What Color is Your Ejection Seat?
One of my main existential crises at the minute (you should always have a few)
is about what I’ll do once I get the hell out of academia.
I knew a girl once who said she didn’t want to be trapped in one career for the rest of her life but wanted do a few different things. I don’t remember all of them but I do recall that she wanted to own a cheese shop. she was very fucking cool, btw. and how awesome to want to do many things, and being excited about the possibilities. She was also a laid back person, if that has anything to do with it.
But instead of being excited about options like one of those motivational posters with a sunset, I feel more like the one with a guy dangling off a rock face but instead of saying ‘motivation,’ the caption says ” I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO FUCKING CLIMB ROCKS.” I bought what color is your parachute before I went to grad school the first time. and while it’s obviously been great tool for many people, I had a difficult time using it. I couldn’t answer most of the questions.
This sounds stupid, but its true. Shit like, ‘write your top 5 talents in this box’ and ‘color a picture of what your ideal life would look like’ left me flummoxed and, to be honest, scared. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that to the word at large, or at least the 10 people reading this. Scared of a book that wasn’t even this.
I do not consider myself to be nambypamby girlyman-person. The same idiotic voice inside my head that made me start a phd is the same voice that has made me take up some weird sports and do some other equally not well thought out ‘extreme’ type stuff.
But a blank sheet of paper with limitless opportunities felt much more frightening than running 26.2 miles or getting my ass kicked by much bigger and stronger people or, now that I think of it, even doing a phd.
So I was scared and I had no freaking idea where to start or what to do. And that book ended up in the recycling bin. (at least I recycle?)
I’ve also tried careers counselors at the local library, my alma mater, and
current university. That hasn’t worked out so well, either. Mostly because we’d sit down and they’d have a desk of shiny pamphlets and newly sharpened pencils and I’d be feeling really hopeful about the whole thing, now I’m in the hands of a trusted professional, like a gynocologist for my careers path but not really, and they’d start off by going, “ok so what kind of career would you like?” and inside I’m like, I HAVE NO IDEA, THAT’s WHY I AM HERE.
The last one I saw was a disaster. It went something like this:
scene: cramped anonymous office. no pamphlets, no pencils.
Counselor Person: So what kind of thing would you like to do?
Me: (sweating) um I really don’t know. That’s why I’m here. I’d like to talk about my options.
CP: (clackety clack on the computer) ok, great. Would you be interested in working in a corporate environment?
Me: not really… I know that rules a lot of things out but I don’t think I’d like working in that kind of environment.
CP: (following script prepared by corporate thugs) Ok well we have a corporate headhunter coming to campus next week.
Me: um, like I said, I don’t think I’m really interested in the corporate thing.
CP: The corporate world has a lot of great graduate trainee schemes. They are specifically looking for people with degrees and you get on the job training.
(CP brings up website advertising competitive graduate trainee scheme. For those with bachelors degrees.)
Me: Isn’t that scheme for people with bachelors degrees?
CP: Yes but you can enter it too.
Me: So I’d be competing for this stuff against 21 year olds with way less qualifications? And if I got it, I’d be in the same position as other 21 year old with way less qualifications? What would be the point of my phd then if I could have done this 10 years ago?
CP: (eyes shift to clock on wall) Well, it’d still be a great opportunity…
(cue incomprehensible corporate talk for the next 10 min until I took her not glossy printout and said thankyouverymuch I’ll think about it and walked out.)
That took me a few days to get over. What a 2 for 1 bargain- a demonstration of how the degree I don’t even have yet is undervalued and obsolete, and no career ideas.
So yeah. I don’t really want to do that again. Even if I met with some great innovative person, I probably wouldn’t be much help to myself since I don’t know what I want (besides knowing that I don’t want to enter a graduate trainee scheme alongside a bunch of people a decade ish younger than me).
Whenever people ask that question designed to shortcut all this ‘career’ angst, ya know, what would you do if you won the lottery, I can’t even answer that question reasonably. I mean, I’d travel the world and not stay in flea infested hostels, buy a house with a trampoline room, sock some of it away for a rainy day/future progeny, done a crap ton to charity… And I’d probably get a donkey. But I don’t have a fantastic ‘proper’ answer that translates into a job, like restoring antique motorcycles or building furniture.
It’s like writers block, but for my life.
Anyone out there in the ether been through this and manage to scale the rock face?