Youthful Enthusiasm vs. Reality Sets In

I started thinking about my (academic) future during my last one or two years of high school. Or, rather: I started seriously thinking about it, after I realized that ‘I can not do anything I set my mind to.’ I got a list with possible degree courses from my chosen university (by post! printed on paper!) and I realized that cultures and societies are ‘super interesting’ and studying them would be ‘super cool.’ Plus: with a degree in humanities and/or social sciences you can do practically anything! Awesome!

So I studied. I enjoyed studying and I did quite well. I found my niche, was awarded a few scholarships, got paid to do my PhD. I started teaching early on, visited international conferences, slowly (there is a reason this is not a podcast) established networks, published a bit. Everything done as I should, huh?

I think I did. I should have published a bit more; I could have tried to visit more conferences. etc. pp. We can always do more. But I did what I could.

A friend recently said that he finds my CV impressive. Yet, I am still freelancing, teaching in too many institutions, trying to find funding for a postdoctoral project, bringing my cover letters to perfection (I wish I would do that because it’s a hobby–it’s not).

An impressive CV helps, but does not guarantee anything. Yes, you can do practically anything with a degree in anthropology. If you are flexible. And, more importantly, if you have a whole lot of luck. Or if you are part of a nepotistic network which I sometimes wish I would. (In truth, that would not work for me.)

Another friend recently said that she wishes she wouldn’t be an anthropologist. That she would have studied something else. Something making it easier to find a job. I know exactly what she was talking about. Yet, I would do everything I did again and again. Being an anthropologist isn’t always easy. But it’s a whole lot of fun.

(I’ll talk a bit about precarity in my next post.)

P.S.: I’m not a hundred years old even though I got the list on paper. By post. We already had internet.

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