Up until several months back, I was very angry. There were many reasons why I was irate. I was close to land a full-time academic position twice but finished the race as the runnerup. I was furious about office politics, how one had to be an ass-kisser to make it in academia. I was also annoyed by the rampant corruption and nepotism I came across at the institutions where I taught.
Anyone who knew me would have sensed my frustration, resentment, and exasperation. In my head, I had imagined a different scenario; I was good at what I do: teaching philosophy.
My credentials met the requirements for the jobs I applied for. And as an early career researcher, I had enough publications to prove that I had the potential to produce a decent research output.
On paper, I checked all the boxes. Reality was different though. Part of me was refusing to see things as they really were. Despite my anger, my response was never idle. I always tried to look for alternatives and considered other professional routes, etc.
I taught for a year at a high school, during another year I worked as an Archives Librarian at a university. For the rest of my seven years, I taught on a part-time basis at two universities simultaneously. Not only that, as I mention elsewhere, I also applied for industry jobs to no avail because of my lack of real-life-experience.
So the main issue was not that I couldn’t find other options to pursue, rather it was that I was going about things the wrong way. At one point I had to do some introspection. It occurred to me that underlying my attitude towards work was a sense of entitlement.
In my mind, I had earned the right for the job I had worked so hard for. When I did not get what I wanted, I directed the blame at the institutions. On other occasions, I started having an impostor syndrome: maybe I’m not really good for the job?
Introspection led me to realize that I was going about it the wrong way. I needed to create my opportunity, I needed to add value somehow. No one owes me anything, I thought to myself, and no one is obliged to hire me for this or that job just by virtue of having the needed requirements.
Events and milestones in life are nonlinear. The mistake is that we often attribute success to a series of linear decisions that we have to take to get from point A to point Z. The truth seems to be different. Maybe this wasn’t the case 20 years ago, so I wouldn’t know.
I think the most important thing to do nowadays is to employ our energy in places that would allow us to create for ourselves the right kind of opportunities. You might disagree with this, but I now think that being proactive does not mean that I should fixate on one thing and insist on achieving it.
Another plausible route is to be proactive by creating a ‘fertile ground’ the fruit of which would be unforeseen opportunities that our work might end up attracting.
Sardonically Speaking! (Book)
This is a book about philosophy in the marketplace. It will get you to think about the importance of not taking things…
In certain cases, all it takes is a laptop and an internet connection. Following my passion to teach philosophy, I realized that I could do that without waiting for a university to offer me a fulltime position. In a little over 3 months now I have been able to pursue my passion by teaching online philosophy courses. I have written about my story extensively in another article, you can check it here. I have also written a book titled Sardonically Speaking, about philosophy in the marketplace and the importance of not taking oneself too seriously.
In hindsight, my journey has been a learning experience. Looking back at the sequence of events, I would take rejections as signals to change my attitude towards the process, instead of burning in fumes.
As soon as I channeled my anger into creative energy, a world of opportunities opened up before me. Among other things, one crucial factor is to find your intrinsic motivation.
If you're interested in getting to know more about what I do, you can follow me on Twitter @decafquest. Thank you.