, against their tiny wills, into a world of anti-maskers, zoom fatigue, and daily death counts.  Since March, microscopic gametes have found the time to mature into full human babies, yet I feel like I have accomplished nothing. Where did my year go? How is it already December? I ask these questions out loud, to no one in particular, as I wait for the next online meeting.  I don't know where my year went which is odd because time doesn't exactl