“Astronomy? Is that where you do horoscopes?”
This was one reaction to my announcement that I was going back to school with the Open University.
This blog is my attempt to explain why I did that, becoming a university student for the fourth time, in a bid to start afresh in a new field of science from the one I hold two degrees in, biology, in the hope I end up nestled deep in the bosom of academia where, to be frank, I belong.
Why astronomy? As a child, it was one of the first sciences to capture my imagination. As an adult, I know more than most about it, a level I think of as “Enough to thoroughly ruin most of the sci-fi I watch” – where do these shows get their science advisers from?! It’s certainly a last frontier of science, and that’s a big draw for me.
I’ve tried plenty of ‘real’ jobs. Some people can genuinely do a job they don’t care about because it brings home the bacon. I am not one of them. I’ve been there, done that, and instead of returning with said bacon, ended up only with the T-shirt.
What could I do? Retail? Like the anti-malarial drug chloroquine, there are adverse effects from taking it for too long. And I do mean ‘taking’. Or to put it another way, if I ever again have to sell something, as part of my job, to Joe Public, I am very, very likely to call him a ‘fucking moron’ to his face.
Management? As I once told a manager of mine, the day that company promoted me to manager would be he day they slid into administration. In a recent interview for what would eventually be a managerial position, I was asked for 10 qualities of a good manager. When I finally managed to come up with the list, I was asked how many applied to me. At the point were I said “About three”, we both realised we were wasting our time.
Administration? I can organise most things, provided they are not pieces of paper, sums of money, dates or people; it’s also why I’ve not set up as an Ebay trader. Photography? All the arguments against administration apply here too, with the addition that it’s a saturated market. As a fellow photographer friend of mine once said, “It’s dead mens’ shoes”. I.T.? For me, it makes more sense but like retail, you have a shelf-life. Besides, my knowledge is a bit dated and there are a lot of kids to compete with in that market. Any jaded I.T. tech will know what I mean by the phrase “My system would be perfect but for all these damned users”. Thus, it’s entirely possible the ‘fucking moron’ outburst could happen there too…
What about the other degrees? Well, I was younger and stupider back then, didn’t know what I wanted, and so underperformed. To get a PhD, you need a good class undergraduate degree, and a masters doesn’t necessarily help if you don’t have one. I’ve more than once stated that many people are not ready for university before the age of 30 – I was certainly one. Starting afresh is also more likely to hold my interest than going back over well-trodden ground.
And so, academia, and a fresh start. It requires a good brain and sound reasoning skills, a love of knowledge and learning because it sure doesn’t pay well, and in all likelihood, I’ll get to live in different places. Sounds like a plan, eh? Well, it will take 4 years to complete a second undergraduate degree, via distance and part-time, and then the hunt is on for a PhD – I am assured that doing a PhD is one of the most demanding things you can imagine, 3 years of total commitment. I couldn’t imagine doing it 5 years ago, when last the option presented itself. That I can now is partly down to my keener state of mind, and partly down to a lack of options. It should be noted that, to an indecisive procrastinator like myself, a lack of options is not necessarily a bad thing.