What to do with your life

Here is another Post inspired by a fellow blogger. My story goes as follows:
AutofahrenWhen I was still a student, I frequently made use of a mode of transportation called “Mitfahrgelegenheit”. It is similar to car-sharing, but not quite like it. The system basically works like this: people with a car and people without a car, who need a ride, find each other on a website to share the costs of the trip. Let’s say person x wants to go from A to B by car on a particular day leaving A at a particular time. X posts this offer on the website, which was called mitfahrgelegenheit.de (but has lost popularity recently because of introducing a more complicated memebership scheme; I don’t know what people use nowadays, because I don’t live in Germany any more) and waits for people to call. Now, if person y doesn’t have a car, but also wants to go from A to B on the same day and time, y will call x and they share the ride and cost of ravel. Usually, if you are alone with the driver, you’d have to sit in the front and entertain the driver. Unless he or she has turned the volume or the radio to a level which makes conversation impossible. Then you are allowed to zoom out. If you are alone in the back the expected level of friendly small talk doesn’t exceed your occupation and reasons for traveling to B. If you share the back with another person, the situation is not as clear. Usually, you would try some small talk and see, if it develops into a real conversation. If not, you can put your earplugs in or listen to some music or pretend to sleep. I never sleep in a stranger’s car, but I have often pretended to do so, because I was tired of the conversation. You don’t have to want to talk to just anyone.

On that particular day, I was sitting in the back with a guy. We just went through the basics: where are you from? Where are you going now? What are doing?
He was kind of interesting, but a bit pretentious. So, I wanted to just get it over with and start my audiobook. He was from Palestine and came to Germany to study. He had just started a program to become a vet in a city, that I can’t remember. It was something I had no relation to, like Hanover or so. I asked him a – in my eyes rhetorical – question:
“So, do you like animals?”
He replied: “No.”
I asked the obvious question: “Why are you studying to become a vet then?”
He said: “I’m interested in animals, I don’t like them. That’s a difference.”
I said: “Ok.”
I had gotten him started:
“I think you shouldn’t study something that you like. It is much better to study a subject, because you are interested in it. For example, I really like music. My family is very musical. My brother decided to make music his profession. He now lives in Paris and really struggles to make ends meets through making music. He’s playing with his band every night, but they hardly make enough to support themselves. He told me how frustrated he is and how he less and less finds pleasure in playing music. It has become a duty.”

It is much better to choose a profession that you find interesting, but without the emotional attachment of liking or even loving.

*I can’t find the original post by the fellow blogger who inspired this piece anymore. I hope, you get it anyway.*

Was ich mal werden will

Heute habe ich zufällig, d.h. ich kann nicht mehr zurückverfolgen wie ich dahin gekommen bin, diese Seite entdeckt. Es lohnt auf geisteswissenschaft.de mal vorbeizuschauen. Ziemlich beeindruckend, was die heutigen Studenten meiner früheren Alma mater so auf die Beine stellen. Nur aus mir ist nichts geworden, wie man sehen kann. Ich schreibe verworren über alles und nichts. Ich habe kein Ziel und weiß nicht, was aus mir mal werden soll, wenn ich groß bin.

Aber auch in diesen großen Fragen kann die Seite helfen. Ich stehe nicht allein da. Mein Lieblingsartikel ist das Interview mit Sonja Eismann vom Missy Magazin.

Über ihr geisteswissenschaftliches Studium sagt sie:

“Das Fach war eben doch nicht die Erfüllung all meiner Träume, sondern nur ein ziemlich überlaufenes Studium an einem recht verstaubten Institut.”

Das vielgespepriesene soziale und ehrenamtliche Engagement, das man heute als obligatorischen Teil seines Lebenslauf absolvieren (oder erfinden) muss, war ihr suspekt:

“Hochschulpolitik war mir irgendwie immer suspekt…”

Und am besten:

“Ich weiß aber eigentlich bis heute nicht, was ich “mal werden will”. Denn was ich für einen Beruf habe, da bin ich immer noch nicht so sicher – wenn ich irgendein Feld ausfüllen muss und dann “Journalistin/Kulturwissenschaftlerin” reinschreibe, fühle ich mich dabei merkwürdig.”

Ich weiß es auch nicht. Und der Hauptgrund (neben meiner Faulheit und meinem prinzipiell gestörten Verhältnis zu sozialen Medien), warum mein Linkedin-Profil irgendwie unvollständig und unklar ist, liegt darin, dass ich eine Berufsbezeichnung zu umgehen versuche. Außerdem bietet Linkedin nur diese festgelegten Kategorien an und ich passe in keine und fühle mich prätentiös, wenn ich doch eine auswähle.

Glass ceiling?

I once talked to a guy from my masters degree class. We were discussing our future career. He had applied for a PhD. He wasn’t sure about going for it. He had gotten the place, but he needed to secure funding for it. He told me that he would be the first person in his family to have a PhD. His sister wouldn’t have the brains to do it, he told me. She had stopped after her bachelors. He, however, had never felt that he had reached his academic limit. Like… intellectually.
I had never even had a thought of anybody having such a limit. For me it was always a question of will (and maybe opportunity) rather than intellect.
I was the first person in my family to enrol in an institution of higher education. I am also the first person to have gained a degree from a university. And a postgraduate degree. I have always believed that this is not because my family was stupid and intellectually incapable of attending university. They just never had a chance. It was no option for them. Either for socio-economic reasons or… being a woman.

An offer I couldn’t refuse

It was a warm summer day in the second half of July. I was wearing a blue and white striped dress that had a kind of maritime look to it. I had received an offer for a Master’s programme already a couple of days ago, i was still waiting for responses on some other programmes and so I was in a good mood. My internship was going to be finished in a couple of weeks and I had already booked the flight to the United States. Yet, i was still sitting at my desk, across from the secretatary looking at my very old computer screen. I had to get used to the shabbyness and poverty of cultural institutions after having worked as a student assistent for the economics department of my university earlier. I had to get used to being an intern as well. But after some time, I had shown that I was not the regular intern, but capable of working independently and with responsibility. So I was now participating in the fundraising campaign for a new project my institute had launched. It had been hard, I wasn’t the one for calling random people and asking them for money, but I had gotten a publishing house to sponsor books and catering for the final event of the project. So, I was feeling confident that I had done a good job at this internship. This was, when the head of our publishing department entered my office in the  late afternoon. The secretary had already left. I was alone. She asked me: “So, I heard you got into that Master’s programme here in Berlin. Are you gonna do it? Did you already make a decision?”

“Yes, I think it is a very good opportunity and so I will do the programme here in Berlin.”

Actually nothing had been decided as of then. I was still waiting for other responses and those were tempting as well. But somehow, I didn’t feel like telling her all about the distress of applying for postgraduate study. I wanted to be seen by her as someone who knew what they wanted, went for it and got it.

“That is very nice. You see, I’ve been thinking, we would be very pleased, if you returned to us in autumn part time, during your studies at university. If you are interested. We thought, you did a good job so far. You already know everything about our work, our books, our projects.”

I took the job and registered for the Master’s programme in Berlin. Who was I to turn down a combined job and masters offer?