I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

There are many ways to skin a cat. Well, so I hear. To be honest, I’m no expert on the subject. I’ve never tried to skin a cat. It sounds very unpleasant, and I’m not really interested in finding out more. On consultation, neither is my cat, who refused to offer any comment for this article. But that’s no problem, because I’m not planning to write about skinning cats.

What I actually intend to write about today is: the many careers I might have chosen.

I refuse to come down and answer your offensive, vulgar question.

I refuse to come down and answer your offensive, vulgar question.

The reason I thought of this topic is because applying for jobs seems to be my major hobby. I write a job application at least once a month – indeed, on my laptop are 26 job applications that I’ve written and sent off over the past 2 years and there are probably more saved on USB sticks somewhere.

I don’t hate my current jobs (I have 2 jobs), which are both in the arts and events industry. It’s just  that juggling two jobs, both requiring more hours put into them than I am paid for, is draining. And I’ve been in one of these jobs for over 5 years, so, as I’m sure is the case in any job, it’s not so much the things that go wrong but the repetitiveness of all the things that always go wrong, that become too tiresome to deal with.

If you have just started at a new job and you arrive at the office at 9am to find that your client has left you an angry voicemail message asking you to phone them because of an “incident” that happened the night before, and the office receptionist warns you to check your emails before you call the client, but you can’t check your emails because the server is down, all of this may seem like a fun challenge. The client is angry! The server is down! What a challenging opportunity to show  my boss how well I handle stressful situations! 

When you have worked somewhere for 5 years, and situations like this occur regularly, it can feel like the last straw.

So I continually keep an eye out to see what other jobs are going. My hit rate with getting interviews is not too bad, either. Of those 26 applications saved on my laptop, I was interviewed for 9. Out of those, I got one part-time job – the job I now do as a second job, one day a week. But I’m still applying, trying to find just one job that suits me better, or a more workable combination of jobs.

At least I’ve narrowed it down to the arts industry.

But it’s interesting to wonder what other paths I could have taken. When I was at school, my goal was to be a teacher. Then in Year 10, we studied Careers. I leafed through The Job Guide, a big book that listed all the careers one could do, and became interested in the idea of actually doing art for a living. I could become an illustrator, a graphic designer or a finished artist (do they even exist any more now?).

I did my year 10 work experience as a graphic designer at the local newspaper in my country town. From memory, I spent the week looking through books full of “clip art” style, copyright-free pictures, and occasionally being allowed to select one for use in an ad that would run in the paper. The glamor seemed to fade from that career idea.

In year 12 art, I happily inhaled the smell of oil paint and turps in the art room, stared at a poster of a post-apocalyptic landscape, by Australian artist Peter Booth, and fantasised about being a painter, but didn’t see how to make that happen or think it a real career option.

Painting, 1977, by Australian Artist Peter Booth.  Image from The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/11/26/1069825834630.html

Painting, 1977, by Peter Booth.
Image from The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/11/26/1069825834630.html

At the end of school I was no clearer on what I wanted to do or be, so naturally, after high school, I enrolled in an Arts degree. That didn’t enlighten me, so after a year, I deferred, and enrolled in a short course in Interior Design. Immediately it became apparent that interior design involved a lot of precision measurements, which are not my forte. (I can do maths, but I find mathematical precision tedious.) I dropped that, and sat a drawing test and interview for a course in Window Dressing, and for a Certificate in Art and Design. I got into both courses – and chose Art and Design, so I guess that set the path for the next decade or so until I decided to throw it in. I don’t regret that time – the year I studied Art and Design was probably still the most stimulating year I’ve ever had.

Since giving up on being an artist, I have at various times considered other possible career paths. Occasionally I’ve wondered if I should have studied Law. I have a strong sense of fairness – so I would enjoy offering legal assistance to people who needed help. I enjoyed debating in Year 11, where I won a debate arguing that Jack was a better leader than Ralph, in Lord of the Flies, even though I didn’t agree with the premise I was defending. So I think I could argue a strong legal case, even when I didn’t approve of my client’s actions. But on the downside, I am actually a timid public speaker, (I was very nervous at that year 11 debate!) and I just couldn’t envision signing up to 5 or 6 years of full time study.

When my daughter was a baby I got into aromatherapy as a hobby, and looked into courses to become an aromatherapist or a naturopath. I pictured working out of my own therapy clinic, perhaps sharing rooms with a counsellor and a massage therapist, and treating clients in a healing, nurturing environment. It was a nice picture, but those courses were all at private colleges and cost too much for me to seriously consider.  I thought again about teaching as a possible career option – the holidays would be handy while my daughter is at school – but I never did anything about it. The idea of trying to command the attention of a class full of kids is too terrifying!

Over the years, I’ve considered being an illustrator, graphic designer, layout artist. I’ve fantasised about working in radio, or gaining skills in youth work, disability work, or counselling (clearly I’d be a fantastic Careers Counsellor!). There are some really interesting roles I’ve identified in the arts that don’t have any clear career path. For example, there are no courses that I’m aware of, and no defined career path, to becoming a theatre producer (as opposed to director), theatrical agent, or a casting agent, all interesting jobs.

In the last few years, I’ve also fantasised about writing for a career as a salaried or freelance writer, a copywriter, an arts reviewer, or even just finding an administrative role with a larger focus on writing. After helping two different friends write their job applications and edit their CVs recently, it occurred to me that my love of writing and enjoyment of guiding people to articulate what they are trying to say, would make me a great editor. The only drawback is that I’ve never studied grammar, or Editing, probably because they sound as though they require rigorous precision! Hmmm….maybe I should rethink that.

On a final note, in case you’re wondering, there are some careers that I’ve never been deluded about being suited for. These include: nurse, doctor, zookeeper, gardener, builder, architect (way too much precision required), accountant, train driver, plumber, racing car driver, engineer, or personal trainer. 

On that note, I’m off now – got a job application to write. (Seriously.)

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7 Comments

  1. I did a test in a careers lesson at school and discovered I was “best suited” to be a pig farmer or a youth club leader! Maybe I could have combined them and devised activities to keep the young pigs “off the streets and out of trouble” 🙂

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  2. This is a great post! Actually, it is really refreshing because I can relate to SO much of what you say!

    My first inclination – when I was 7 – was to be an astronaut so I could go to outer space and float around in the air. But then I learned it require mathematical ability, and I nixed the idea after that. I naturally leaned toward art because I loved to draw, but I felt discouraged by hearing I wouldn’t be able to earn a living at it. But, I wanted to work in the arts nonetheless, so I thought I’d give film a go. I was WAY too timid for that, and got laughed at for being so timid. Then, I decided maybe I could write? I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone if I were a writer. I enrolled in college as an English major. That was full of challenges that darn near drove me off the deep end, too. So, I changed my major to Psychology to figure out what was wrong with me. I finally got a degree in figuring out what was wrong with me (psychology), now I’m back to the artsy stuff…Ha! I like it best. 🙂

    In my opinion, the world is a better place with your writing in it. It makes people happy ( well, I know it makes me happy. HA!) So whatever you do, I hope it involves your writing! 🙂

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    • Lovely to hear from you again! Thanks for the very high praise, it is pretty cool to be told that your writing makes someone happy! I may quote you on my CV. (Take that, New York Times journalists.) I admire your initial desire to be an astronaut, but as you’ve discovered, artsy stuff is the best and you don’t have to wear a big cumbersome white jumpsuit and glass helmet (although you can if you feel the need to, that’s what’s great about the arts.) 😉

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      • Yes! Please do quote me on your CV! 😀 I laughed so hard when I read your post about Imaginary readers, that some of the tea I was drinking came out my nose. You’ve got serious skill!

        That was the exact line of thought I had of going into the arts when I realized I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be an astronaut! I could just pretend to be one if I got the urge 😉

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      • Haha, your comments make ME laugh! I’m very pleased to have made tea come out of your nose. (That one can go in the “achievements” section of my CV). Which post about imaginary readers are you referring to? I might read it myself if it has that effect! I’ve mentioned my imaginary readers often on this blog because I do feel a strong affection for them. Are you one of them?

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