The other week, when I took stock of my List and realised how far I was from completing most of it, I wasn’t too worried, because it is, after all, an academic’s summer. Four months to set my own schedule, to take all the buses in Halifax, to walk out of the city, to learn to do a cartwheel, to read a bookcase. Then I got to thinking: depending on what I do next fall (that is, fall of 2013), this may be my last four-month summer bracketed between intense work.
I have spent my entire twenties in university. Actually, with the exception of one year taken as a year off (and it was a year off, in the middle of my PhD in response to my sister’s death), I have been in various forms of school since I was three years old. I am now 29, and though, as of last fall, I am no longer an official student, I am, nevertheless, still very much involved in the university community. As a teacher, but still, that is my world.
Next summer, I have decided, I am going to go to Europe and walk across at least part of it. How far I go depends on two main things: how much money I’ve managed to save up between now and then and whether I have a job lined up for the fall or not. I’m not going to buy my plane ticket until I have a better idea of that, but I can tell you right now that I don’t think I’ll be chasing the tenure track around North America. There are some specific jobs I’ll apply for if they are offered, but that’s it, apart from maybe sessional teaching.
It’s hard to make these sorts of decisions. I don’t have another career I want to enter into, except insofar as I want to have a smallholding and I want to be a professional writer. Those are both careers, of course, but unfortunately either is even chancier and less remunerative than trying for an academic career as a medievalist who doesn’t study a clearly defined subfield (Middle English or Old French or Dark Age history — a grievous misnomer, but that’s a tale for another day). It’s not that I want to turn around and work in government.
What has this to do with Sherlock Holmes, you ask? Not a lot, except that I have been reading The Complete Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes and The Return of Sherlock Holmes for the first time. Apart from being quite amazed at how close the British television series is to the tone of the books (and the movie, too, actually), I was slightly reassured to note that even Sherlock Holmes had to start from a position of anxiety and concern when he decided to make his living by his wits. A fictional character, I know, but, well, I can learn lessons from other people’s characters as well as my own.