The Road Less Travelled
“Make sure you complete your education. Finish school. Vuli va kaukaua. At the end of the day, a good education is what you will need to get far in life”. These words have followed me religiously since I was in primary school. For as long as I have had any form of independence or autonomy in my decisions, these words have lingered over my life choices, and I can finally say, I’m done. (Well… for now at least, until the letters PhD pop up on my dream list).
From last week’s FJWOW feature, you may, or may have not, already had a small preview into my upbringing as a child – it was one full of moving. I have attended 9 different schools in 3 different countries, and I’m pretty sure that collectively, I missed 3 years of compulsory schooling in between that. It does not seem like such a great start does it. To be completely honest, I’m not sure just how much it has affected me, all I know is that I’ve managed to get through all of it, and finish my education. That has been, for a very long, my end goal. I stuck to my end of the deal, maintained good grades from a very early age, ignored all the obstacles, illnesses and injuries, kept going when I didn’t feel like it (which was more often than not), and finished my education. So you can only imagine how eager I was to receive emails and letter containing invitations to interviews and job offers upon completing my masters, telling me what a great job I’ve done and begging me to share my skills with their organisation. Well, that didn’t happen, and still hasn’t happened. Through this blog post, I’m going to share how my reality has been very different from what I had imagined, how I’m getting through it, and how you can get through it too.
Much to my initial despair, looking for work after completing university has not been an easy feat. Firstly, I have come to learn that a lot of my theoretical knowledge and ability to dissect overarching terms in our society such as power, and culture has no pure relevance to finding a job. If you gave me an essay question and asked me to write about the structures of power within a diaspora, I could easily regurgitate 4 years of theory onto paper, but if you asked me a practical question, like, what would you use to mount small cowrie shells in a museum exhibition, it would take me longer to answer. My point – universities often set you up with a lot of knowledge, but very little practical skill. Do not get me wrong, this is not the case with all subjects, there are definitely more practical degrees, that give you tons of actual skill but for courses such as mine, this is a problem.
I am not suggesting that if you are pursuing a theoretical university degree, or something that involves more abstract thinking that you should change, but I’m suggesting that after, finding work may not be as easy. From when I first chose anthropology, I knew that it wasn’t a ‘new’ subject, I knew that it was associated with old, European men who would travel and work with indigenous cultures, I knew that it’s practicality in the everyday world was not obvious, but I still chose it. Why? Because studying what I enjoyed was far important that studying something that would guarantee me a job, and now, what I’m experiencing is a direct result of that choice. Now, my only challenge to ensure that I don’t lose hope of that passion in desperation for paid work.
Being able to volunteer at the Horniman Museum in South London has helped me to maintain the devotion that I have for anthropology, and keep me focused in why I chose to study it. It has also given me experience and taught me skills that I did not learn in university, and would have needed to apply for certain jobs. In a way, my volunteer work has become a necessary part of my career building and it started with me having to come to terms with understanding that sometimes in life, you have to invest your free time in something you care about, before you can start receiving paid work for it. Compulsory education and university made me focus on making money, getting a job that would give me everything I wanted in this world, but they didn’t tell me how long it takes to get there, and that sometimes, you are coerced into giving up what makes you zealous in life, in exchange for a little bit of money.
This is where my character building has kicked in. I am learning the importance of making sacrifices to achieve what you want, and in my case, it is time. I know that eventually, I will be successful and find a job that will compliment my aspirations but for now, I’m refusing to involve myself explicitly with an organisation that will not better me. Fighting the proverbial ladder to success and opting for flexible temporary work to sustain me, and volunteer work to build my skills, I have probably, unknowingly, chosen the road less travelled. And it’s true what they say, the road less travelled is not the easy road, but by God, I am praying every single day that it leads to a more beautiful destination. Every job that I apply for is done with intention that through it, I will be on the next step to where I want to be, with knowing not only what I can do for them, but what they can do for me.
Anyway, back to the main reason behind this post, how do you get through a reality that is far from what you’ve been brought up to dream? You actively reignite the fire of passion that burns within you, and refuse to let the world put it. I’m not going to cover it in flowers and say that my work journey has been easy, but it hasn’t been as rough as the world said it’s going to be. I have had time to work with artefacts that are hundreds of years old, and have a backstage view into how museum’s work in the UK, something that I would have never of experienced had I taken that graduate job. I started reading for leisure (something I haven’t done since I was a child reading Roald Dhal), and I’ve been able to spend a lot of time reflecting on myself. If I did have a full time job, I don’t think I would have ever of had this time to enjoy the small things in life. From being fully immersed in school, to beginning work straight away, I believe that it may of taken me a good 10 years or so to finally begin to learn about myself. So in hindsight, my once a week worry of looking for work, and my miniature kitchen meltdowns, are just something that is part of my current journey, and they are not all bad.
As an individual, a human being, a person, we all need to give ourselves a break, and understand that if you are exhausted from applying for jobs on end, none of them are for you. So whilst you are waiting for that one reply, do not get too caught up with the ones that say no, because life still carries on, and there may be other things going on around you that are waiting for you to engage with them. Thank you for taking time to read this,
Much love, Sainimili.