28 January, 2010 - 7:04 pm
A few life decisions

I am feeling surprisingly positive about the start of a new year, because Iíve decided that 2010 is a time for CHANGE. What change, exactly, Iím not sure. But definitely change, of some kind.

This change is largely going to involve finding a new job, and a new place to live. Iíve had enough of editing music textbooks. But where to go? And what to do? Half of me is excited by the fact that thereís so much to choose from Ė especially if I stay in London, which I concede is good for some things Ė and the other half is overwhelmed. How do you decide what to do when you could do almost anything?

So to try to narrow this down, I have made some lists, of the type that you might find in any decent self-help book.

1. What is important to me?

  • A job thatís worthwhile. I suppose my own definition of worthwhile would be Ďmaking a positive change to the worldí, which I admit is pretty vague and fluffy and sounds a bit hippy-ish, but stillÖ

  • A job that challenges me, but perhaps more importantly gives me confidence, i.e. something that I can be really good at.

  • A job with some sort of variety that, ideally, doesnít involve sitting behind a desk in an office all day.

  • A job that requires some thought. When it comes to brains or looks, I was largely just handed the first and feel that I should therefore at least make some use of them.

  • A job with some creativity.

  • A job that I can make a unique contribution to; a job that canít be done just as well by all the other 40 people who applied for it.

  • A job that allows me to learn new things about the world on a regular basis.

  • Not living in London, or even working in London, for the rest of my career. Iíd rather just not have anything to do with London at all, and Iím quite certain that this takes precedence over pretty much any career.
2. What am I especially good at?
  • As wishy-washy as it sounds, Iím good at being creative. Iím good at coming up with new ideas, Iíve got an eye for design and photography, I have some sort of artistic flair, I can loosely call myself a musician, and I love writing.

  • Someone once told me I was wise and I like to believe he was right: I think I can approach things in a critical, logical, objective and fair-minded way, and I like to believe I make good decisions because of it.

3. What am I not good at?

  • Talking, especially in front of a lot of people. This, coupled with the fact that I do not have a great deal of patience for most adults or children, puts a crimp on quite a range of activities: giving presentations or talks, leading conferences, most forms of teaching, care work, management, etc.

  • Lying, or trying to look and sound enthusiastic about something when Iím not. This probably means I shouldnít go into sales-related areas.

On paper at least, editing turns out to be about as perfect a job as I can get. It has the potential to fulfil all of my ĎWhat is important to me?í list, and itís something that I happen to be really good at.

In practice, working as an editor has so far turned out to be really very dull. I think this is partly down to the subject area itself (music textbooks never make an inspiring read), and partly because I donít really get to do any commissioning or writing.

So I feel like I shouldnít give up on editing yet, and find a new job that combines commissioning and editing and writing all in one role, which is usually what happens for magazines and websites, in a subject area that does actually interest me.

Alternatively, Iíve been thinking recently about charity work, in particular international development. I quite like the sound of international development, because it would actually give my masters some relevance to the rest of my career, which I think would surprise everyone. And I quite like the sound of Ďpolicy and researchí, even though I donít really know what it means.

There are also a lot of other things Iíd like to do: learn the kora, play the piano, do some web design, improve at photography, write a few articles. Apparently everyone has one book inside them: I would like mine to be on misrepresentation of developing countries in Western media and popular culture (yeah). Iíd like to be the link between ethnomusicologists Ė who do really valuable work and then write it up so no one can understand it Ė and everyone else. Iíd like to be the next Ben Goldacre (see www.badscience.net).

You may laugh at me and perhaps rightly so, but I think that this could be something incredibly unique and worthwhile that I could do so well, and if I donít do it then maybe no one else will. I know it would involve a huge amount of willpower and motivation and little financial gain, and it might take me the next 5 years, but it wouldnít be impossible.

In order to write my best-selling book, among other things, I would really need to go part-time. But this will take a certain amount of courage: there is a little nagging part of me that tells me I should have money and a career and babies. Part of me feels that going part-time is just a bit lazy, like a guilty pleasure.

But then the other part of me tells me that, for a start, itís my own life and I can do what I like with it, that if I donít try going part-time now I possibly never will, that I donít need a lot of money at the moment so itís a good time to test it out, that if I doesnít work itís not like I canít find another full-time job again, and as there are so many things I could be good at, it seems like a waste not to try them.

To move away from the question of what to do next, the other one to answer is: where to go? I realise that nearly all of the really interesting editing and/or charity jobs are based in London, and have resigned myself to sticking around for another year or so. But, really, Iíd like to get out and have idly been thinking about moving to Oxford (nice city but full of students), Bristol (apparently somewhere Iíd quite like but seems a little too big), or Edinburgh (full of Scottish men). Any such move is quite a terrifying thought. But, at the same time, if Iím going to have to make it at some point then perhaps it is better to do so sooner rather than later?


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