I’ll say, “of course, if X doesn’t happen, we’ll do Y or even Z!” I proudly walk around calling myself the Queen of Just In Case. * I can switch gears so fast you’d think I was a racecar driver. **
You probably wouldn’t expect me to be as floored as I was two years ago when I realized that I wasn’t going to be completing that PhD after all. I sure as hell wasn’t. Expecting to be so floored, that is.
I mean, there was a PLAN, damnit. I was going to get that PhD, then I was going to get a postdoc, or an adjunct position, or a research fellowship - see, BACK-UP PLANS - and eventually work my way up to tenured professor. Or I was going to work in a museum or as a contract archaeologist. I HAD BACK-UP PLANS!!!
Except they all hinged on my ability to produce a dissertation that would lead to a PhD and some articles or a book.
Can we say “eggs and baskets” kids?
Rather quickly, my avenues to other ventures dried up. A woman with a baby isn’t really available to spend months in the desert away from civilization. An archaeologist with a specialty in Romans and the Middle East is not really suited to the Danish archaeology job-search. Sure, I can dig anything…. Identify what it is? In a general sense, sure. It’s a pot. It’s a pit. No, it’s SUPERMAN! Wait, whut? Date it to a particular period? Not so much. Post-holes? Urgh. Lithics? Double urgh. Uh, how about monumental structures with stone foundations instead, with a coin or two to give a girl an edge?
And at first I didn’t really realize it. I was pretty shell-shocked by my failure-to-dissertate. Then I was pregnant, which is a big distraction, if you don’t mind me saying so. I did have some rather severe meltdowns last year, when friends were graduating with their PhD’s and I wasn’t even able to go to the ceremony to pick up my MA. I think a graduation ceremony might have given me some closure, but I’m not sure. This year I was much better prepared for when friends announced on Facebook “Just call me Doctor [name]!”
My apologies, by the way, to anyone who felt that I wasn’t enthusiastic about their achievement. I really am so proud of all of you, because I know how hard it was to do, I really do.
As the dust settled around the ruins of my plans (you’d think I’d be used to it, my life has always been in ruins) (archaeology joke!) (ba-dum-dum! I’ll be here all week!), it kinda dawned on me that I had NO PLAN. And I was all, “is this what it’s like for other people?” Because I’ve wanted to be an archaeologist since I was like, eight, so while other people were having discussions with guidance counselors or looking up various career options, I was trying to decide between Egyptology and Roman Empire.
So there we have it, despite always applying for three or more schools (the dream, the sure thing, and the middle ground) and having a plan for “in case none of these work out,” I had still put all my eggs in one basket and then SAT ON IT.
What was I going to do now?
Well, Denmark has its perks from time to time. One of them is, it assumes you are some uneducated buffoon when you get here (‘cause duh, you’re FOREIGN which means STUPID in Danish) and therefore gives you three years of free education (with stipend) so you can join the Danes in their 37.5 hour work-week, 6 paid weeks of holiday a year, and the 50% tax rate.
Wait, assuming you're stupid? That’s a PERK? Yes. Denmark: lowering expectations of the immigrant class since 965 CE.
And I am so not kidding about the taxes, y’all.
One of the things they stress in Danish language classes is getting into the work force. “It’ll help with your Danish,” they say. “It will help you find friends and be better integrated!” BULLSHIT. Let's be honest here, it will help you pay the damn bills and will fill the state coffers.
When I was at school in Aarhus, with the other desirable (white, educated) students, we were encouraged to get our degrees approved by the Danish state (because, you know, that Anthropology degree from the University of California, Berkeley might not be up to Danish standards) and start applying to various multi-national companies as secretaries or something. Obviously I wasn’t paying attention to this portion of the schooling, I was an archaeologist, damnit, *I* had a PLAN.
Down here on the island, where many of my fellow immigrants are not educated (or white) we were encouraged to take a social-health degree. So we could work in old-people care.
Never mind that none of us wanted to do it, it was pushed again and again and again. “But there are jobs available in elder-care!” we were told. Do you know why there are jobs available? Because no Dane wants to do it. Working with the elderly and infirm is a thankless, dirty, backbreaking job. “But you are so nice and friendly!” they told me, I shit you not, when I said I’d rather slit my wrists than work in eldercare. Several of the women from my school are going to go for it. They’d rather do just about anything else, but the promise of steady work is a siren song.
Anyway, back in March, when we were supposed to be looking up the requirements for taking a social-health degree (are you breathing? GREAT! YOU’RE IN!), I was looking up all kinds of other things, which may have included LOLcats, and chatting with the German woman, C., next to me.
I had contemplated going to a technical school and getting a degree in engineering, because I’m good at 3D visualization and math, and jobs are well-paid and I could be employed in just about every country…. But… Well…
I hate offices. I hate group projects. I hate pretty much everything that has to do with corporate culture. I would go crazy in a week and start attacking people with my stapler. I’ve been there, done that. ***
The Danish Boy was emphatic. “Don’t be an engineer!” he said. “You’d hate it. Do something with animals. You like animals.”
If I had to do it all again, in which I would still end up with the same husband and child and cat at the end of it, and if I couldn’t be an archaeologist, I probably would be a veterinarian.
So I looked up the education for veterinarian and was all WHOA! How about veterinary nurse? Veterinary tech? Veterinary shit-shoveler? Because, damn, that’s a lot of years of education you gotta have. And I had none of it. A serious lack of life sciences, that’s me. Also required: university level Danish. Guess who had a snowballs chance in hell of doing that? Me. ****
But I could, possibly, get into the veterinary nursing assistant program. And that was my plan as I sat there, talking to C. and playing with the educations-you-can-take-in-Denmark website (and possibly, one with LOLcats, because you know what makes a boring day in school better? LOLcats.). C. asked me what I was going to do with myself and I told her, listlessly pulling the school website up again to show her. Try as I might, I just could NOT be excited about this change in careers. I asked her what she did, because she often missed school because of work, so she was obviously doing something right.
“Inseminøren” she replied. At first I heard “seminary” and thought, “priest?” because, well, how often do you hear “inseminator” as a job? There was some hilarious confusion before we got that straightened out (she’s not, in fact, a priest for cows) and then I was all questions. Everyone else was grossed out, but I just thought this was the most interesting thing I’d ever heard of. C. had a degree in farming from East Germany and had gotten an inseminator certificate when she got a job at a company that inseminates cows.
I had to stop her, “what do you mean a degree in farming?” Like that’s a thing? You would think that growing up in California, I would know this. But I thought farmers became farmers because they grew up on farms, not because they went to school to become farmers. Although this sort of explained UC Davis.
C. only laughed a little bit at my vast ignorance. “It’s also a thing in Denmark.” “No way!” I said. “Yes, way!” She replied. And so I HAD to look it up.
It was the most amazing half hour of research I’ve ever had. Oh my god, you all, YOU CAN TOTALLY GO TO SCHOOL AND BECOME A FARMER!!
Everything about the education and the schools that taught it were 100% more interesting than veterinary nurse assistant. Driving a tractor? Oh hell yeah!
So on my way home, I carefully constructed my argument for the Danish Boy on why I was going to become a farmer.
1) It’s not in an office. *****
2) It involves animals - and if I go into dairy-production: milk and cheese, which are my favorites.
3) Sustainability. We are not going to run out of a need for farmers any time soon, people gotta eat. Yeah, the economy is shit for farmers (nothing new there), but seriously, people gotta eat. If worse comes to worse, we can start our own farm and become self-sustaining. We'd be ready for any climate or world meltdown AND the zombie apocalypse. Win-win, really.
4) It’s an education I could use anywhere in the world.
5) It’s a job I respect, even if I know whole swaths of the population (certain in-laws, for example) do not.
I got home and said, “Honey, I want to become a farmer!” and the DB replied,
and got really excited and started planning our lives, where I would be a farmer and where we’d buy a farm and then he’d also become a farmer and we’d be farmers together on our farm and I had to stop him and say “hey, I came up with some very good arguments on why I should become a farmer and you need to shut-up and listen to them, OKAY??” Because there is nothing worse than putting together an argument and then not getting to use it.
I did eventually get to try out these points on my family, who were a little stunned, my best-friend who totally took it in stride (seriously, if I told her I was going to be a burlesque dancer, she'd be all, "ooooh, with red tassels? Red tassels are cool!"), and my in-laws who think that we’re insane for not wanting to live in Copenhagen and work in offices as consultants or sales-people (*GAG*) anyway.
- we’ve visited two agricultural schools (who were all, “of course a +30 year old woman wants to go into farming! Let us show you our facilities!!”),
- chosen the one that best fits me (and the ferry boat schedule),
- talked to half a dozen farmers, trying to get an internship (PAID) before deciding
- to get some school done first (the education is split up into theoretical and practical, you can do some school [i.e. the theoretical] first or some of the practical [i.e. the internship] first, whatever floats your boat).
I’m signed up to start in September.
And you guys? I AM SO EXCITED!!!
Here be shit ton of footnotes. Because you can take the girl out of academia, but you can't take the academia out of the girl.
* Although not out loud, because I’ve already noticed that people stare at you when you talk out loud to yourself and I’ve been trying to cut back on looking like a crazy person. Really I should just get myself one of those Bluetooth ear-pieces and wear it all the time and when people start looking at me funny I could point angrily to my ear and say loudly “I’m sorry, could you repeat that, I was distracted from this very important phone call by eavesdroppers.”
** Except when I’m driving. But not because I’m a bad driver, I just forget that there are other gears and that I should be in them. This is why people invented the automatic, for people like me. I’ve heard people say that manual transmission gives you more control over the car, but I call bullshit. If I had control over the car, it wouldn’t be telling me “you need to change me into another gear now” it would be all “oh, you want to go that fast, pardon me while I change that gear for you then.” Manual transmission is where the car has control of YOU.
*** Only not the bit about attacking people with a stapler. Probably because my job involved working with animals (for teaching, not research purposes), so when the going got tough (or the people got stupid), I could go cuddle a bunny. Or if I was feeling particularly vicious, I could feed a rat to a snake. ^
^ Feeding the snakes was part of my job. I wasn’t just going around feeding rats to snakes all willy-nilly. Because that would be irresponsible.
**** And I was right, too. I did not do so hot at the written portion of my exam. (Hot? I barely passed!) But that’s a WHOLE OTHER POST, lemme tell ya.
***** Damn, that’s a lot of asterisks. Anyway, if you’re thinking, “but what about your allergies?” Can I just point out that I’m also allergic to the mold that grows inside heating and cooling ducts, so every time someone turns on the central air in an office building, I die? I’m allergic to something EVERYWHERE, so I might as well be hopped up on meds doing something I like rather than being hopped up on meds doing something I hate.