Quitting My Job: Why I’m Leaving Academia

At the end of March I walked away from my career as a medical researcher and left Helsinki, the place I’d called home for the past two years. Since then I’ve been travelling through Europe and visiting family and friends in my incredible island-home of Tasmania.

Why did I leave? In a nutshell;

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” ~ Thoreau

I’d become a medical researcher because I wanted to make a meaningful and significant contribution to science and society. I felt that I hadn’t done this and if I were to achieve this goal it would cost much more of my life, time and soul than I was willing to give.

It was that simple and that heartbreaking. To walk away from something I’d held as my core goal for the past 15 years. To wonder if I’d wasted 8 years of tertiary education and the $25,000 price tag it came with.

The short answer- no. I don’t regret any of my education, job experience or past choices. Because they’ve led me to where and who I am today. And I like both of those things.

Once I’d made the decision to leave I knew it was the right one. Sure, there were some parts of my job that I got satisfaction from, and some aspects that I greatly appreciated- freedom to work in different countries and plan your day as you see fit, collaborating with people on the other side of the world, the occasional excitement of discovering things no one else knew. But I no longer enjoyed the vast majority of my work. And perhaps worse, I felt the utility of it was next to zero.

In positive psychology, a meaningful life is characterised by purpose, significance, fulfillment, and satisfaction. These are negatively influenced by a sense of social exclusion (read the study here).

I began to dread going to work and longed for the weekends. I hated that feeling- the feeling that I was giving the best part of my life to something that didn’t make me happy.

So I decided I no longer would. I decided to leave academia and try to find something that did make me happy and fulfilled- something I was excited to do most if not every day. While I thought about giving my notice multiple times, in the end I decided to see out the last 6 months of my contract. This gave me time to save money and ideas for what would come next.

So what is that?

I’m still not sure. I know it will be much more creative and visual in nature, with more tangible short term results and regular collaboration with like minded people. It will be something that gives me satisfaction and feels significant- to me.

I’m learning new things everyday, experimenting with how I like each and where those skills can lead me. I’m keeping my mind open and flexible about my future- I don’t feel like I need to have all the answers now.

Because I finally trust myself enough to make the next best decision in my life as it comes along.