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  1. Victoria (District Chocoholic)

    I already knew some of this, but I’m so glad you decided to write about it.

    I think a lot of people over-rate the necessity of a PhD. Yes, there are some specific jobs that require it, but it’s only a limited number. I don’t have one, and my career is (usually) going pretty well. Glad to hear that it has brought you some relief.

    I shall send you some celebratory orange chocolate.

  2. Erica

    CONGRATS to you! I bet this whole process has made you stronger and more confident. I’m so glad to hear you’re happy in your new spot!!

  3. Alayna @ Thyme Bombe

    First time commenting! Congratulations on turning your back on what’s expected and running towards happiness!

  4. caroline

    hurrah for you (and foremost – hi! – first time writing here). Thanks for sharing. Strains of your story seem eerily familiar… I am post-doccing but am facing those crossroads right now and it’s utterly bewildering. All the very best exploring your current (and future) fields!

  5. Jess: cheshirekitykat

    Congratulations! I’m glad you’re so happy. 🙂 Your new job sounds lovely, perhaps minus the instant coffee.

  6. Kath (My Funny Little Life)

    Thank you for writing so openly about this, Hannah! And you can be so proud of yourself that you’ve followede your heart (or stomach feeling), because it takes so much courage, especially if you’ve been walking down that road you’re going to deviate from for a long time already.

    Your story reminds me of myself in several ways. As you, I always was a very good student, and then I got to a point (after several semesters of Cultural Studies) where I felt that it wasn’t right for me. I got seriously ill and needed surgery, and during that time I reflected a lot about what was really important for me and what I wanted to do with my life. After 4 years of studying already (and without even a Bachelor’s degree, because by that time, studies where still featuring the old German degrees that equal a Bachelor plus Master’s degree, and you only get the degree if you finish the whole thing), I quit my studies and started studying psychology. I’m still doing that, almost finished now, and it was the best decision ever. I still want to get into academia, though, and chances aren’t bad that I will (because I’m still a very good student), but I can very much relate to how heavy those decisions weight on your shoulders. I’m so happy you’ve made it! And even more happy that you’re feeling so alive where you are now! 😀

  7. Christine @ Merf In Progress

    I left law school after one year because it didn’t feel right. I felt like I was headed down a path that wouldn’t ultimately fulfill me. I probably could have been just as happy if I’d stayed, but I followed my instinct. I took a crappy job, made great friends, got a better job, etc., and went back to graduate school with a different focus three years later.

    I think it’s important to remember, especially at your very young age, that most choices are not permanent. You can step off the path, skip over a rock, backtrack, swim through the river, drift back down the river, sit on the bank for a while, and get back on the path you were on or pick a new one.

    I love reading about how you have made these choices and you’re filled with excitement, relief, and pure happiness. That’s what life is all about.

    1. whisperinggums

      Thankyou Christine for confirming that “most choices are not permanent”. Most things are only permanent if you choose them to be, aren’t they?

  8. whisperinggums

    Great post Hannah … I feel excited for you so I really hope you do too. Life is an adventure…

  9. Lisa (bakebikeblog)

    Congratulations girl! And thankyou for sharing with us your ‘story’ 🙂 I hope that your future is filled with lots of laughs, smiles and happiness – and the previoulsy uncertainty and anxiety is a distant memory 🙂 You shoudl be so very proud of yourself!

  10. Errign

    Last two sentences = most epic ever. Congratulations for following your heart & for makin’ that cartwheel. 🙂

  11. Lizzi

    I truly am so proud of you. More than anything, for realising that you are not defined by any one thing (in this case, academia). That’s something I’ve struggled with a lot my whole life, and it is incredibly liberating to finally begin to let it go.

    Life is full of choices and non-choices (by which I mean ‘stuff you just kinda fall in to’), and none of them are really as huge or permanent as they seem. They’re all just stepping stones – parts of a bigger journey; not the journey itself.

    So smile a lot and embrace this exciting time. Lap it up! Enjoy the mystery and the unknown and the buzz of ‘winging it’ for a while.

    Very, veeeeery proud and happy for you. We must catch up soon — or send me an email and tell me more about the job/everything! I’d love to hear all about this particular stepping stone 🙂

  12. Fiona

    Hun, you sound so happy, happy for you 🙂

  13. Margaret

    Of course we are interested in reading this post Hannah.
    If this path makes you happy and feels right, it is right.
    You are never alone in the way you feel. I can relate to many of the feelings and experiences from your past, and I’m sure plenty of others do too.
    You are a brave and beautiful girl and I’m really proud of you. xx
    P.S. Excuse my ignorance, but what does a sociologist actually do? Is it predominantly research?

  14. Su

    Congrats on your decision! I’m a lurker, I love reading your food blog posts and I think it was really brave of you to write about this. I too have previously been in a position where I felt that my academic achievements defined me which was fine until Uni when I realised that I still felt unsatisfied and that it wasn’t enough. Enjoy your new job :).

  15. Priyanka

    Hannah, everyone had the right to be happy and no educational qualification can add to this happiness. If thing’s aren’t right, its time for a change and I am glad you did that. Congratulations on a new beginning and may you be happy forever!

  16. Lauren

    It sounds like you made the right choice, both from a practical and a gut-feeling happiness perspective.

    First, practical: This year off between B.A. and M.A. has been so helpful for me — I’ve been able to relax, and solidify my career and academic objectives. (They’ve moderately changed, in fact, so I’m really glad I didn’t head straight into graduate school. Even if it meant turning down a 2015 Toyota hydrogen car’s worth of scholarship money…)

    Maybe you’re meant to do a Ph.D., but in a different field? At a different institution? In a year or two? Or maybe follow this job into another and then another? This year will help you make an informed decision.

    Next, happiness: That sinking feeling you describe cannot be ignored! So throw out the whole practicality thing, and you would’ve still made the right decision.

    Good luck in this new position! Your responsibilities sound fun — I, too, enjoy putting together grant proposals and briefing books.

  17. what katie's baking

    you know what? realizing that you deserve to be happy and knowing what’s right for YOU makes you even MORE special than an unhappy person with a phd!!
    seriously, that takes so much courage! i’m happy for you 🙂

    also, you can totally come taste test next time! 😛

  18. Agnes

    You’ll always be special! Really glad you made your decision. x

    PS: But stay away from the instant coffee.

  19. Toni

    I totally get it.

    I was in your situation about 4 years ago and gave up a pretty successful career because I just didn’t feel good about it. I was terrified of the disappointment that I assumed everyone would feel.

    Turns out that everyone around me only wanted me to be happy and encouraged to follow my true passions in life.

    Amazing post!

    1. gmasydney

      And everyone in Hannah’s family – not just all her wonderful friends commenting here – have always only wanted her to be happy. We will always be proud of her, not only for what she achieves but for what she is: beautiful in mind and spirit.

  20. chanel11

    There was a brief time in my life when I was torn between doing what I thought I should ( and what my dad wanted me to do) and doing what made me happy – it was brief as when it comes down to it, the only thing I want in this life is to be happy. You never know when your number is up, and I wanted to make sure I lived my life for myself.

    When making a choice that leads to increased happiness, it is always the right choice.
    Congrats on your job!

  21. Alisa Fleming

    *Yawn* … Just Kidding!!! Seriously, this is an amazing story Hannah and I am so happy for you! It can be heard to listen to your heart that way, but so wonderful when it pays off. This is thrilling news and I’m elated you finally decided to share! Truthfully, I have been dying to know after that one post, but certainly didn’t want to pry.

  22. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts

    I’ve been happily following your blog since I found it through Oh She Glows a few weeks ago (it’s so nice to be able to read posts by a fellow Australian!) and have enjoyed every post you’ve written over that time. This one is no exception!

    I was a similar child and adolescent, who linked self-worth to academic performance, and I did end up following a PhD path. I don’t regret it, but it’s only since finishing my PhD that I’ve realised how much more there is so to life than academia. A lot of really fun, exciting, challenging stuff that is completely uninfluenced by academic work or status.

    So I guess what I really want to say is, congratulations on finding that out now. You took a leap of faith and it sounds like it is already paying off in exciting and rewarding ways 🙂

  23. penny aka jeroxie

    Follow your heart and you know what is best for yourself 🙂 Good on you babe

  24. Susan

    I love hearing about people’s actual lives and yours sounds amazing. I know that feeling all too well when you are doing something that you don’t really want to do and when you stop it you feel like all this weight has been lifted off your shoulders and you are free!

  25. Anna Johnston

    Dear Lovely Hannah
    I so relate with your new life directions decision, I went through the same anxiety when I stunned everyone (including myself for actually having the stuff to do it) & gave up cheffing for event management. Something I’ve never once regretted (although there are still heaps of my old colleagues out there who think I’ve done the equivalent of joining the foreign legion or something similar). Anyone who listened to their gut over others advice has my vote, so good on ‘ya luv 🙂 🙂

  26. theresa

    Hey, congratulations on finding a green field to play in 🙂 As much as I loved (ack! past tense!) my PhD, I know that it is not for everyone, at every time. The wonderful thing about life is that you can always change what you are doing. Maybe in a few years, or a few decades, you’ll decide to come back and do a PhD – but not because it makes you any more special than anyone, because you *want* to do it. And maybe you won’t! Maybe you’ll decide to open a chocolatery. And maybe you won’t. No matter what, you’re special because you’re awesome, and for no other reason.

    Does this new job give you any travel opportunities to North Queensland?

    1. theresa

      Woops, just re-read this and I don’t mean that you don’t have multiple reasons for your special-ness. I just mean it isn’t connected to PhD-ness. Der, Theresa.

  27. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    I’m so happy for you Hannah. As you know, I think you deserve nothing short of utter happiness and freedom and copious amounts of best quality chocolate. You’re a smart girl anyway and I know you’ll do the right thing. I just know that!

  28. Johanna GGG

    Nice to hear you are happy with your decision. I had wondered about the PhD. Good on you for being brave enough to admit it wasn’t right for you just now. There is always the option of doing one in the future if you feel ready and it will be a much better experience but a PhD is not always what you need anyway – the academic world is dog eat dog!

    I just hope that you have a job with the Chocolate Appreciation Institute and are heading off on a work trip to taste lots of good chocolate 🙂

  29. Conor @ HoldtheBeef

    Hannah my darling, I think you already know my feelings and thoughts about this but let me restate them succinctly – you are amazing and you totally deserve all the respect and adoration and clapping and cheering and throwing of flowers.

    If you find yourself questioning your decision later on, remember to cut your past self some slack – she’s a clever cookie and made the very best decision at that point in time no matter what future Hannah may think! I also have found, when I question my big life decisions after the fact (sometimes many years after), that it really helps to think of all the amazing things that would not have then happened if you had not made that choice (for instance, all my lovely friends that I now have that I would not know if I kept on with the medical degree or if I’d been clever enough to go straight into engineering from school and not “waste” those three years doing other stuff).

    Seriously though, buy yourself a plunger for your office. Yeesh.

  30. Cherrie

    The decision you made was straight from your heart. Your heart knows what you want. Good on you for listening to it 🙂

  31. Brent

    To continue the transportation metaphors: congrats on choosing your destination and not being railroaded along a journey that is not of your choosing. I too know what it’s like to be railroaded: unfortunately for me my train derailed and crashed. I survived with minor cuts and a bruised ego.

    Since then I’ve realised I wasnt leading my life but the life that I was expected to lead. Now I’m leading the life the way I want it and doing the things I want to.

    But sadly though since my awakrning I see too many people heading for trainwrecks themselves as they blindly follow the path that’s been laid out before them. If only they could be helped…

  32. Jasmine

    You’re awesome Hannah! To have the courage to defer the PhD because you didn’t feel right about it isn’t something most people can do. Most just trudge on the same road.

    Besides, from my point of view, I’ve always believed in working for a year or two, have a break from academia, and decide then if the PhD is for you.

    There’s nothing wrong! And, have fun with the work trip 😀

  33. Rose

    Oh how good it does feel to get good grades 🙂 By boyfriend is also the same and just graduated end of last year with a medal of academic excellence which he will recieve this month. But there is certainly a point where you have to leave study behind and I must say I graduated about 1 1/2 years ago and it feels so good to not have any bookwork, study or assignemnts contunuously hanging over me, in the back of my mind 🙂
    It sounds like you made the right choice!


  34. Helen (grabyourfork)

    Congratulations! This is a big decision and one you have taken great pains to consider. You are courageous, resilient and breathtakingly honest. Welcome to the joys of working life 🙂

  35. ella @ lifeologia

    How exciting! Congrats!
    It’s so good you trusted your guts and went with a life changing decision.
    I have met so many highly academic professionals, such as doctors, who clearly just hate their job and show no interest in their patients – maybe because that wasn’t their true passion but they didn’t have the guts to pull out.
    You will find great success and happiness only if you stick with your instincts and follow your passions 😉

  36. Monique

    This is extremely exciting!! I’m so happy the decision you went with is already paying off and looking to be rewarding 🙂 congrats, that does take a lot of courage to do, I’m amidst some pretty hard academic/career decisions myself!!

    I’m also AMAZED at how humble you are about your education. I always took doing well for granted and never really pushed myself farther than I needed to get mostly A’s in school ha. To this day I don’t regret it nor do I regret
    The chance to have worked and traveled and lived abroad. It feels weird to me to be starting a masters (two more years after if I want to pursue the PhD) and be close to 30 at the end of it haha.

    Like I said, big decisions take a lot of thought. I hope you celebrate this new adventure with FABUOUSLY decadent desserts and post them here soon 🙂 this is big news, you deserve to live it up for a bit now!!

  37. Tracey

    I think it takes a lot of courage to leave what is familiar and go after what you really want. Good for you for doing what is right for you right now. All that matters is your happy and everything else will fall into place!

  38. Kacy

    There’s nothing more important than feeling happy and confident with our decisions. I’m so happy for you!

  39. Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day

    Congratulations on following your bliss! That is wonderful.

  40. Kate (What Kate is Cooking)

    Congratulations! It’s clear you made the right decision, and I hope that you feel as happy as you look in that picture forever 🙂

  41. Simply Life

    congrats! it sounds like you made the decision that was best for you!

  42. Gena

    Lovely post, sweetie. Your twenties will be full of twists and turns and changes in plans — I’m living proof! Just prepare yourself to be nothing but continually surprised 🙂

  43. Teresa (Teresa Tastes & Travels)

    You must feel so wonderful and overwhelmed! This is an exciting time for you and I want you to always feel joyful, too! I’m also deferring a PhD…and I’m having a BLAST! I’m working in a field I’d never imagined I’d be a part of and I’m doing well at it. I get to travel much more. I was inspired when a woman who had spend 25 years in the career field I now work in, joined the PhD program at my university. She said she always knew that research/teaching would be her 2nd career. That totally inspired me. Some people only get one!

  44. Kath Lockett

    YAY! I got the impression that the PhD path might not have been the right one for you.

    And, let’s fact it, there are a helluva lot of ‘doctors’ out there who wonder just why they bothered.

    Be happy. And busy. And sleep well, eat more frangipane tarts and know that us, your readers are utterly thrilled that you did what was right for you!

  45. Vegan Carrot and Sunflower Muffins, To Thank You - Wayfaring Chocolate

    […] cannot adequately convey the depth of gratitude and overwhelmed happiness I feel after reading your beautiful, wonderful, supportive, and soul-strengthening responses to my last post. As I sat in front of my laptop the other day forming the words to explain why I deferred the PhD […]

  46. Rachel

    Wow, congratulations Hannah! Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like you made the right choice 🙂 I just turned down starting a phd – I want to want to do one, and I’ve been waiting for that enthusiasm to come, but at the moment it just feels wrong. Now I have no idea what to do because studying has defined my life for so long, but after reading this I have hope that things will all work out. Thanks again 🙂

  47. Amber Shea @Almost Vegan

    Oh, Hannah Hannah Hannah. I am so, so proud of you. I’m still not caught up on your posts but I had to read this one right away. All I can say is…I think you did the right thing. I too have felt that ridiculous self-imposed pressure when it comes to school, finding myself crying in my car at 1am on a night where I had a 6am workout and 8am class the next morning, bawling to my mom on the phone (and mind you, I am NOT very close to my mom at all) that I was on the verge of slipping below 90% in my phonetics class, and I can’t get a B in phonetics, I just can’t, I love it too much and it’s part of my major! Anyway, ahem. I can relate. And I hope you’re now enjoying long, deep breaths of fresh air, cuz you deserve them. Do what makes you feel alive, and you’re going to go far. I’m thrilled for you and this exciting new job, and I can’t wait to hear lots about it (and also the road not taken; I am curious). It sounds like we both have LOTS to look forward to!
    Love you forever! <3

  48. Camille

    Sorry I’m late to the party. I did surmise from your metaphorical tale and Facebook updates that you had left school. I’m just so delighted to hear that you’re happy and sleeping well again! You deserve it!

  49. Queenotisblue

    Hannah, I’m glad it’s all working out for you at the moment and that some great opportunities have come your way.

    Now, get yourself a coffee plunger for the office, stat!


  50. Baking Serendipity

    I don’t think there is anything more important than happiness. (Except maybe love…eww mush.) I’m so glad you are loving the big decisions in your life! Congrats on the new job!

  51. Kayla @ Fitter Than Choc

    Hannah, this post ain’t boring/sound vain/ offensive. I’m glad you have come to a decision at the crossroad, and found a wonderful job. This is going to be an exciting journey for you, and I am really psyched for you! Your mom is right – you are special!

  52. Erin@TheFoodMentalist

    Congrats on making this decision. Study is a tough thing and I often find myself in a similar situation – whether to continue on or not *sigh*. After taking a year off after finishing my undergraduate degree I decided to embark on a Masters which I am hoping to complete at the end of this year. It is tough and I often wonder if I made the right decision doing MORE study. The good thing is it will always be there and you can pick it up when you feel it is right for you 🙂

    Sounds like you are really enjoying your new job. Make sure you don’t get used to the instant stuff though, just find the best cafe nearby xx

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  54. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Oh no, I’ve been away from blog land with moving apartments. Catching up
    now. Well done on making what seems like a really tough decision! I hope you found writing your story & putting it out there therapeautic. Your honesty is heartwarming. What an exciting time! Scary too, but this is what life is all about isn’t it? These experiences & adventures. Life is too short to be unhappy. Well done on living the life you want to lead!
    Heidi xo

  55. Rach

    Girl… congrats on making this decision! I know just how scary it is to walk away from education like that. I seriously could’ve written this exact same post (except it was my Masters, not PhD when I walked away). I loved school so much all my life and I really based my self worth on how smart I was and how well I did in school. Seriously… I am with you here. And while I am still open to the possibility of further education again someday, I have never been less stressed or more bouncy than I have been since I left grad school in summer ’09. 🙂 So cheers to a great decision for you (and me!) 🙂

  56. Julia @ Boredom Abounds

    Congratulations on taking such big steps to happiness!

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    […] During the month of March, I made some big and scary life changes to do with deferring my PhD and having to choose between two simultaneous wonderful job offers. The anxiety, terror and […]

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    […] It’s not every day you eat a chocolate that, cocoa butter and berry notes aside, tastes of bittersweet nostalgia and a longing for a different longing, all because it was a gift from the supervisor of the PhD that you had to close your eyes and step away from. […]

  59. ck

    Congratulations on your massive life decision and change in direction Hannah. Now I’m totally dying to know what your job is, it sounds great. I completely related to your ‘I won’t be special anymore’. Up until 3 years ago, I was ‘somebody’ in my field. I have sice taken two massive steps backwards and am now a total nobody, bottom of the pile. But I don’t care at all, because it means I now get more time to enjoy the things I love much more, which means much more to me as it happens than being the best at something that did not mean a lot to me deep down anymore. Throughout my life, I have changed directions many times, including dropping out of a 4 year degree after 3 years. It just means I have lots of interesting life experiences and memories. Don’t be too hard on yourself, I get the sense that people are naturally drawn to you and naturally love you – after all – they’re only human! I hope you are enjoying the job and got the better coffee.

  60. Yasmeen @ Wandering Spice

    I’m obviously really late on this one, but… I’m so happy you made that decision. I completely understand how you felt. I always excelled in school. I had loads of friends and a great social life but was always that bit different. Long, long story short, I left a shitty ex and a life I didn’t like in Chicago (moved there from DC) to go to Amsterdam, where I did my Masters in Sociology and graduated with the highest thesis marks. I was totally on the path to PhD and basically had a foot in the door. Again I channelled this sense of being different to some others, and thought – yes, of course I’ll do a PhD. It’s just part of my special path!

    Well. I moved to Australia. I met with all the appropriate people at Melb Uni and got the ball rolling. They loved my ideas. But I didn’t love my own ideas, and I seriously labored over the application and the mere thought of doing it. I felt like if I let it go then I’d let myself go.

    Well, 1 year later, I couldn’t be in a better place without it – just like you. I also work in Social Policy (at a philanthropic foundation) and am getting far more experience than I would stuck behind my desk.

    The moral of this story? There is no moral, really, but I feel a great sense of solidarity with you and felt compared to say you’re not alone! 🙂

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