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What would you do, if not this?

July 25, 2010

I’m unemployed. Still. So the question asked this week has a certain bitterness to it:

If you weren’t doing what you do today, what other job would you have?

Clearly what I’m doing today is nothing, but the question doesn’t presuppose that you are a professional writer—nor is it asking for a wishful answer of what you would like to be doing.

So let’s suppose I had no interest in writing since, in my unpaid moments (which are many), that is what I currently do. What would I be doing?

I could have stuck with law. I could have completed my PhD and become an academic, teaching international law and doing research into war crimes.


Stripping that back a stage, I could have stuck with my original plan, become a qualified solicitor and joined the Procurator Fiscal Service (the prosecution in the Scottish Legal System). That would have been a life confined to Scotland, focused on Glasgow and Edinburgh.

But I became dissatisfied with law, and have recently been trying to find out what I actually wanted to do with my life, because law wasn’t something I wanted to do, but rather was something I could do, and there is a difference.

Prior to the law, things get fuzzy, and I find myself looking at the strange list of careers I “wanted” as a child. None of these answer the question of course, because most are unfeasible, and the ones that were feasible would have been discounted.

An astronaut. Luke Skywalker. An American footballer. Batman. A Ghostbuster. A Catholic priest. Incidentally, the latter career path was chosen as the only realistic means of becoming a Ghostbuster. I wanted to be a priest because I wanted to be an exorcist. And whilst I could never really be considered suitable for the priesthood, part of me thinks the Catholic Church is infinitely poorer for my not becoming Pope…

But I do recall when I was perhaps 12 or 13, there was something I wanted to do. I wanted to work on bionic engineering and robotics. Pretty sci-fi sounding, as outrageous as my other choices. But I wanted to make exoskeletons. I wanted to make artificial limbs. I wanted to make a device that could be attached to paraplegics and quadraplegics that could allow them to stand and walk.

An astronaut helps advance science. Luke Skywalker helped save the galaxy. A footballer helps his team. Batman helps the victims of injustice. Ghostbusters help the frightened. Priests bring spiritual help to their parishioners. Lawyers help their clients. And the bionic devices I dreamt were to help the injured regain mobility.

I don’t know what I’d be doing today if I didn’t want to write. But I can see what I’d be striving for.

Doing something good. Making a difference. And if that’s all we do in our lives, then I think that’s been a life worth living.

This week I signed up with my local volunteer centre to see what opportunities there are in my area. There were about four or five opportunities that really appealed to me and I’ve applied for, so fingers crossed!
6 Comments
  1. July 25, 2010 6:33 am

    I am a draftsman by trade, but now that I find my employer on the verge of closing and having the prospect of becoming unemployed for the second time in three years has become very real to me, I have decided it’s time to go back to school and pursue my lifelong passion for cooking. I have enrolled in the culinary arts program at the college I attended so many years ago, which coincidentally, Chef was just recently named top culinary arts instructor in all of Georgia. That’s my plan. I will go back to school – I still have to figure out how on earth I’m going to pay my share of the bills – further build on my culinary talents, and upon graduation open the restaurant I have longed to open the vast majority of my life.
    So yeah. If I wasn’t drafting, and I probably won’t be soon, I would be filling peoples’ bellies with the creations from my kitchen and sending them on their ways with smiles on their faces … and empty wallets.

  2. July 25, 2010 6:57 am

    Like John, I am a draftsman by trade. Drafting was a career change that I underwent roughly 5 years ago. I was working day after day as a cabinetmaker. I worked in a shop that was very small (~5 employees on average) which meant that I had lots of freedom and had to wear many of the proverbial job hats. One day I was machining rough lumber, the next I was building casework, next I was finishing, then I might be working on a downed piece of machinery. I loved the flexibility in my job and decided to extend it even further by learning to draft the furniture that I spent years building.

    Working full time and spending 5 hours per night in school was taxing. Before gaining my associates degree in Architectural Drafting and Design, I decided to move on from my cabinetmaking position. It was a tough choice and going from physical labor to sitting behind a desk was difficult. Once I was settled, I found that I loved drafting.

    I took a position in a Millwork Shop so that I could leverage my years of building furniture. With only 1 other draftsman in the office, I love what I do. Jut like my previous position, I wear many hats and do everything from drafting to occasionally getting out into the shop to operate our CNC Router.

    If I were to have to move on, which is a good possibility in this economy (I was laid off for almost 2 months last year), I’m not completely sure what I would do. I would *like* to find a position in the cigar industry. I am very fond of the hobby and have invested time over the past four-years to a cigar review site. I’ll be flying to an annual cigar convention, to do press coverage, for the third time. I’ve met some awesome people and I think that I would enjoy some sort of profession involving cigars. Being a sales rep is something I have no interest in. I want to be able to spend time with my new daughter, the reps I’ve met are on the road too often for my liking.

    Perhaps I could even combine two hobbies and write a book on cigars. It is something that has crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

  3. adampb permalink
    July 25, 2010 7:17 am

    With “rock star” being an idea no longer with merit, although I still enjoy playing drums whenever I can, I relish my job as a high school English teacher. The idea of being a full time writer appeals, perhaps for a music magazine, or novelist, is one that is appearing on the radar. I have seriously considered a religious vocation, and have done some study, which is currently on hold.
    Teaching is something good, something that makes a difference. When your student “gets it,” you certainly smile. I can’t really see myself doing anything other than teaching.
    And Paul, I’d vote for you for Pope.

  4. July 25, 2010 8:04 am

    I’m a fulltime mother atm, but if I wasn’t doing that I’d probably be in academia and lecturing. I quit a phd to be home with my firstborn. I also have always loved editing, and I am trying to get some qualifications in that area. Back before that I wanted to be a musician (started out doing a BMus in flute), before that a psychologist, and before that marine biologist rated pretty highly (until I realised I was a bad swimmer and was scared of swimming in the ocean!)

  5. July 25, 2010 2:06 pm

    Technically speaking, it IS possible to become a Ghostbuster, if you do a degree in psychology, and then the specialist postgrad course in parapsychology. I wish I’d known about this before I went down the Film Studies route.

    But don’t forget that, as a writer, you ARE helping people. Stick at it, pet.

  6. July 26, 2010 7:48 am

    I feel like such an old timer and drifter. Been and done so many jobs and pursued different careers – none for any longer than 4 years at a stint ( boy did I feel stale after that one….)

    hummm what would I be doing if I wasn’t doing this? ( *unrolls list*) eini meeni miney mo……

    lets just wait and see.. I’m loving the flexibility of writing, teaching and at home mum….

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