PhD pulling us into different worlds

03-Oct-19, 20:27
Avatar for pinkfrog4
posted about 7 months ago
Hi everyone,

Please be kind as I am new to this.

My boyfriend and I both recently graduated, having done undergrads and masters at the same university. Recently, he went back to the same uni we were both at to start a PhD, while I am making a way for myself in the corporate sphere.

I've been finding it difficult listening to him talk about it (perhaps in some way because I was also thinking about a PhD - I gained higher marks and rankings than him, although in a different subject, but I've mostly reasoned with myself that I miss uni life more than academia). I know this is wrong and patronising to say, but I feel like I am in the 'real world' and he is doing something I've already got experience of. I've also had more life experience than him - in terms of grafting my way up and serious bereavements. It doesn't help that both my parents were in academia for a while (one of them for their whole life), which makes it seem familiar to me. I am pushing my personal limits, working in a tough City environment - it's very strange to be pulled bacl to the same academic/uni-related issues that I feel I'm trying to move on from, every time we talk. As I say, I know this is wrong - I haven't done a PhD and therefore I don't know what's it like. But I just can't stop thinking like this, and I worry that it sounds resentful. I love him and apart from this one tiny problem, I am totally happy in the relationship. I would be grateful if anyone who has any experience of this could give me some advice.

Thank you all for your time.
04-Oct-19, 17:45
edited about 8 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 7 months ago
It sounds to me like you don't respect his life/career choices.
I have no idea why you think you are in the "real world" and he isn't. It sounds like he is doing exactly what he wants and is living in the moment. To me you can't get more real than that.
In that context, I don't think it's patronising at all. I think it comes across as pretty arrogant.

If your career was fulfilling for you, you wouldn't be focussing on what he is doing.
I think you might want to think about solving that problem before you end up losing him because unless he is blind, he'll be well aware that someone is not right in your relationship.
06-Oct-19, 21:05
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 7 months ago
Hi pinkfrog4

I think I'd be inclined to be asking myself if something else wasn't really the issue. Like maybe you actually would like to be doing a PhD yourself after all, or maybe you are bored with what he has to talk about?? I'm just speculating and trying to understand why it would be such an issue. I don't have experience of this per se. But I do have experience of growing apart from people when paths diverge. I guess that is just part of life, and it's something to discuss if it's affecting the relationship. Maybe he has noticed too and talking about it would be healthy. Or maybe it is just the start of drifting apart. Good luck.
08-Oct-19, 11:07
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 7 months ago
Hi. It is apparent that you feel some jealousy. You mentioned you had higher marks than him. You feel if someone of you would go further in education to do a PhD, this one should have been you. Jealousy controls us sometimes, but we have to fight it back.
Two things you could do. First, do you really love your corporate “real” job? You do not have to be super excited about it but at least you should know if this the path you want to pursue. There are pros and cons for doing a PhD. If you are well convinced that academia is not for you, then accept what you have or look for another job but try not to undermine people who are doing research in academia. Look at it as two different paths leading to two different goals with the ultimate goal is career/financial/social satisfaction.
Secondly and most importantly, you are not competing with anyone in general and your boyfriend in particular. His career satisfaction is vital to a successful relationship. Do not think you have to be better than him. Furthermore, one or both of you will encounter setbacks at career. What would do then if you have a setback and he is progressing well? Would it better that both of you suffer than one suffers and the other supports him/her?
Again, we all feel jealous at some point but we have to fight this bad feeling like fighting other bad habits.
08-Oct-19, 21:30
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 7 months ago
I kind of thought it might be jealousy too... simply because it reminds me of a situation I was in during my PhD... basically, my PhD was not a good experience... I felt that I had the skills and abilities and motivation etc but had a very rubbish opportunity - without going into detail here. Anyway, a PhD-friend (literally someone I met during the PhD) was having a very different experience... she knew how crap things were for me but still (seemingly) needed to rub salt in my wounds by talking about how fabulous her PhD and her supervisors were, and how much she was learning from it. That is different to your situation of course, but basically it created this thing between us, where I felt... I hate to say it... jealous... hurt as well. I tried to confront it and overcome it but couldn't really. So I just avoided her in the end as then I didn't have to deal with that emotion.

It was a horrible experience as I am not a jealous person at all by nature and it took me by surprise that I had these feelings. But I guess it was because I had so wanted to do a PhD and so love learning and developing etc and felt I had been cheated somehow to not really have an opportunity for much of that. Whereas she had exactly what I wanted...

Could something like this be going on somehow?? I really don't know but just putting it out there and hope it isn't undermining or offensive to you.
10-Oct-19, 09:21
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 7 months ago
Hi, pinkfrog4

The academic world is very different from the non-academic one, as you already know. In academia, a lot of work is on basic research or fundamental research. Scientists try to understand the mechanism of action and improve the understanding of a topic of interest. Scientists, especially PhD students, have quite a bit of flexibility in when and how to conduct their research, but in return work long hours. They strive to find something novel. The KPI are mainly publications, grants and conferences.

I am unsure what job you are working as. In non-academia, the focus would be more on applications of the knowledge and profit. In industry, there are regulatory affairs, company goals, budgets, government initiatives, tax incentives and legal/operational matters that have to be taken into consideration. KPI is different job to job. There is much less flexibility compared to academia but a strong emphasis on productivity. Things move at a much quicker pace. Perhaps this is what you mean by you feeling that you are in the real world because academia is in a bubble of its own, and normally does not take all the other worldly stuff mentioned here when carrying out research.

So, yes, you are both in two different worlds. Generally, people in research do like hanging out with people in research because they speak the same language and have the same concerns - will they have that publication that will be necessary to get that grant? There's also a lot of job insecurity as grants are difficult to get and tenure is nearly extinct. I guess, what I am trying to say is, talk more to him so you can both understand each other, despite being in different worlds.
10-Oct-19, 15:14
edited about 2 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 7 months ago
I agree with the above. Academia IS a totally different world. I came from a career in something else before entering academia, and I have described my former life as "the real world" once or twice before. That's b/c for me it was get up, go to work, face issues at work, earn money for a living... whereas academia for me is exploration - it's sort of like a hobby - getting to do what I love (in the hopes that someday I will be well paid for it!). Not to mention flexible at home working, making my own deadlines, not driven or constrained by service level agreements and such. I think some people in academia might find describing non-academia as the real word offensive, and I've stopped doing it since it can be misunderstood. But actually that is how I feel about things also! So yes, two worlds... talk and see if you can still connect across the chasm.


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