profession that I have been part of for all of my adult life. The big question now though is – what next?
I am at a strange age, too young and too poor to retire permanently but old enough for retraining in a new career to seem like a big, fat waste of time. As it stands at the moment, the government deem that I can officially retire at 68 although, as we all know their real agenda is to work us all until we drop and so they could change the goal posts at any time. I have been listening and trying not to scoff as my students, who are gearing up to embark upon their working lives, plan what career path they might want to take. Reality bares no relationship to their hopes and dreams but increasingly I’m wondering if my own waffly future ambitions aren’t just as ridiculous.
Casting my mind back to when I was their age, I wanted to be an air-hostess. I even went to night school to study sign language in the absence of any proclivity for foreign languages. At that time the criteria for being an air-hostess was pretty strict – you had to have three A Levels and be fluent in a language. I wasn’t even slightly deterred by the fact that I have a chronic fear of flying. I can only fly when sedated by gin or tranquilisers and I can’t imagine bringing much comfort to passengers strapped into my seat, sweating and muttering to myself like a serial killer. Fortunately for everyone concerned, my sixth form tutor persuaded me to go to university instead.
I’ve got to be honest, teaching was never my calling. I more or less drifted into it. Trying to re-evaluate my life, I am left with the
realisation that I have no more of a calling now than I did at twenty two just a whole lot less options. Let’s face it, I’m willing to bet that BA aren’t looking to appoint fifty year old air-hostesses and I would imagine my chances of being a fire fighter or an astronaut are more or less zero. What then is available for an over the hill slacker with very little motivation?
Apparently the fastest growing industry in the UK is counselling and psychotherapy. We live in uncertain times where we are all feeling a bit twitchy and, according to statistics, there aren’t enough qualified people with couches to listen to our woes. An ex-colleague trained in this line of work and the rumour mill reports that she is now making money hand over fist. I will confess it crossed my mind that it might be worth giving it a shot. That was before reality set in! I think listening to people’s problems all day must be horrific and I would probably be suicidal within a week.
Another area which is crying out for applicants is social work. It’s one of the few training courses where they offer a bursary to study. It’s not hard to see why – it must be a thankless task. In our ever increasing blame culture, what better scapegoat than a social worker? Often drowning under unmanageable caseloads, they are criticised for interfering in family life but when tragedies occur vilified for not being more proactive. As society becomes more and more dysfunctional, I can only imagine that a social worker’s job must be nigh on impossible.
What then is left for me? I have flirted with the idea of getting a job in a cinema. After all, I love films and how thrilling it must be to see them all for free. I feel quite excited at the thought of implementing a zero tolerance policy where talking and mobile phones are concerned. I see myself as an old fashioned usherette, patrolling the cinema with my torch poised, ready to shine in wrongdoer’s faces before ejecting them from the cinema, possibly with a ban for life. I know, I know, I would be fired after a day but you see my dilemma. I am completely ill-suited to the workplace and I am not the only one.
A couple of years ago, an ex-colleague turned her back on teaching and found a job in a department store where she was unceremoniously sacked for rearranging the merchandise into a more effective display. As an ex-art teacher and talented artist, I can only imagine that she did a good job but it wasn’t done to show any initiative when all they wanted was a beaming automaton to churn out the company approved phrases. Phrases that she had supposedly been indoctrinated with during her simulated training at a purposely built centre, where trainees were put through a series of likely situations and schooled in how to behave and speak. Any deviation from this was clearly unacceptable.
It seems to me that encouraging employees to show initiative would be a good thing. Companies pretend this is what they want but in reality, in the modern working world, uniformity is king. In readiness for this, the school curriculum has been stripped bare of anything even remotely creative so that we can start the indoctrination early. Universities bemoan the fact that students can no longer think for themselves but how could they when their entire school education is reduced to a script and God forbid that anyone should deviate from it. Education it seems to me is designed to produce a workforce for the faceless multi-national companies who rule the world. Companies who don’t want questions or initiative even though ultimately that would surely equate to better performance and service.
It’s no coincidence that more and more people are opting out of the work force. I have several friends who turned their backs on successful careers to work from home. One friend bakes cakes to order while another one makes customised greetings cards. It seems there is a whole army of people setting up little cottage industries in their front rooms. As a growing number of people become disillusioned with the workplace, self-employment is a tempting alternative.
The question remains – where does that leave me? With no useful skills, working from home is not really an option. Luckily, it’s a question that I don’t have to answer straight away and I feel quite emboldened by the idea of throwing everything up into the air and starting again. I’m sure that as I dip my toe into the world of work there will be more disasters than successes but if nothing else they will make for fabulous anecdotes.