Would you like an unsolicited interpretation of the ideal masculine persona in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ with that?

Here it is. The dreaded “real world” has caught up with me at last. I have spent a good deal of my life avoiding it. I have chased silly notions of being an Olympic dressage (that’s horse ballet to those of you who are non-equestrians) rider. I have pursued my education and accomplished much of what I set out to do. I always thought that I would continue on to get my PhD, but as of now, this plan has been laid to rest. I am simply not prepared to take on the commitment of a PhD and I believe that in pursuing and obtaining my master’s degree, I discovered that I am not an academic. This was a shocking revelation to me. I, who have been a student first and foremost my entire life, am not an academic. I loved sitting in our seminars and discussing books. I enjoyed friendly discussions and debates about theories and interpretations. It was incredible to share perceptions and ideas with fellow students. However, I could do without writing papers. While I enjoyed some aspects of the research required to write a decent paper, for the most part I hated and stressed over them. I never felt my work was up to par and I often wondered if I had been let into the university by mistake. I believe that a very intense book club may be more to my style than PhD classes.

Which leaves me standing at the gaping maw of life and all its expectations. Like finding viable employment that utilize my degree. Inevitably, when people hear what I have studied, they ask me what my plans are, where I would like to teach and if I am working towards a PhD. The problem is, I do not wish to teach. I never have. I am not a good teacher. I am a good student. A good reader. Possibly even a good horseback rider. But I am not a teacher and may the forces of the universe protect anybody who would fall victim to me were I to take up that mantle. And we already know that a PhD is not (at least for now) in the cards. Instead, I wish for nothing more than to be an editor. To have the opportunity to read and assess manuscripts, to have the possibility, with each new manuscript, of discovering a best-seller, to promote the work and artistry of authors, is a dream that I have had in mind for a long while.

Most unfortunately, the publishing industry has alternative plans. It seems as though those jobs that are inspired by love of a thing are the ones in which you are expected to be grateful for the opportunity to work and gain experience and to live off of that. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to eat opportunity, but it tastes a lot like air and isn’t quite as filling. In addition to this most inauspicious salary, the majority of publishing internships and entry-level positions are unpaid and found in very large, expensive cities like New York, London, and Toronto. However, without the valuable experience gained from working your ass off for free in some of the priciest cities in the world, it is nearly impossible to find viable employment in the publishing industry. So we English majors (I’m pretty sure that nearly all of us who don’t want to teach are going for the same position at the same company) find ourselves scrabbling to gain the condescending approval of the HR and editorial departments of X company that “would totally be my dream job!” And for those of us who were so unfortunate as to need to work for money while attending school, the hunt is even more difficult.

Until that moment that I do manage to land the perfect editorial post, I have settled into a routine with one old and one new job, feeling as though I have regressed despite my shiny new degree. I find myself struggling against the tides of normalcy and student debt in the wake of a largely fairy tale-like existence in Edinburgh. I struggle every day not to offer up reading suggestions and literary critiques of the employee handbook and various brochures in an attempt to incorporate my degree. On the plus side, with the on job being so quiet, I am getting in loads of valuable reading time (I do recommend The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez). This extra reading time has acted as a sort of balm. I have a chance for the first time in a year to catch up on recent publications and best-sellers and maybe my extensive knowledge of these books will dazzle a company so much they’ll hire me. One can dream, right? Until then, “…we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald).

Happy reading (and job hunting to those it applies to)!

Sarah

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