Why I Left Academia :: my dirty little secret

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better. ~ Anne Lamott

You may not know this about me, but I was a scholar. I went from flunking out of community college at 18 (I wrote an essay titled, Why the Pari Quebecois is Like the Lines on René Levesque’s Face and was too afraid of what the professor would say to go back) to slowly, after years of making up for an extremely shoddy education, sneaking my way into the inner sanctum of the intelligentsia.

I left the University of Toronto philosophy Department for 3 reasons:

  1. I realized that (capitol T) Truth wasn’t on the table.
  2. My entire system was rebelling.
  3. The department didn’t believe in me and they lied to me to get me to leave.

First: I found myself in a community of heavy drinkers and smokers who thought belief in God was a sign of stupidity and that seeming smart was more important than an authentic search for truth. They were more interested in fame. Oh, and they thought they were smarter than anyone in any other academic discipline (except maybe high level theoretical physics).

Totally distasteful. I did meet a few wonderful people, but it wasn’t enough.

Second: My whole system was rebelling. I just couldn’t get a grip and dig into the work I needed to dig into. I am afraid of exams and don’t generally do very well on them and the next step for me was a big area exam. I had already completed stuff and knew how to buckle down with commitment and rigor. So why was I not able to do it then?

Third: Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx (a world famous philosopher) lied to me. He told me that my supervisor, Yyyyyy Yyyyyyyyyyy (not so famous), said she didn’t think I could do it. He told me that he didn’t think I was smart enough, that I was welcome re-apply but I likely would not be accepted. The current applicant pool was so much better than the year I was admitted.

I immediately marched right over to my supervisor’s office and confronted her as to why she didn’t think I could do it. She was astonished and seemed not to know what I was talking about. She said she had not told Xxxxxx that she had lost her faith in me. I left feeling that a solution would be found and that I would be allowed to continue.

Two days later I received an email from Yyyyyy saying that she had talked it over with Xxxxxx and has seen the wisdom in his perspective. That she indeed did not think I should be allowed to continue.

I left the department without finishing my Ph.D. and I am both grateful to have gotten out and regretful that I left my Ph.D. incomplete.

So now for my dirty little secret:

I have confession to make.

I was an imposter.

The philosophy department University of Toronto is a top tier department, ranked with the best in the world (at that time it was 5th). When I applied for admission, I had no idea. A mentor recommended it to me since I was Canadian and wanted to return home. I ordered a catalog and flipped through it a total of 3 times.

I made a choice. Philosophy it would be.

One day as I was were walking along with a new friend and talking about the *Imposter Syndrome I confessed to him that I had only taken one 100 level philosophy course in my first year at community college before arriving in the U of T graduate philosophy department and that in fact, upon arrival, I didn’t know the difference between Metaphysics and Epistemology.

He was aghast. “Wow, Krista… We all feel like imposters*, but you actually ARE!”

We laughed about it. He liked me so I knew it was all in good fun, but a part of me knew he was right.

I wasn’t like my colleagues in the department. I wasn’t looking to the academic discipline of philosophy to prove anything. I was reading the ideas of great thinkers in order to jog my own inner knowing.

I wasn’t all that studious. I received an A for a paper on Kant’s Critique if Pure Reason (an incredible tome of dense complexity) without having read much of the actual text. I was an outsider and in the end I dropped out.

I was an ugly duckling.

But once I realized I was a swan everything changed….

the rest of this article is coming soon!


*This refers to the syndrome of thinking one is an imposter once one reaches the graduate level of academic study. Apparently everyone thinks they’re an imposter. It’s a thing:

“The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.” (Wikipedia)

By | 2017-01-11T18:17:06+00:00 April 4th, 2014|Write to Save Yourself|0 Comments

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