Tuesday, April 25, 2017

It's not your fault (and other things to tell ourselves when nobody believes us)

Firstly, hey, hello, yes this blog has been resurrected from whatever depths it's been languishing in.

This could have been a rant. I'm upset, I am, for reasons apparent in the rest of this. But I'm choosing to turn it around. So to that end I say to anyone out there in PhD land, alt-ac land, with-a-PhD land or just the general 'where did it all go wrong land':

It's not your fault.

Even if you think it is. Even if you could have done things differently (and we all could) even if you just think the whole damn thing is a huge mistake: it's not your fault.

Things I'm declaring not my fault today: 

1. That the economy went to shite in 2008. Around the time I was looking for my first 'proper' jobs. I finished my Masters in late 2007. By the time I was ready to move on from 'just give me a job for my CV and some damn income' to 'Hey career move' things were already going to hell. That was beyond my control.

2. That by 2010 Education was nose-diving along with the economy and that was the profession I'd ended up in. I made a deliberate choice in 2009 to undertake my PGCE. School budgets are being slashed, arts and humanities are always the first to go. So what was an investment into a secure career became a risky gamble.

3. The Conservatives got elected. Which made 1 and 2 so much  worse. Then Trump got elected and well...

4. Higher Education is a system at breaking point. I decided on a leap of faith to do my PhD and use my teaching skills there and follow a dream when 2 took effect.  And I joined it as the cracks began to show. By the time I'd done three years on zero hours teaching contracts there was no more money for adjunct teachers. And every other local University (because you can't commute or move for adjunct teaching) was in the same boat. Full time jobs were cut, fixed term ones fewer and fewer. Funding less and less. Restructures happen left and right so even the alt-ac jobs are at risk.

Genuinely the above are things that happened to happen as I was doing my damn best to shape my career. Now here's some more particular to me that aren't my fault:

1. I was born in 1984. Not say 1974, 1964, etc etc when the above might not have aligned with key moments in my life and career. Thems the breaks. I also happen to be not quite 'Generation X' and not quite a 'Millennial' which apparently makes it hard for the media to put my failings and political views in a box. So there's that too.

2. I was born into a poor family. My parents never had spare money. Often we didn't have enough money. Oh and my Dad died when I was 19, when I was in the middle of University, my Mum was working part time for minimum wage. There was nothing spare to go around. There still isn't. I was never going to get my tuition paid or a house deposit.

More importantly there's nobody to bail me out. Ever. If I get into debt, if I can't pay my rent, there's no bank of Mum and Dad to bail me out. The only safety net I have is a literal roof over my head at my Mum's . Which while I use it, I help pay for.

Those of us from backgrounds like this earn our keep (I've been working since I was 15) and we pay our way (I pay rent, I pay for everything else I have). Most importantly we work damn hard, because the fear keeps you going, as does the ethic passed down.

3. I'm willing to do anything to keep going. Because of the above I don't have the luxury of sticking to a 'career plan' I just have to work. And if that means taking a minimum wage job on top of teaching, or taking a job that pays 1/3 less and is about 4 steps down the ladder, you do it. And it's not your fault to need ot keep going.

These are just my examples. All of you out there have them, whether it's taking a career break to have children, taking a job because it fits being a carer for someone else, you moved because your partner did, you can't move because you don't have the means, you were ill, you are ill. Or even damnit if luck just isn't on your side.

It's not your fault.

If you're sick of hearing any of the following (And I know I am)

People complaining about their jobs that they've had for 10 years
People being surprised that you can't get a job doing whatever it is you're trying to do
People being surprised you're doing the job you're doing
That you're simultaneously over-qualified and under-qualified for a job
That you just missed being hired or shortlisted

If you're sick of people not understanding that:
Having/doing a PhD doesn't mean you've never worked
That it's an easy ride
That you should be able to easily get a job in academia
That you're not qualified for anything outside of academia
That you've not paid in cash, time or other sacrifices to do it.

If you're just plain sick and tired of:
Not being able to plan for 6 months time. Because you don't know what you're job situation will be.
Not being able to afford well...anything because of the above.
Feeling like you suck at what you're doing for a living
Feeling like you wasted your time, effort and money.
Using every spare waking hour trying to change the situation.

It's not your fault. None of it. As much as we tell ourselves we could work harder, as much as we compare ourselves to everyone else. It's not our fault. The world, our industry and plain old luck went to hell in a handbasket while we were all trying to contribute to society and do the thing we felt we were good at.

That's easy enough to think, when not confronted by someone who got in before it all went to hell. Who can't understand why you haven't paid off your student loans and bought a house. Or why if you're so clever you're doing this crappy job (which you clearly aren't good at). But it's not your fault. We're all working bloody hard out there.

And if I say it to my fellow PhD-ers enough, I might just believe it myself next time. Instead of crying in the toilets. Again.

No comments:

Post a Comment