What shall I do if I grow up?


At school many years ago, I was delighted when we had to do ‘work experience’.

If you live outside the UK, you may not have heard of this, although you’ve probably got your own similar system. Basically part of the curriculum for those approaching the earliest school leaving age was that we had to spend a week ‘working’ in a job or organisation we were considering for a career. You didn’t get paid, you just went along–it was pre-agreed between the organisation and the school–and you ‘did’ your chosen job for a week, to see if you thought you would like it. How you could tell after just a week, I don’t know. Kids went all over – to other schools, to factories, to offices, to shops, to garages and workshops.

I was one of two very lucky ones. I had a week at the local newspaper. I remember that week I had my sixteenth birthday, and I spent the whole day in the petty sessions court, ‘covering’ local cases. It was an old court, and extremely cold and dark in there, sitting all day on a hard wooden bench with no cushions. I found out a lot about journalism that day – I discovered it was mostly sitting about, freezing my backside off, desperate for the loo, and trying not to yawn. But I loved it. I was shadowing a journalist, a young woman who drove a vintage car–it all seemed so glamorous, so exciting, even the dull bits. I can still remember–forty years later–some of the cases we heard that day. Okay, they weren’t lurid murders or the ‘headline’ type cases we see in the national papers, but they were nevertheless about real people in real situations.

I was thrilled to have a piece I wrote printed that week (with a few revisions!). And a few other bits I did. And when we were summoned to meet the top man, chief editor, maybe, I can’t remember, he offered me a job. Sadly the offices closed down and relocated elsewhere, and I couldn’t remember the guy’s name and I didn’t get one of the exam passes I needed, so I never went into journalism. I let my parents talk me out of it, but I have always regretted not following journalism as a career.

Here are a few other career ideas I have considered, and why I feel I wasn’t suited to them.

P.I. – couldn’t be a private investigator as I get bored quite quickly, would probably fall asleep when watching someone, or forget who I was following.

Psychologist – I’m very interested in psychology but I’d definitely over-empathise with the hard-luck stories, but for those who didn’t recover quickly I’d get impatient and tell them to get a grip.

Sniper – I’d love to be a sniper but my eyesight’s not great, and I have a terrible memory for faces so I’d probably kill the wrong person, plus I’m scared of heights, so couldn’t do any of that rooftop stuff. Plus, you know, it’s wrong. Oh, and I hate mess.

Recluse – I could absolutely be a recluse so long as I could live in a comfy home with lots of chocolate, coffee and books. And the internet, I’d def need the internet. And shops. And cafes…

Librarian – Oh how I love books! BUT…I wouldn’t want anyone else to borrow them, so…

Archivist – Been there, done that, got the bad back to prove it. Thing is, you get everything looking nice in the little gloomy room, with all the matching boxes facing the same way and looking really neat, then people come in and want to take stuff away. I can’t allow that. It’s mine, all mine, my little hoard of information.

Vicar – I’ve thought about it but I’m not a very patient or caring person, plus I can’t kneel, it hurts my knees. And I can’t sing. And I don’t like red wine or tight collars. Or those freaky statues they always have in churches.

Secretary – No! My typing is atrocious, I hate answering the phone and I would never fetch anyone’s dry-cleaning.

Teacher – Patience with kids – yes. Patience with parents – LOL NO! ‘What do you mean you didn’t help Jimmy with his reading homework? Are you stupid?’ Plus, if a kid was sick, I couldn’t help them, I can’t deal with that. I’d probably burst into tears.

Poet – the ruffled shirts would make my boobs look even huger, and I always get my trochees mixed up with my spondees. And I have never wandered lonely as a cloud, more like a bag lady.

So, I think maybe I’ll just carry on carrying on, and hopefully one day find my niche as a novelist.



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