Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Terms and Conditions

The Geological Society is in a grand building off Piccadilly and I stood among the crowd of Geologists in the library and asked myself "Why am I here?". It is an impressive room filled with leathery smells and oil paintings and it is not a good place to have a personal crisis.

In one sense the answer was straightforward - I had come to hear my friend, the academic who took us to Stonehenge, deliver a lecture about the discovery of a hand axe.

In another sense it was more complex. We live in a world where a job is about money and entitlements, absence management and equal opportunities, tasks and objectives, family-friendly working hours and health and safety policies. These are all worthwhile things but none of them are the reason why you work. I know that you might think that money is the reason why you work but if you have ever been really miserable in a job you will know that is not true.

In the library of the Geological Society I realised that I am very fortunate indeed. I am not well paid and I do have to work long hours; there are petty frustrations and there will be difficult times for Higher Education as the budget cuts bite in the years ahead. But somehow, almost by accident, I have ended up in a job that matches my mixed bag of experience and interests.

None of the things that I love about the job feature in my contract - it does not say "You shall eat canapès in the library of the Geological Society" or "You shall make friends who give wonderful lectures about hand axes" or "You shall go out to dinner with a man who studies snails on Tristan da Cunha" or "You shall laugh at risqué jokes about prehistoric bear skeletons". I don't recall them being mentioned in the job advert or the panel interview but these, and countless other similar examples, are the reasons why I go to work every day.

And all this became clear to me in that moment, in the library of the Geological Society - which shows that you never know when inspiration will strike. And then I turned back to the person I was talking to and carried on our conversation about Thor Heyerdal, feeling very grateful for my good fortune.


  1. Thor Heyerdal, wasn't he the 'cross the Pacific in a canoe' fella? S'pose I could always go cjeck out the link.

  2. Ah! the Kon Tiki expedition. That was on our shelves at home along with the Arthur Mee Children's Encyclopedia. What a great job.

  3. Such wonderful variety... (although I'm sure you have your fair share of dull and repetitive too!)

  4. I ask myself the same question every day. Unfortunately I don't manage to come up with such (any?) good reasons at the moment.

    One day I'll finally get round to deciding what I really want to be when I grow up.

    As a starting point, I may do a quick internet search for jobs that involve eating canapes in interesting locations.

  5. I actually visited the Kon-Tiki Museum in high school, but that was a very long time ago. K x

  6. Oh Alice, the glimpses into your working world always fascinate me and leave me wanting more. Beautifully illustrated words and pictures as always.

  7. you are making me sooo envious. Seriously, I feel my brain is shrinking by the second and you're having such interesting conversations...

    gotta get me a life.

  8. That really sums up a lot of the things I miss from my old job. Working at home has some compensations, but I miss the totally unexpected things. I loved working in an academic environment - always someone interesting to talk to even if there were plenty of other frustrations to the job.

  9. From here, your life seems so darn interesting. I often feel inadequate to even read it.

  10. You are lucky, and wise to know you are lucky, and what an excellent door!


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