On figuring out what to do in life [unsolved]

I woke up this morning with a career plan. I’ve always wanted to study more, and recently read that the UK government was proposing new visa rules that would allow international students a good chance at work after a PhD. So, I was like—great, awesome, that settles it then! I’d started dreaming of my perfect student apartment in New Town, Edinburgh that I would share with a cool American undergrad and a Scottish postgrad. I thought I’d be the toast of the “consumption culture research” world, with my radicle papers on how embracing post-post modern consumption might just be the way ahead. And I’d imagined all the fancy dinner parties I’d be attending at my supervisor’s house, where apart from him and his lovely wife, I would meet other “cool” intellectuals like myself (ahem).

And then I read this article: The disposable academic which basically tells me that pursuing a PhD would be a wasted endeavour as there is more supply than demand in the market. The fact that this was posted by an acquaintance who is currently pursuing a PhD in Economics (a subject with far more potential than mine) added to my already vast disappointment.

So, what now? What am I supposed to do? There’s a little voice in my head that tells me I should go for it regardless of this one article. But I know this isn’t the only one, there are several out there, all saying the same thing. And this voice tells me “You’ll be better than the best! You’ll be the exception to the rule”, but I know that isn’t true. A very wise movie, and my experience with life, taught me that I am, in 99.9% of the cases, definitely the rule.

Image by Rijama

The thing is, it’s very difficult—this thing called “life”. One day you’re dreaming about bumping into Paolo Nutini on the streets of Edinburgh after nailing a class on Erik Erikson’s theory of stages of development, and the next you realise that not just the Paolo part, but all of that dream might not be possible. So then you start running through your back up plans—
I want to be a writer—No, there are too many writers out there who are far better than you.
I want to be a writer who finds a voice with which a niche audience can connect—No, there are already enough voices out there.
I want to be a travel writer—Have you seen twitter? Every third person there is a travel writer.
I want to become a musician—Get real, you’re not 12 anymore.
I want to become a singer in a jazz band—Get real, you can barely hold a tune.
I want to be a writer—It’s like you’re not even listening anymore!

So, what then? What am I supposed to do? They tell you you’re supposed to figure out what you can offer that is different from everyone else and then work with that. But, come on, when was the last time someone offered something completely different, anyway?

So, I circle back. I think that’s what you should do at times like these (note the Foo reference there), circle back to where you started and begin eliminating dead-ends that come disguised as options. Do your research, talk to people, and also try your hand at other things that are on your list of possibilities (perhaps try that writing thing again? write a blog post about your dilemma, maybe?). If you’re lucky,  and I hope you are, and if you work for something, or a few things, or even many things, hopefully one of those things, if not some or all of them, will work out.

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