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Living in Limbo—and how do YOU do?

The community of freshly hatched academics—who successfully passed their vivas, accumulated a couple of publications, collected experience in teaching and working in their respective fields, presented at national and international conferences, and are energetically looking forward to claim their place in the halls of wisdom, creativity, perpetual challenge, humongous bureaucracy and odious pecking orders—is, so it seems, rapidly growing.

However, also rapidly growing, is the number of those who do all but wait for claiming that place. Trying to survive the limbo with jobs for which they are vastly overqualified, move back home to live with the parents, or brazen-barefacedly sponge of their life-partners, while perfecting skills such as blogging, tweeting, social-networking, sartorial maintenance and preservation (aka doing laundry and learning to repair clothes), food preparation and preservation, research in online media (youtube, google videos etc), exploring the impact of social movement in the neighbourhood (aka looking out of the window and timing who is  coming and going at what times, carrying what shopping bags), to establish behaviour patterns, and then comparing the social economic status of the neighbourhood according to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation with the brands printed on the bags, and the possible correlation of sartorial communication as measure of disguise or reinforcement of identification with said socio-economic status.

Another time-consuming activity is that of reading German authors like Thomas Mann and inevitably ending up writing unusually long sentences, while reflecting on the impact of literary explorations on the mindset of the reader, and the ways interaction with printed text takes place, followed by contemplating the change of this interaction in the age of virtualisation.

A more favourable personal development activity is the observation of autumn rain-drops and their behaviour patterns in different wind conditions, density, speed and size. These observations and contemplations are equal to none but the highest forms of yogi experience. Spiritual achievement seems of greater value the lesser an individual experiences monetary attachments. Zen and Enlightenment are just a raindrop away, after all “this is the best of all possible worlds”***, thus the ‘I’ that experiences deep spirituality in careful contemplation of raindrops must be the best of all possible ‘I’. The rhythm of cores and contemplation is an old concept, the value of ora et labora was already acknowledged in medieval cloisters. Would you have needed a postgraduate degree for a life like this? Laundry, raindrops, food, raindrops, dishes, raindrops … Possibly not, BUT the degree catapulted you into the limbo of being too overqualified for a ‘normal’ job* and yet still “under-qualified” or rather not deemed ‘good enough’—because the next REF exercise is in 2013 and you’re not hitting the ground running with 4 papers published, 4 papers under review and at least 4 more in draft state—for academia. The limbo, thus enforces the spiritual life-style suggested in this paragraph and you ought to be grateful that the system, which you thought played you into a stalemate situation, actually did all but enable your enlightenment. I think my argument is watertight—how could it be else, you know the best of all worlds etc.

Unfortunately, I will have to excuse myself now from our conversation****, please do accept my sincerest apologies: the rain-drops do require my attention and contemplation. May this best of all possible probabilities potentially offer chances to you—against all the best of odds.

So that is My observation; but how do YOU do?

*No employer thinks you would take it seriously because “weil nicht sein kann was nicht sein darf”**—that means the employer does not understand how engaged and grateful you would be, because this job pays your rent, keeps you sane and makes you feel valued.

**My English does not enable me to translate Chr. Morgenstern but it means as much as because “what may not be, cannot be”.

*** Do I actually have to quote Voltaire or does Candide count as common knowledge? Well, since Woody Allen used it in a movie, I guess it’s part of pop-culture and common discourse now.

****Seriously? Have you learned nothing? Reading=Interaction … Google Scholar if you do not believe me!

Glossary:REF=The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs).

Source of publication numbers: I did not invent that 4:4:4 paper ratio, it was actually a requirement for an academic position I saw advertised 2 months ago.

Categories: Teaching

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Nathalie Sheridan

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