I have been reading in different forums now and searching for the advice that can give me an answer to my dilemma of quitting or continuing my PhD. In this search I did not find any entry to why I should stay in the PhD.
Profile: Female, 29 years old. Undergraduate in agricutural engineering and MSc in environmental studies
I started my PhD on political economy 14 months ago. At the beginning I did not like the topic at all. However doing a PhD has always been my dream, as I am very curious and I love learning something new everyday. So despite my lack of theoretical foundations on this discipline, I was so passionate about politics that I considered it was the gap I needed to cover on my interdisciplinary education in order to understand the state of the agriculture nowadays.
At the start, I was not convinced of the reputation of my host university so I decided to search for a second supervisor who was internationally well-known and recognised in the field. Then, I engaged in different theoretical courses in order to acquire the background I was lacking and started working with both my supervisors.
After my preliminary fieldwork, I came back depressed, demotivated and wanting to quit. I realised that I did not have any other alternatives, so I started job hunting while I was giving my last change to the PhD. Steadily I brought the topic to a terrain I like more and I became a bit more enthusiastic about it. However it is not (and has never been) the topic I am passionate about. On top of that it implies the need for more fieldwork (1 year) and living in harsh situations that are not appealling anymore. Furthermore I realised that jumping into a new and so abstract discipline is representing to me a more major challenge than I initially expected and I feel that I am much slower than my other colleagues. I realised I am no longer the bright student that I used to be before and maybe I am not made to deal with the construction of knowledge that academia represents. I also started questioning the power relations in the academia and how hard and competitive it may become. I start feeling a lot of stress and lose more and more self-confidence on what and if I can do it. And finally I questioned if I really want to do a PhD? For what? What are the reasons that hamper me to quit? Why I am staying?
DILEMMA: TO STAY OR NOT TO STAY?
The reasons why I am staying is firstly because I love research (but I hate academia). I love learning something new everyday and engaging in discussions with very interesting people. However I hate the competitiviness that academia embodies and the constant show-off it implies. It makes me feel terribly insecure and to not enjoy the learning process. I love the people I met along the way and I adore and admire my supervisors. However the topic is not the one that makes me feel super motivated in the tough moments.
The reasons that hamper me from quitting are the compromise I felt I have acquired with my both supervisors. The amount of money and time they have invested in me makes me feel I owe them to finish... Additionally both of them are very recognised people in the field, so in case I would decide to quit this PhD and change into another one where my passion is... I wonder what my credibility as an scholar would be if I keep changing without completing things.
So I asked constantly since a long time ago: whether or not I want to do a PhD? I get to the conclusion I can work in research in many other places (i.e. think tanks, international organisations) that even if, and most likely, might be also competitive and with power relations involved, I don't have to deal with the theoretical issues that are killing me now. I realised that I am more an action, hands-on person that search for solutions to problems and don't like so much revolving around a problem for so looooooong (which is one of the things why I can not find the passion in my topic). I realised that I don't need a PhD for doing so and that the labour market can not absorb so many Doctors.
So having reflected on what I would like to do in my life (which I can not now see how it will be in academia), my fears about quitting the PhD are:
I don't have alternatives now. I searched for them but I see it is incompatible to be job hunting while trying to make sense of my PhD (in terms of emotions and time).
I am scared of regretting quitting the academia and not being able to work in research in the future.
I don't know if I can stand the disappointment of my supervisors for quitting.
I don't want to lose contact with the wonderful people I met along the way.
And why do I want to quit?
I am fed up of theory. I am not good at engaging with it and I don't understand it. This is stressing me incredibly and is becoming a very painful process. I don't want to defend myself in everything I elaborate putting all my intellectual effort, because someone else may find many things in my work to criticise. I am not passionate about the topic. I don't want to go back either to the fieldwork or to my host university. I feel I have many other skills that are hidden in academia. However when I develop those skills I feel much happier (like social skills).
So what shall I do? I would appreciate any advice (apologies if I did spelling mistakes but I am not a native english speaker)