Money vs. Happiness

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be another one of those posts where someone rambles on about the correlation between wealth and happiness.  Actually, it’s the choice between wealth and happiness that I’m talking about.

I bragged about D getting a fellowship for his Master’s thesis.  I was – and still am – very proud of him.  But very quickly things turned sour.  His advisor wanted everyone in the lab at 9am – 5pm.  Every day. Including holidays, and though he never quite came out and said it, also weekends.  This time was to be spent doing research, no homework allowed.  This was on top of writing a preliminary paper for the D’s research thesis, and 2 other classes D was taking as well.

What was worse is that, although D had been out of school for over 5 years at this point and had no experience in the particular niche of his advisor’s lab, the professor thought D should be able to jump right in.  He also told D to schedule a couple of classes, telling him that it would be all right that D didn’t have the right prerequisite courses (spoiler alert: it wasn’t).  Throughout all of this, there were weekly emails saying, “Is this all you did this week?” or “I don’t like this,” without any extra explanation (e.g. “I’d hoped you would accomplish this,” or “This paragraph here is wrong.”)  My Master’s program was class-based, so we turned to my sister, who is working on a PhD in a similar field.

Her verdict? That this guy was crazy.

D almost quit in January, but somehow stuck it out until the end of the Spring semester.  By the end, he was on campus 13 hours a day, with his lab work from 9-5 and classes from 6-10.  He also commutes by Metro, so tack on another 2 hours for commuting time.  And yet, the professor still told him he wasn’t doing enough, still told him that his papers were crap, even when a different professor who was advising on the project said he thought the paper was good.

The fellowship expires in September, and we spent a lot of time talking about whether or not he should accept another one.  I’ve always been very strongly opposed (in fact, I thought he should have quit in January) to him continuing, but of course the extra money & tuition is a concern for D.  Still, I have been there, and there is nothing worse than hating your job.  It’s truly soul-crushing.

So he’s dropping out of the thesis option, and he’ll be taking 2 or 3 classes per semester.  We’ll foot the bill ourselves, because what have we been saving for all this time?

And after all, if he can quit his job for my happiness (which is what he did when we moved to DC), he can quit a job for his own.

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6 Responses

  1. It’s certainly not easy leaving a job for your own happiness but in my personal case it may have been the best decision I’ve made in a long time–or quite possibly ever will. Good luck!

  2. My BF is doing his masters right now so I hear quite a bit about the program, I would be willing to bet that he would stick it out if he had to deal with crazies…

  3. He stuck it out this long for it and from everything you have said I think it would be best to leave for happiness sake.

  4. That sounds like a terrible advisor, and a good choice to drop out. I hope that the non-thesis option goes much better!

  5. Wow. I mean, it is kind of accepted that grad students are a tiny bit exploited at times, but this guy seems horrible. It is too bad it didn’t work out (are there any other advisors?), but you are so right. It will be worth it. Happiness > money

  6. You and Chad made the absolutely right choice. I had a co-worker friend (past tense) who just got promoted with a fancy title and probably a not-so-insignificant pay bump. But he’s miserable at his job and unfortunately, lashed out at me a couple of times (and a couple of times too many) as a result. Anyhow, I guess what I’m trying to say is that money and prestigious titles aren’t worth it if it’s going to make you miserable since it will destroy the remaining aspects of your life, including relationships and health. Kudos to you and Chad for knowing what’s important in life.

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