The phone rings in the middle of the night / My father yells “what you gonna do with your life?”

My first year teaching is nearly up – just a seminar and some marking after Easter – and it’s been quite the ride. I guess most of what this year’s been about has been not only getting my head around how to teach, but also reprioritising my life and career and watching my quarter-life crisis loom larger and larger on the horizon. On the face of it, I’ve done quite well for myself; part-time lecturer by the age of 24 (a job title with almost sufficient ponce to forever ward off parental enquiries – actual or projected – about “real jobs”), and when I’m not lecturing I’m working in a haberdashery which I could happily do for the rest of my life.

So, the question is, do I want to do this for the rest of my life? That’s what I’ve been wrestling with. I’ve swung quite wildly between “DO A PHD!” – “DON’T DO A PHD!” -“DEFINITELY DO IT! NOW!” – “DO IT AT CHRIST CHURCH!” – “DO IT SOMEWHERE ELSE!” and other similar clamourings. Here’s the long and short of it:
– Original plan: take the summer to write a proposal then go in for it next academic year (2013)
– Change of plan #1: met up to discuss my idea with Andy Birtwistle who would be my supervisor and is brilliant. Andy was ridiculously encouraging and upon discovering the proposal’s only 1500 words I think “The hell with it, I’ll do it this year!”
– Another colleague suggests I think long and hard about doing it at another institution to avoid the awkward career masochism of having all of your qualifications from the same university. Apparently my academic record is impeccable and I don’t need to rely on being known. Upon receiving similar advice from other trusted people I decide he’s right and set my heart on doing the AVPhD at Goldsmiths. I email the AHRC advisor to ask about funding.
– Reply: “Thank you for your enquiry; while AHRC funding is available across a broad range of courses, the AVPhD is not one of them. We are sorry to send a disappointing reply.”
– Current status: hmmm. I was very excited about that prospect. I’m not sure a full-theory PhD is up my street, mainly because it locks me into teaching. The job security of that type of employment is attractive, but the thought of spending the rest of my life in theory-mode as opposed to actually making stuff doesn’t quite cut the mustard, even though I am better at the theory thus far.

The other day my boss at The Sewing Shop asked me what my goal is. I found it quite hard to pin down; I told her I want to make films – music videos and documentaries, and then I kind of went off on one about how while I know what I want to do and I believe in working hard, I don’t want what I do  to be where I get my identity from/how I don’t believe in striving to make my dreams come true because God’ll sort it all out for me anyway…she stared at me blankly. I always struggle with getting this across, partly because I haven’t got it all figured out myself. I want to be quite upfront about the fact that God’s involved; there’s no way I want people thinking the way I go about my career plans is the same as everyone else because nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, somehow, I struggle to express it properly. You see, it’s not just my father asking what I’m gonna do with my life, it’s my friends, it’s my colleagues…everyone. Me too, but my life is not my own. The God bit’s fairly substantial.

About a year ago, I was visiting my friends from school, who are now living the dream in London. I made a similar blunder in trying to explain the “God+career” thing – it was nearly a year since I had finished my MA and I was working a crappy minimum-wage job with the prospect of lecturing a mere blip on the horizon. I wasn’t freaking out about it at all, even though I wasn’t being creatively fulfilled, because I knew my focus was meant to be on other things (like church, personal growth), and I knew God wanted me in Canterbury for the time being. Trying to explain that to people who’ve never experienced that way of thinking is a challenge, and trying to make it sound appealing…in the end, what I said got misinterpreted as “the church is holding me back from pursuing my dreams”, and I was perceived as unwise. When did pursuing your dreams become the sensible, safe option? I suppose the answer is that I’ve been mainly throwing myself into something more like “pursuing-the-dreams-that-are-bigger-than-your-dreams-but-also-encompass-your-dreams-but-sometimes-they-don’t-for-a-while”, which isn’t really a paradigm that most people have.

I’ve been reading Miranda July’s ‘It Chooses You’ (review coming very soon – July is a personal heroine of mine) and coveting her effortless way of expressing her personal growth and lightbulb moments. Truth is, I don’t have any at the moment. At the moment I am sitting on my new sofa next to my flatmate listening to Local Natives and trying to decide whether to end this blog post with a mini-manifesto of my approach to career-God-dialectics, or to actually think the subject through a bit more and write a proper post on the subject rather than rush to cobble something together. Slow-thinker that I am, I have decided to plump for the latter option; however, in the interests of catching-up, here’s my year of lecturing in tweets:


One response

  1. Hey Friend,

    I know I’ve been absent from the blogosphere as well, but I think there’s a bit of the story you’re missing. In buying property in Canterbury, you have a different commitment to the locality. God is totally substantial in your story. It’s an ancient piece of wisdom to “Bloom where you’re planted.” That sort of stability requires divine help.

    So yes, pray about it. Ask God where you can bloom. Be open to variations on timeline. Search your heart, and be honest with God about what you’re seeing within.

    And maybe I’ll try to get my own blog back and functioning 🙂
    Many prayers.

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