After embracing an academic career  for nearly a decade, a post-doc is now shunning her former dream of becoming a professor.

Rebecca Schuman has written a “Dear John letter” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which she likens the academic world to “a cult.”

I was a nerd, and a walking grad-school indoctrination target.

My tenured colleagues sometimes get offended when I compare academe to a cult—of course they would, they’re in the cult! Still, they must recognize the similarities. In literary studies, for example, we have our own lingo—French-theory jargon, which is nearly impossible for outsiders to parse. We have quasi-scriptures from worshiped nondeities—Derrida, Foucault, Merleau-Ponty—which we recite, from memory, to win arguments.

And we re-educate our ranks using the cult playbook. First, isolate graduate students from the outside world, not by physical barriers but by monopolizing their time with the requirement to read thousands of pages of obtuse prose nobody on the outside cares about. Then break the students down, via evisceration of their naïve early essays, and thereafter by comprehensive exams and the dissertation process. Finally, shortly before they defend their dissertations, call them “brilliant” and fill their heads with dreams of R1 glory. Make sure they know there is no other noble path outside the Life of the Mind.

And so we do what we’ve learned: We publish. We attend conferences as sycophantically as possible, going to panels at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday so that we can sit in the front row where Bigwig Who Wrote His Paper on the Plane can be sure to see us laughing at his jokes. We (ludicrously) expect a job, then we just hope for one, then we stop hoping, but keep acting sycophantic on the off-chance that someone, somewhere might hire us. And if we have a word to say about the entire process that is anything short of adulatory, we say it under a pseudonym, like an alarming portion of the contributors to this very publication.

I’m now aboard the “alt-ac” track, where there are opportunities immune to academic shunning. Still, it’s sometimes a painful struggle. As Jessica Collier recently wrote in the viral blog post “Jailbreaking My Academic Career,” letting go of something to which you have devoted an entire decade of hard work can seem like a death. But it’s the death of the monstrous idea that every sacrifice—even becoming an unrecognizable shell of one’s former self—is worth it.

In my case, I let that monster take me over—and now it’s time to kill it, so that I can move on with my life.