"It's not personal it's business." is a great quote from 'The Godfather' (so I'm told, I've never seen The Godfather). I've been thinking of a variation on that a lot lately, "It is personal to me, it's personal to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal anyway?" Answer at the end as to where that's from.
I've been thinking about that, and a lot of related things as I think about my job hunt, and a transition away from academia and the PhD. And the things I want to address two main themes, firstly that idea of the personal, about what you do and who you are. And secondly, how your job (or lack of) your career and personal life choices and the 'right' way to do that, cause all sorts of judgement.
Nobody who ever survived a PhD will tell you it wasn't personal. It takes giving a lot of yourself to get to that end point. It's like no other form of 'studying' it's like no other course you do, it takes a bit of you with it, for a while at least. And for many you don't get there without the PhD being connected in some way to something you care about. Again you wouldn't read all those things, write all those words without somewhere at some point caring. It's personal, deeply so at times.
It's also, as I've mentioned on other blogs, something as a career you throw your whole self into. It is an all-consuming profession, and lines are blurred between leisure and work particularly for us who study things like theatre, literature, music, media because our 'normal' interests fuse with our professional ones, in ways I don't imagine they do if you're say, an accountant. And you put a lot of energy into that work, into the paid work and the unpaid work (of which there's much more than the paid). And a lot of that work rests on you, your name, your work. It is incredibly personal.
And while I maintain that work/job title doesn't define who you are, if you've done a PhD/been a part of academia it is very much a part of your identity. And when you take it away, that's a change to deal with. And when you make a decision or are forced into another path, it's not just like taking another job. Your identity feels like it has changed, it's not just business, it is personal.
So that's in part why I plea for patience as I ride out this shift. I didn't just end a contract or lose a job. I’m not just looking for a job this summer. I'm changing, I'm having to leave something behind that I was for a long time. And it's not easy. It's not just a business transaction from one form of paid work to another. It's a shift in identity. And that's personal to me.
Added to that is the pressure that I've somehow missed some vital milestones in life. Like marriage, children, home ownership. That these things have never meant much to me personally seem immaterial to other people. Someone asked me last week what was 'wrong' with me that I was still single. Nothing is wrong with me I've just been busy, and finding a partner has never been a driving force in my life. It's nice, sure, but it's not the only thing.
The idea though, that I'm doing life 'wrong' simply based on the fact that I'm not hitting a list of artificial markers of adulthood. Or that I'm somehow not actually adult enough because I'm not hitting them is hurtful. The idea that I should put up, shut up and get a job any job so that I can find a husband, buy a house and have a baby and ONLY THEN am I permitted to complain because THEN I am a REAL grown up with real grown up problems. Well frankly it's both insensitive and its bullshit.
I worry as much about money and security and my future as my friends with houses and husbands and babies. More so sometimes I think, because it's just me. On my own. No partner's salary next time a job ends. Nobody else contributing to the bills. No second family to ask for help from-hell no first family in my case. It's fucking scary out there as a single person trying to get by without a safety net. So don't tell me I'm not a grown up.
And it's all personal, because it's my life. To outsiders looking in I'm just a person who can't get a job. And maybe they think that's a shame, maybe they wonder what's wrong with me. Maybe they've never had the misfortune to be unemployed and think it's not so bad.
And maybe you do say 'Don't take it so personally'
Come and tell me it's not personal when I'm sat at my computer crying on yet another Monday when there's no jobs to even apply for. When I get another email rejection for a job I know I was qualified for. That it's not personal when you apply for minimum wage jobs and can't get those. That it's not personal when your dog has to have emergency surgery or the car breaks down and you know you can't pay your Mum back for who knows how long. When it's been days since you've been out. When you have to turn down going for dinner because you can't afford to eat in the restaurant. When friends stop replying to messages and you feel like they don't want to know you anymore. Tell me it's not personal to feel like all the years of hard work were all for nothing.
And none of the reasons I haven't found a job are personal (well actually one was, but screw them) but that doesn't mean I don't feel it personally.
It's not personal, it's business. That is true. But it's also personal to a lot of people.
*And the quote was from 'You've Got Mail' because I'm an uncultured swine, as this blog discusses.