It’s the inevitable question which I have begun to dread. Having recently come back from a 7-month stint overseas (spent exploring myself and racking up a romantic debt) the polite chit chat invariably turns to:
‘so…what do you do with yourself?’
‘Well, nothing, really.”
I always unconsciously give some weird lopsided half -smile as I respond. Inside, however, this question/answer dance somehow manages to make me shrink from 170cm tall to the metaphorical size of a hobbit. Because in a society where you are defined by what you do it follows that doing ‘nothing’ surely must make you…nothing.
I am still haunted by one teacher of mine who told me in plain terms that I was ‘in the pursuit of mediocrity’ (what a fine educator). In her mind some were pursuing excellence and others were just happy to settle. to be average. to be mediocre. So just like those kids in that Robin Williams movie ‘Dead Poets Society’ who stand on the desks, I was inspired by my teacher’s prophecies. I put my faith in my arts degree and gave my own intellectual rude finger to societal pressure. ‘Job prospects? I LAUGH at the face of job prosects!” And by golly I attended those lectures. I sipped soy lattes in the Monash wholefoods collective. I used terms like ‘paradigm’ and ‘dichotomy’ even though I am still convinced that no-one actually knows what they mean. I wrote thousands upon thousands of words about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (I’ll save you from the reading…it doesn’t end well). I had an existential crisis every few weeks and actually KNEW what the term existential meant. It was all fun and games and even the mild paranoia I felt when people asked what I wanted to DO with my degree or my grandfather would enquire if I was still studying accounting (?) merely acted as an impetus to prove a fictionalised ‘them’ wrong, show ‘em all!
Well…that hasn’t quite worked (as of yet).
Lately, I have heard the same joke from three separate people:
‘ What’s the difference between an Arts degree and a family sized pizza: ‘A family sized pizza can feed a family’ (drum roll).
The first time I heard it I chuckled, the second time I kind of grunted and the third time I think I had a mild anxiety attack. This coupled with recently being told b y an engineering student at a party that I was studying a ‘Bachelor of unemployment’ hasn’t done wonders for my fragile self-esteem (alcohol on the other hand has!). It’s gotten to the point where lately all of my friends keep offering to buy me things. ‘Let me get that coffee…your money’s no good here’ they exclaim. Until now, I never knew that being an arts graduate in limbo between degrees suddenly placed me under the social poverty line.
Sick of answering the same ‘what do you want to be when you grow older?’ question again and again, my 17-year old brother has begun to answer this question with: ‘a wizard’.
Running out of options, and with the increasing cost of soy milk these days, I actually think he may be on to something…