Thursday, November 3, 2016

"The World only spins foreward" - On not going backwards

"The World only spins foreward"

A wise man once said that. It takes him seven and a half hours of a play to get there, but the main thing is he gets there.

That quote, from Tony Kushner's Angels in America is followed by perhaps the most important line of the whole play 'More Life'. In nearly a decade of living with, studying in various guises, and just having this play as a weird part of me, I think I've finally learn that lesson.

Like Tony, like Prior Walter (who speaks those words) I take a while to get there.

So life update, as it's been a while, I started a new job back in September. It's only temporary (until the end of February). It's fair to say it's not long-term what I want to do, and it's not kind of challenge in work I'm used to or want  etc etc BUT it's arts-related, it's not uninteresting and above all it's a job.

It's been both strange and nice to be out of the academic environment. On one hand I feel like I'm undercover, nobody really knows of my 'other' identity, and I kind of like it that way. On the other it's frustrating that nobody knows about something that has been a big part of my identity until now. In academia your work and you become a part of each other, and it feels strange being separated from that part of me in the eyes of my colleagues. But on the other hand, I feel judged as a person not as a set of academic achievements or lack thereof for once.

I think oftentimes people really didn't believe me when I said 'I'll take anything just to keep going' thinking somewhere I was being snobby about jobs. I wasn't, for the most part those jobs just wouldn't take me. Is it frustrating not being one of the people who does the more challenging work I know I'm more than capable of? sure. Is it frustrating not being able to get a job doing the things I really want to do? of course. Does that mean I'm not grateful for what I have? No.

I am in fact so grateful that someone took a chance on me. That someone looked at the wide range of experience I had and didn't dismiss it but thought they'd give me a chance to do something different. And probably that it's a very short term post helped. But it feels like moving forward, moving on.

I came back to this line yesterday. Where after days of putting myself through hell I came to the simple realization that we only move forward, and to embrace that. This was because my old job, that I had ended, was back. Sort of. Half of it. 2.5 days of it. And I had an interview for it.

It had been a rocky road to getting to the interview. I was assured when I left if they 'rescued' my job then I'd be told about it when it was advertised, but despite my chasing it up by email it seemed the job was never to be. Until I saw it...on Facebook. The person who shared it did so in all innocence, and it's not their fault. But I cried when I saw it. Both the fact that after months of unemployment, of the hard won battle that was that job, of kind of sort of wanting to go back because better the devil you know (or at least better the pay cheque). But nobody had told me about it. I told my Mum what had happened "They really don't like you do they?" she said. I think she was right.

I applied anyway. Out of principle, stubbornness, call it what you will. And I got an interview. I wanted the interview, I wanted to go back in there with all these ideas and show just how good I was for the job, I built that job from nothing and I was proud of it.

But life conspired against me. Long story short there was no way I could get the time off work for the interview without putting my current new job in jeopardy. And it was such a fight to get that job, and they are people who have been good to me. I chose loyalty to my new employer. And I guess I chose to move on.

I also chose, by default more than design, the path of not just accepting whatever can be thrown at you. That job was 2.5 days, and academia has conditioned me to grab any scarp of a job with both hands that is even slightly connected to it. Never mind the scarping around and worrying about money that inevitably comes with it, you HAVE to grab it and you're wrong if you don't. And if it were a dream job maybe, maybe then all the sacrifices are worth it. But not for dream adjacent. Not for kind of but not quite the right fit. I'm slowly learning to value myself more, and to ask others to as well. But it's a hard habit to break the one academia makes of you.

I am sad that I didn't get to that interview. But then I also think of how I'd feel if I didn't get the job. At least I stepped away on my own terms this time, even if it wasn't planned. I do feel, once again, spat out by the system, the one who wasn't quite good enough, quite valued enough for anyone to care. But also that sometimes you need a push. Maybe that was my push. Until being forced to make the decision to say no, I always had one eye behind, the 'What if' factor.

I'm not saying this is the end of me and academia fully, because as I said in another blog on the subject (here)  never say never. But I do feel as if  I have options once again. Last week I also got my first academic job interview in 3 years, and before taking this job I had 3 other non-academic related job interviews, showing that I CAN get in the room, and I do have a chance to do other things too.

So although I'm feeling once again hurt by my old job, and a little bit sad that maybe it wasn't meant to be again, I'm also feeling a sense of renewed energy in going forward.

So as Prior Walter says, at the close of Angels in America 'The world only spins forward' and with it 'More life'. The play also teaches against standing still, and I think I've been doing that for too long, and so onwards. Not backwards, however long it takes.