An old friend once told me that it is the choices we make, not the chances we take, that determine our destiny.
Admittedly, I am not particularly susceptible to the old poster’n’adage school of thought, but it struck me at the time as quite profound and has duly stuck with me down the years.
I am terrible at making decisions. The mere act of attending a hairdressing appointment can reduce me to a quivering wreck, mumbling “Red!”, “No! Black!”, “No, no, hold on, do you have mahogany?”, “Actually, what do you think?”.
While in such instances I can easily delegate to the hairdresser, my current circumstance can be delegated to no one, and so, I find myself wriggling through sleepless nights at a loss over what to do, where to go, what will be right for my career, and perhaps most of all, right for me.
For the past nine years I had a Plan: get a degree, complete a postgraduate degree, obtain my Ph.D., acquire a job in academia, and pass the remainder of my life writing works on the Middle East, conducting riveting research, and teaching students with an equal zeal for the region and its history.
Regrettably, while the Plan has worked this far, it has been stalled substantially by the complex mechanisms of academia.
If you have ever seen The Long Way Round, a glorious motorcycle saga by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, you will remember the dire tribulations that they encountered on the Road of Bones, in Siberia.
To truly convey my status quo, I believe the years leading up and through my Ph.D. can be compared to the well-managed tarmac roads, with the post-doctoral journey being a bumpy, yet exciting entrance into the unknown.
In reality, I have bounced ungainly off the tarmac and onto the rocky, uneven, and pot-holed Road of Bones, perpetually falling off my bike, losing hope, gaining a slither of hope, and then falling into a pool of mud amid much cursing and fist-shaking.
With each passing day I am compelled to smile passively as yet another colleague tells me that with so many publications I should get a job in an instant, all the while unaware that I have been applying since January, and endured three interviews before falling afoul of departmental nepotism (ouch).
Alternatively, I am warned that in academic circles, scoring your first job can take up to two years – a prospect that at six months in, I cannot bear.
As September looms with no job in sight, I am casting my eye for alternatives for the short term.
Certainly, a lack of written work is no problem, with eight encyclopedia entries, one paper, the publication of my thesis, and a long distance research project in Saudi Arabia currently on the go.
Which brings the decision to the fore: I am rapidly becoming tempted by a nine-month TEFL job in the Italian mountains, but fear that the sojourn could remove me too far from academia.
Certainly, I can keep applying and attend interviews, but conducting research might be a squeeze.
The other choice is to remain in Britain, growing more wilted by the day.
Is it really the gamble that I imagine? Or am I merely being over-dramatic? Should I take the chance and jet off for a three-term time-out? Or bide my time in Britain and keep praying that I shall not be subject to the two year application abyss?
Choices. Meh. Someone pass me a Magic 8 Ball…
[Clip: Monty Python]