Quarter Life Crisis- Reflections of a Grad Student

I turned 25 last week, and i suddenly feel that i have performed a chronological quantum leap. Till a few days back, i was a care-free 24 year old graduate student working on his second masters and making a career transition from engineering to the social sciences. This means that i making a paradigm shift (a very Sociology of Scientific Knowledge term coined by Thomas Kuhn) from numericals, simulations and modeling to theories, meta-theories and the sheer emphasis on reasoning and ideas. Its un-nerving at times to sheer intellectual thrill. Suddenly a feel like a pseudo armchair thinker of sorts.  It is also frightening that sociology majors have very limited career options, well I consider myself an engineer first and a sociologist in training. I have always wished to bridge the wide cognitive gulf between the hard engineering sciences and the softer social sciences . The systemic approach to knowledge production needs both. These are organs of the same universal body of knowledge. Solutioneering is a 360 degree effort. Systemic issues such as mega trends of migration, financial crisis, globalization or climate change needs systemic, holistic solutions. I am just a spec of cosmic dust, trying to make a milli-micro dent at the world. Well, its an effort, dont know whether it will yeild an ROI or not. For the sake of love of labor, that is the pure pursuit of knowledge. Happiness has a premium as well such as insurance.

I do not know whether this nerdy initiative of mine to pursue doctoral research in the future in Sociology/STS/Public Policy, will yield me a future of financial comfort- a house, a car , retirement savings. Most academics are struggling to find jobs in the developed world, pursuing contract based post-doctoral opportunities for years after their PhD.This means no relationships, unhappy parents and a loser perception in societal circles. Well, being a nerd means being unpopular because we choose our own trajectory and not follow the herd. By this time, my friends back at my undergrad days have reached early middle managerial roles and some have got settled as well, and I sit down at my uni canteen drinking 50 cent teh-o at 4pm and reflecting on a course reading.

Academia is simply not sexy enough, women like financial safety! The chase is after Consultants, Bankers, Managers and everyone who has a life, not some over qualified but under employed academic or professional researcher. A life of a grad school researcher is tough, penny pinching at every point, a good drink at a pub over a weekend can mean two months of groceries!

I do not know where life is leading me, i can only say that it has been an exciting journey with more downs than ups. Life is indeed a spectacular teacher and a bad master. I count my blessings every single moment and thank GOD for his mercy AMEN. I am looking forward to to the next bend down the road and a blind spot seems ahead of me!

6 thoughts on “Quarter Life Crisis- Reflections of a Grad Student

  1. Well, as someone who’s known you well for a few years —

    You’re an independent mind. Your blog’s very title says it all. There are
    all sorts of successful people; you once wanted to be a Murdoch, but the
    events of the last month may have changed that aspiration for good. We
    could get stuck forever in the business versus science debate; but let’s
    stick to basics. Business professionals, “consultants, bankers, managers”
    — are people who manage resources and solve problems of the moment.
    Academics might not have a fast-paced life, but the world is their oyster.

    There’s much to envy in what you’re chosen to do; you can afford to treat
    our little problems and transactions with disdain, and turn your mind to the
    big questions of today and tomorrow. When all’s said and done, it’s the
    academic who leaves a legacy of the mind. A balance sheet is for the day;
    a theory is for all time. (Or for as long as it is not redundant, which I trust
    none of yours will be) Keep thinking big, and keep the great ideas flowing.

    Stay the course; good luck.

  2. Dont worry my friend. When u follow ur passion and chase ur dream, u are sure to succeed. Ur interest was not in engineering. Your heart has always lied in public policy and I’ve seen you excel in public policy modules. Ur good at it, so continue to keep at it and u will prosper with flying colors and have everything wealth, happiness and most importantly job satisfaction. All the best. God will guide you.

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