A character (or you, if you are writing memoir) thinks about a fear. This could be something practical, like the upcoming results of a medical test, or something vague and indefinite...
Fear. I have a fear. I recognized it only recently. It’s not the kind of fear that has me shuddering behind the sofa ready to piss myself at a seconds notice. It’s the kind of fear thats impending, not quite here yet, but it’s inevitable unless of course there is a case of divine intervention between now and then, of which I have high hopes for.
Like most children, I grew up constantly trying to decide what profession I was going to be the strongest ones I can remember are teacher, vet and paramedic. Teacher because I actually liked junior primary school (not senior primary), thats a story for another day. Vet because I love animals, always have, always will. Vet was the last strong one I had in secondary school as well, but it died in horrid and devastating circumstances one night when I was watching some animal rescue program on BBC 3 I think.
It was the story of a poor decrepit bulldog mama with about five babies. She was locked in a shed since sometime in her pregnancy and she was nothing but skin and bone (tears are welling up as I recount this image). the big droopy eyes characteristic of her breed where no longer droopy and sad but emaciated, lonely and full of a sad lack of understanding for the abuse of her and her babies. Whilst watching the program I was not in tears yet, as I am now, (I can barely see the keys) I was horrified. She wagged her tail pitifully in greeting, her eyes as she looked at the first friendly faces she’s probably ever seen, was ‘look at my babies’ and she brought them right over to them. It’s amazing how she was still so willing to look to humans for help. Her pups were about 3 weeks old and were much healthier looking than her. The scene cut to the vets office were we could see the bulldog mama lashing in to a bowl of dog food. The voice over commentary proceeded to break my heart and years worth of dreams. Said in a really strong northern english accent: “The dog was deemed too malnourished to ever recover, her body destroyed all vital fat deposits in order to feed her babies, several of her organs are on the verge of failure. It was decided that the only humane thing to do was to put her to sleep after a final meal. Her babies will also be euthanized.”
It wasn’t the putting to sleep of tiny puppies that broke me, but my own realization that they were feeding her, for psychological reasons, she hadn’t eaten in who knows how long, making her happy and satisfied after such a long time, the food would have done nothing for her. It was that last act of kindness before she was put to sleep that real character of a vet dawned in my head. And I didn’t have it. If I was ever to become a vet, I would be putting tonnes of animals to sleep. I don’t care if it’s the best thing for them, I know its the best thing for most animals when they get to a certain stage of illness. But I also know I would have a nervous breakdown and years of work would go down the drain with that first animal I had to euthanize. And that was it, an end to the vet fantasy forever.
Paramedic was an odd one, I think it was too much medical/emergency services drama programs when I was small, BBC and UTV were full of them, I even named my dog after a character from one of them. 999, London's Burning, Flying Doctors, Casualty to name but a few. I was an odd child.
I thought vaguely of doing a science, zoology or bio med, I even applied for bio-med on my CAO form just in case I had a change of heart. I like science, in school I did chemistry for the Leaving Cert, I picked it long before I had that veterinary crisis of conscience. But again i had a sudden realization just before biology class that I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab for the rest of my life, considering how most science jobs in Ireland lead to a factory floor, especially zoology. Which lead my to change my whole CAO form sometime in March to all arts courses. Originally UCD first, but a great idea form my parents of living with my Nan in Dublin whilst I went to college sent me to UCC instead.
So September came around I went to UCC. Over three years which I consider (now that I know better,one year after college) the best years of my life so far. I had a lot of bad times, but a lot of good times too, and now have great friends, wonderful boyfriend and a degree I never suspected Archaeology. A degree which frankly, I feel the paper it’s printed on is worth more. Oh you must have a gotten a shitty grade you might think, no I didn’t, I got a 2:1. Even better is the fact that I did better I thought after I had my boyfriend figure all the mathsy stuff out. I went from profiling as a 2:1 to actually having a 2:1. ‘La-dee-fucking-dah’ you might be saying, ‘Quit yer wining’ you might also be thinking, ‘Take your 2 feckin 1 and wipe yer arse with it’ is another thing one might think when reading the writings of an ungrateful pompous degree holder. I have thought of doing the latter alright. For all my entire life I have been told “If you have a degree, the world your oyster” “You’ll always get a job when you have a degree”. Shove it. You heard me.
Even the last week of college, a month before my final exams. The professor of Archaeology stood up confidently in front of the class and boasted about how irish archaeologists were guaranteed a job, how there wasn’t enough people for all these jobs all over the place, that we would be spoilt for choice. I bet I wasn’t the only one who left that lecture glad I had done this subject, that all other arts degrees are bollox compared to this. “Archaeology: the arts subject with a job at the end.” Bollox.
I was severely mislead. Two weeks later a famine swept the nation, and all others around it. Gone were the days of abundance and glory. Everyone can shut the hell up about the 80’s and how times were so feckin bad then. I don’t care about then, I care about now. I graduated into a recession. These magical jobs I’d heard about all vanished in an instant two weeks before the end of my exams, I heard word of archaeologists being laid off ‘But the professor said...’ jobs in this sector were being kept to those that had lied/proved themselves good or just giant lick arses to sooth the directors bum after using cheap porta-loo toilet paper.
I hear all this talk in the paper about all the builders being out of work and then eventually about the poor students that will graduate in June 2009 to no jobs. What about us poor fuckers that graduated 2008? We’re as bad off as those who are soon to graduate this year. Of my class of 60-70 odd people, 15 are in postgraduate studies I’d say 10 are out digging, I know some have been working in archaeology for years before doing the degree. The rest of us are doing nothing. I don’t imagine any other arts subject graduates are fairing any better. Competition is higher than ever with 300 architects along with twenty dozen others of varying qualifications and nationalities all applying for a handful of jobs in Burger King in Dublin.
There are more people unemployed now than there ever was in the 80’s which is why I can rightfully say to anyone who calls them woeful hard times to shove it where the sun don’t shine. I for one personally think it’s a lot harder now, when for one thing, everything costs more than it did in the 80’s. Lots of people are getting depressed within three to four months because they can’t have everything they’re used to. ‘Oh woe is me, I can’t buy a new LCD widescreen t.v or subscribe to all those digital channels I like to watch anymore cause all my spare money has to go towards my million euro mortgage.’ Times are much harder now because we’re surrounded by idiots like that. Good times made then soft. their kids are out of control and are even worse now because they can’t get everything they see on t.v anymore. People can be depressed, but I’d rather it not be for reasons such as spending money they didn’t have on complete crap, and because they were fired from a surplus job. i’ve had nothing to do for a year and I’m not depressed. I took an online test that told me I was but I don’t think it was avery well thought out test by some psychology dept. in america. All the questions were; ‘do you cry 1-3 times a week 5-7 times a week or more’ to which I answered I don’t cry often/regularly, ‘Are you bored all the time’, Of course I’m bored all the time! I’m unemployed! It graded me as seriously depressed and in need of help. I’m just bored god help me. And I haven’t got the money to spend on help either!
Yes, this all relates to my speech about fear. I never thought I was much good at hiding things in my writing or being surprising. I’m trying to work on it. My fear at its very source is not about having a successful career, although that would be nice. It’s simply about never having a career in the first place. Even in College I was always behind on the job experience front, not just in archaeology, but in general. I could never get a job in secondary school because all the jobs that would hire a 16-18 year old in school were evening during the week jobs and I had no lift. Same went for summers during college. All I heard then was, when you have a degree you’ll find a job no problem. No I have my degree I find I’m being discriminated against because I have a degree! It’s hilariously cruel, yet I can’t quite make myself laugh. Over a year of hundred of job applications, I’ve gotten two interviews. Two. Both needed people with degrees. I was rejected from one because I hadn’t enough experience managing/supervising 20+ people, the other is a mystery, but from the way everyone who had worked for them a last season was there for the interviews, my bets are they took the people already trained for the job.
No I’m about to make a last ditch attempt at using my degree to try and get a masters. I do not have any high hopes for it. In fact I think its vain attempt to hang on to 3 seemly wasteful years of my life. If it is unsuccessful, which I fear its the mostly likely outcome I will have to completely re-evaluate my life, find another course of study, because you still can’t get anywhere without a qualification. And hope I have better luck down that road. My fear is that because I’m spending each day on the dole and have nothing to promote myself above others, is that I will be unemployed and useless all my life. I have no idea where I can get my 3 years sandwich making experience in order to qualify to work in the deli at Spar. O.K now I’m depressed.