Wednesday, 22 December 2010

To-do or not to-do

I had a to-do list for December.  It was ambitious.  It was basically a ‘holy-crap-it’s-the-end-of-the-year-and-I’m-still-sitting-on-the-couch’ list. 
It included things like, ‘major clean-out of all storage areas’, ‘get a library card,’ ‘polish the silver’ (we have two pieces of silver from our wedding, but it sounds like a big job, and it went on the list after the fact), ‘register with GP’ (we have lived here a year and a few months and I never got around to switching from my GP in Watford), then a huge time-waster ‘I.D. and prep t-shirts for quilt.’  Most of these are not major chores and really could be done in a busy afternoon. 
The list also includes items like, ‘readable draft of journal article,’ ‘informal book proposal,’ ‘workable routine of writing/housework/exercise,’ ‘research how to make podcasts,’ and finally ‘any job applications.’
I’ll let you guess which side of the list has more checked off. 
There are a lot of reasons the career-oriented side of the list is still intact.  The most important, I think, is that I am not entirely sure what career I am aiming at here.  As I have said before, the thought of writing a journal article makes me physically ill.  I did however manage to send out an informal book proposal.  It was almost immediately rejected (due to the publishers’ prejudices and not my idea, which is not as soul-destroying somehow).  But the fact that I was able to bang it out in an afternoon, and actually enjoy it, makes me think it might be time to give up on the ‘academic thing.’ 
Yesterday I read an article about the futility of getting a PhD.  It seems it is a simple case of supply and demand with a bit of a twist.  There are nowhere near enough academic positions for all the PhD’s out there.  A chief reason being that Universities prefer the labour of PhD students to do the majority of the teaching and research as they are cheap, so full-time, proper, can-afford-to-live jobs are cut.  It’s a truth we all know when we get into the PhD game but chose to ignore it thinking that we will be the lucky one to get the job. 
Getting the job was once a real dream of mine.  But I am beginning to think it is a hold-over from another person.  It was the dream of a person that thought they would be alone, in a cute little arts and crafts house with a cozy library and great big cat.  I am no longer that person.  I don’t think that dream fits anymore.  That’s not to say that the PhD wasn’t an achievement.  It was.  It was a hell of a lot of work.  However, when I look back over the experience and how I worked my way through it, I have to admit I wasn’t working toward ‘the job.’  I didn’t seek out networking opportunities, in fact I hated them and avoided them.  I didn’t structure my thesis in such a way as to turn it into journal articles immediately.  And, perhaps the biggest clue, I didn’t chose a topic that lends itself easily to government grant proposals or ‘hot’ social issues.  From the start, the project and research was geared toward telling a story and not necessarily engaging in theoretical discussion.  Maybe that is not entirely true.  The story I told was definitely more interesting to academia than the actual world.  This should have been obvious when academics found my arguments engaging and everyone else just said, ‘well, yeah.’ 
I did apply for four academic jobs.  None of which I came even close to being short-listed.  And to be honest, I am not bothered.  I didn’t want any of them and was dreading having to pretend in the interview that I wanted to be there. 
All of this is to say, I think that some of the items on the career list are going to be taken off the list.  I think they are counter-productive. 
What will the new to-do list hold?  Stay tuned. 

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