I do not know one person with a PhD who is a quitter. That is why, despite the ring to it, “quit lit” is such a bad descriptor of the burgeoning genre of articles written by academics leaving the profession. It has a strong whiff of voluntarism about it, placing the responsibility of the “decision” to leave squarely with those doing the leaving. People are leaving academia not because they are quitters but because the system is broken. Their stories are more than just plaintive shouts into the wind: they are reminders and invitations. If we must coin a rhyming new genre, let’s call it exit lit.
The reminder is that the current system is not working for everyone – and not just early career researchers: even senior academics are “choosing” to leave academia. And when the system isn’t working for everyone, it is working for no one.
But, personally, I am not sure if I have another 20 years of dreaming left in me, even if I get that permanent academic job I always wished for. I am not sure if I am resilient enough – or resilient in the right way. I am not sure if I can take the financial, professional and emotional strain of being the change I want to see, in the face of all the pressures on me to be the status quo – or to leave.