I'm giving up on the writing until the end of the semester
, about three months from now. It's a tactical retreat, I hope. I'm finding the stuff I'm studying tough going, and not passing would make things very difficult for me, study has to come first.
So it goes.
Years and years ago I finished uni and qualified as a high school teacher.
It was actually a stupid course of action on my part, from my first round as a student teacher it had been very clear that I couldn't teach.
I didn't give up easily. I worked as a teacher in lots of different places, but everywhere it was the same. The kids could see I was far more lost and insecure than any of them were. I was just not constructed to be an authority figure, let alone a literature teacher. I kept on getting the urge to tell them they couldn't learn much from me and if they really wanted to learn about literature and writing then they should try reading books.
Instead I told them that today we were going to get into groups and make a list of five key themes from chapter three, and that we were going to find a quote to illustrate each one.
I was becoming everything I didn't want to be.
The students reacted differently in different places, in China they just sat there and looked kind of lost, in the gritty badlands of South London they actually threw stuff at me, hard.
Everywhere I taught, at least once, one of my students would look at me and, with complete conviction, tell me that I wasn't a real teacher. That usually got them sent to sit outside the classroom, although of course their real sin had been getting way too close to the trush.
The last straw came six months ago. I went away to India for Christmas and against my better judgement came back home to take up a job I'd landed as a high school English teacher at a posh private school.
I guess I let Mum and Dad talk me into taking it, they really are wonderful people who just want the best for me and, kind of adrift in the world, I let them guide me places I know I'd be better off not going.
I lasted all of three weeks.
After that the aim of the game was to get a 9 to 5 job. The dream was of a desk in an office and a pile of forms to stamp and file away or whatever it is people do in offices. For years and in many places I'd heard people bitching about how bored they were at work, and it sounded like paradise to me. I saw myself catching the tram to the office, making my perfunctionary eight hour contribution to some pointless task, then walking over the road to a cafe and doing what mattered to me, writing. I would make enough to live in a share house, I would make enough to live my life, I would have been able to plan for the future and interact with my fellow human beings.
They say there's full employment. I have two bachelors degrees and a whole heap of other stuff you'd think would qualify me to push papers round an office. 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, somewhere with public transport- these were my demands, and it wasn't happening.
I've worked in Israel, India, China, England, Indonesia and like to try write and novels in my spare time. I am obviously a raging eccentric. I think most of my applications ended up in the bin.
They were looking for solid office experience. They were looking for local references who spoke English. There's not a lot of trust out there, and though I know quite a lot I know almost no one at all.
There were very few interviews, no one offered me a job.
Writing these applications was painful. I must have done at least 40 of them. We're not talking about form letters here, these applications were short pieces of literature written in the knowledge they probably wouldn't get read and showing my demonstrated experience in coping with conflict at work etc. etc. etc.
After I had written about twenty of the horrible things and still not heard back from anyone I started to get this terrible urge to just be honest.
'What makes you better suited to this position than the other canidates?' it would go.
'Nothing. I just want to work in an office for eight hours a day so I can take my place as a member of society. PLEASE, JUST GIVE ME A JOB.
But of course I didn't write this. I told them about how I was a dynamic team player who thrived on flexibity. I told them how I was a computer savvy young achiever with exceptional interpersonal skills.
When they asked for a fault I told them I worked too hard.
It ate me up.
The longer it went on, and it went on for months and months, the more I thought back fondly to my time on a Kibbutz. I'd worked in an envelope factory, as a dishwasher, a spud farmer and as the guy who walked around the chicken sheds each morning and picked up the dead birds. In the evening I had my friends and we'd sit round and drink cheap wine and talk, and it was of the very few places where I'd ever been accepted for just being myself. I thought about the hippy commune I lived on in India which was the same sort of thing only with less alcohol and more poverty- it had been a happier time still.
So now I'm back at uni. I've found a course which, I hope, will land me a niche in an office somewhere. I think I'll pass, but these past months have somehow skewed things for me. I could have done any of these jobs I was applying for standing on my head. I applied for dozens of them. I should have got one of them. And if I failed in my lofty quest to be a filing clerk, then maybe I'll fail in my efforts to get this graduate diploma as well.
It'll be right. I know it will be. I'll study till I've got data modelling coming from my ears, but still the worry is there. The fear that I'll never get a job, and hence never manage to establish a life of my own isn't making my existence any happier.
Oh well. I'll get there somehow.