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Marcus Arvan

Hi Helen: really great post - one that resonates with me personally.

I very much put my life on hold for the job market. While it worked out for me in the end (at least in terms of getting a job), my quality of life was terrible and I had something like the existential crisis you mention. I lost a lot of what I liked about myself: friendships, interest in playing music, etc. I have been able to resurrect these parts of my life now that I have tenure, but sometimes it feels like 'too little, too late' - that I basically sacrificed my happiness during my entire 30's for the sake of a job. I'm of course very happy I have one, but it still saddens me I will never get those days back.

Anyway, I very much agree with what you say. The job-market can feel all-consuming - but, if you're on the market, try--if you can--to live a real life and not sacrifice everything you love about life for the dream of being a professor. I wasn't capable of it, but I wish I had been.


I too put my life on hold for the job market. I got increasingly depressed and unhappy and lost interest in everything. This is why I decided to dump philosophy for 2018 except for the few papers I have under review (just had another paper accepted last week). I stuck with the job market for three years, because based on all my publications people kept reassuring me that I’d certainly get a job. I think this would have been true a decade ago but not today. So, I am now trying to move on from philosophy. It’s not easy to do. Philosophy has occupied my life for a decade. It’s kind of like being abducted and locked up in a basement for 10 years or being in prison. Okay, that’s an exaggeration of course. But what I’m getting at is that when you do try to leave, you realize you don’t know how to function outside academia, and you don’t really know anything that the majority of employers care about. I spent a decade learning how to write and publish philosophy. I don’t really know anything else. I made a mistake not having a backup or developing other skills, but honestly philosophy kind of took everything I had. I’m not sure I would have had the mental energy left to really learn something useful in addition. What I wish is that people had been more honest or direct with me about the mess I was getting into. Anyway, complaining aside, I agree definitely have a plan B well developed and don’t put your life on hold for too long. Dont wrap up your personal identity in philosophy too much. You need to be able to leave it without too much anger and bitterness. Whether anyone can realistically be expected to succeed if not giving everything they have to philosophy, I don’t know. If not, I’m not sure anyone should be trying to do philosophy as a career path. It might ruin a decade of your life.


One of the things that is hard about not putting your life on hold, is you will probably have people encouraging you to do just that. I gave up a lot for philosophy, and in a sense it worked out. So I don't regret it...but I also am not sure I have enough information to know that I made the right choice. I don't know the alternative, i.e., how things would have turned out if I had done something differently. I do know there was a cost to choosing philosophy. There is still a lot I miss everyday, that I might not get back.

To whatever extent possible, I encourage people to try and balance philosophy with family, friends, relationships, and your other passions. A back up plan is important too, for peace of mind.

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