Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Thoughts on my Career Choices

When someone you love dies your brain stops. The more you love them the harder it is to comprehend that they are gone. The human brain is an amazingly complicated organ but it is beyond its capabilities to suddenly assimilate and understand that a person who is so much a part of you is no more. I’ve been told it’s a protective measure, that the pain is too much and that you brain will feed you the information over time in fits and starts of various lengths until at last you understand that they are gone. You will never understand why or how such a thing can happen but you will eventually understand that it has, so I have been told. So it will come as no surprise to hear that despite my many years at university and various degrees my brain just ain’t what it used to be.

When I quit my job last year I was relieved to leave the world of optoelectronics behind. The work I was doing brought me little satisfaction yet I believed the more interesting work of research and development to be beyond my capabilities. It has been so long since I have done any real physics and my confidence in my abilities as a scientist has never been very strong. I believed that I was not giving up but rather acknowledging that I was no longer in the right place and wondering if I ever had been. It was therefore a surprise to me to find myself looking at the scientific and engineering job adverts on the Australian websites. I sent my CV to a consulting company on a whim and was very surprised when they contacted me with a request to go in and speak with them. It wasn’t an easy interview.  Though the gentleman in question was interested in my previous work and PhD he said the prospect in Australia were limited. I acknowledged that I had thought as much and said how surprised I had been to hear back from him. It turns out that though limited there might be one of his clients that would be interested. That wasn’t the hard part though that came when I said how unsure I was about returning to the industry and his opinion was that to take much more time out would be foolish. Whether or not he is correct it hit home for the first time that I might really be leaving my old career behind and for the first time I wondered if that was really what I wanted.

For eight years my life revolved around two things: my relationship with Josh and my career as a physics student.  On gaining my PhD I endeavoured to remain in my chosen field in a lesser capacity, a point we have already covered so I won’t linger over it. However having been denied the life I had chosen I now wonder should I give up my second love so easily? I didn’t even try and fight for it back in the UK. I didn’t look elsewhere in the UK for work out of fear I was not capable of the kind of work I used to do and was previously so passionate about. Now I am wondering is this really it? I am giving up all claims to the title physicist? I suspect not. After all why should I not be capable of returning to manufacturing and working my way up? Maybe I can complete another Masters on my return and re-enter the field that way.

The worry now is, am I aiming too low? I left my previous job on the basis that it did not challenge me, well I know for sure that housekeeping won’t challenge me in anyway. My months of idleness may have done more than recharge me physically, and emotionally they might have awakened my desire to push myself mentally. For the first time in two years I am thinking, maybe I am capable of more. Right now I’m not sure I am but I really do think that one day I will be. Until that day though I have decided to enjoy being a traveller and am sticking to my original plan of getting short term work in order to finance my attempt to see as much of Australia as possible in the next two years. Who knows, maybe I will find a new love in one of my temporary careers which will lead me in an unexpected and previously unconsidered direction after all.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Unemployed No More

Last Saturday I went to Bondi Beach with a couple of girls from the hostel. After some sun worshipping on Bondi we treated ourselves to some ice lollies and headed along the coast towards Coogee. It was a beautiful walk and we stopped many times to admire the views and rest our feet. At Coogee we rewarded ourselves with some cold drinks and a massive bowl of potato wedges. It would have been a good day anyway but it was made even better by the phone call I received in the afternoon asking me to work the following day.  It was absolutely worth the hassle of setting up my voicemail to receive that message!

The next day instead of playing tourist I had a thirty minute walk to work where my task for Sunday and Monday was to operate the Lucky Duck stall. Even though I feel my soul has been tarnished as I convince small children to play the game at their parent’s expense I was a surprised at how much I enjoyed the day. It was nice to be back working again and even though more often than not the kids won the small prizes most of the time they were happy with that and it was fun to see them trying to hook the duck and being proud of themselves when they managed it. On Wednesday I was moved to a different stall but it was a similar set up to the ducks except I had to count up their scores which taxed my brain more than it had been taxed in quite a while. I’ll say this for my new job too, it has helped me become familiar with the Australian currency much faster than I would have otherwise.

Thursday was a different day again. I was not working but took the day off as I had an interview in the afternoon. The morning was spent being lazy and preparing for the interview which turned out to be very pleasant. I was interviewed by a married couple who own two restaurants in Thredbo, one of the few places in Australia where you can ski. Post interview I had to go shoe shopping and I do mean had to as sadly my DCs were by now quite wrecked. I was completely horrified at the cost of trainers over here and the sting was only taken out of my purchase by the second pair of shoes I got free even if it did take me over an hour to find two pairs of shoes that I liked and that fitted before I could make my purchase. I really hope these shoes last as I do not want to be doing that again anytime soon.

On Friday the weather took a turn for the worse as the day started out cloudy and later on it started to rain. I thought Australia was the land of eternal sunshine, boy was I wrong. I swear it has rained more weekends than not since I got here. The bad weather kept the folks away from the fair so I was moved inside to make up some goody bags, something I was grateful for the next day as it didn’t just rain but poured all day Saturday. Thankfully I got to spend the day inside making up more goody bags and only had to brave the weather to get home and do my weekly shop. Living as a backpacker is certainly different to playing at one as I did in the USA. To brighten my day on Friday I received an e-mail offering me a position at one of the restaurants which I gladly accepted though I do now have to find myself some accommodation in a ski resort and a snow suit. Yes a ski suit. If nothing else my months in the snow should help keep away any home sickness I might be feeling by then.

Sunday started out a little cloudy but thankfully it soon brightened out and many of the Sydney folk decided to visit our fair. It was great to be busy all day and to top the day off I joined a large group of fellow hostellers for a shared dinner (real food!!) hosted and cooked by a lovely member of staff who is leaving Sydney soon and heading home in the not too distant future. When I speak to people who are heading home I think that one day that will be me but for now I am glad that I am at the start of my adventure with many moths of Aussie living ahead of me.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Playing Tourist (mostly)

My second Saturday in Sydney was spent inside a class room being lectured to about the licensing laws of New South Wales. After a quick test at the end of the day I was NSW RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certified and legally allowed to sell alcohol in NSW. The day was nicely finished off by a walk down to the gardens and the discovery of how lovely caramel hot chocolate can be on a cool afternoon. In the evening I was introduced to ‘Goon’ a truly awful “wine” which I hope never to experience again (I swear I could taste the eggshells! ) before heading out to a nearby pub. Sydney is a vibrant city with a very active nightlife which I have decided I am either too old or maybe I was just too jetlagged to enjoy. It was an alright night but not much different than you would find in any city and post-midnight I was happy to find a McDonalds for a quick burger before heading back to the hostel and my bed.

I like to save my tourist activities for during the week based on the idea of there being less children about but Sydney laughs at this reasoning as everywhere I go there are multiple groups of school children exploring the places I visit! However Monday came around and off I went to the aquarium only to be sidetracked by the Sydney Tower; which is one of the few places I’ve visited completely lacking in school groups. It was a sunny day so I was tempted to buy a skywalk tour which is when they take you outside to see the view from the highest point and without any glass. Sadly I wasn’t allowed my camera so I purchased the CD of the official photos which included a dozen photos of Sydney takes from the tower at various times, the CD was worth the money for those alone. The views from outside the tower were fabulous and I was glad I had spent the money to take the walk.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I visited the Aquarium and wildlife park. The Aquaruim was pretty good. The first thing I saw was a platypus which amused me no end even though I couldn’t get a photo as he kept darting playfully through the water. The aquarium had three big tanks which had dugongs (the original sirens!) sharks, coral and some smaller fish. They were extra fun because they had glass tunnels under them so we could see the fish swimming around and over us. There were plenty of smaller aquariums housing funky fish, seahorses, jellyfish, lobsters, starfish and even a squid. At wildlife world I braved the creepy crawlies to make it through to the Koalas where I saw a little 10 month old Koala who was outside in the public enclosure for the first time., He was very cute hiding behind some leaves though it did seem to make the job of the official photographer quite difficult as he tried to capture the moment. I got my first look at a real Kangaroos and was slightly taken aback at the size of their gianormous crocodile! In the Nocturnal room I managed to get some good looks at the speedy night time animals but the darkness proved too much for my little camera.

Despite my many tourist activities I have managed to fit in some job hunting. I have sent numerous CVs had one interview for a housekeeping job at a ski resort and one at a engineering recruitment agency. I didn’t really expect much from the latter as I had sent my CV on the off chance and right enough there aren’t many jobs here in my line of work still they have my CV and said that they would let me know. It strange that after working so hard to become a physicist out of the two I would rather hear from the housekeeping job than the engineers. Anyway it’s only been two weeks so who knows what week three will bring? I for one am looking forward to finding out.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

First Thoughts From Australia

I don’t know what I expected when I decided to come out here but I never imagined that I would be exposing myself to such a rollercoaster of emotions. Maybe if I had thought about it I would have at least guessed at some of what was waiting for me but in truth I put the whole thing out of my mind. I wasn’t excited often though I did have a sense of apprehension for what I was about to do so maybe deep down I knew what awaited me. Don’t get me wrong I love it here and I know without a doubt it was the best thing I could have done at this point of my life but for the last four months I have been ‘resting’ to borrow a showbiz term. Since I came back from my trip to the USA last December I have stayed with my parents in a little cocoon, occasionally emerging to socialise or to move to my in-laws where I either continued my hibernation or spent my week in frenzied socialising. Either way I was sheltered from the realities of life having no bills to pay or job to dictate when and where I had to be. It was much needed and I am grateful for the amazing support that allowed me to do this. However the time for resting has past and I am back in the real world with a vengeance.

In the last week I have gone through so many emotions. I have been here one week now and I have an Australian SIM card in my phone and an Australian bank account. I have applied for my tax number and transferred funds from my UK to my Australian account. In that time I have applied for half a dozen jobs and sent my CV to another half dozen recruitment companies. I have convinced myself I am unemployable only to be offered an interview with a cleaning company a few hours later. I planned a great journey based on getting a job I thought I was suited for then once more convinced myself they weren’t interested. In the mean time I have accepted a job with at a local fair for 3 weeks which, wonder of wonders, comes with accommodation! Only this morning I was very sad to hear that my little hamster had been put down only to be offered an interview for a job I really want. I have been happy to be here and so sad that Jonathan is not here to share it with me.

Since arriving here I have read Aldous Huxley’s ‘A Brave New World’ and H. G. Well’s ‘Time Machine’. Both of these books are based upon the idea that real achievement and true happiness only come from suffering and having to struggle to achieve them. In both of their future realities the human race has become complacent and vacuous and they have struck a chord with me because life is not comfortable just now. It is not easy and I cannot become complacent or I will have to return home yet the one thing I have not felt since I got here is trapped. Throughout every emotion and up and down I have felt more alive than I have felt since I lost my Jonathan and as sad as that makes me I know he would be proud.