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  • Writer's picturejodieharburt


Mia and I painting

Career is often a definition of self. It's natural to simplify introduction at the outset and to aim to create common ground, yet we often find ourselves prejudiced (or the victims of) by such simplification at the first stage of meeting someone new. A mini assessment is made, basically and crudely in terms of usefulness; can this new person become a client, colleague, ally, friend or lover? How can I benefit from this person, can we collaborate, should I be wary of them? Indeed many careers can be said to be conversation stoppers (rather than enhancers). It must be daunting to have to introduce oneself as the chief embalmer at the funeral parlour or trigger puller at the abattoir, but being a systems analyst, a tax collector or a housewife also can cause a loss for words. Imagine how ghastly it is to be offered consolation, sympathy or even forgiveness for what it is you do. I'm normally greeted with words such as "Oh how interesting, it must be wonderful to be creative!" Indeed it is, I feel blessed to have careers that are also my passion. Note how I use plural here 'careers'. My careers are paced chronologically at times and run parallel at others, but they are and have always been intrinsic to each other.

I find singular categorization in terms of career, thought, belief, politics etc to be limited, fallible and rashly nonsensical. To clarify and at risk of over simplification we can say that a Christian or Muslim can practice an originally Hindu ritual like yoga, a staunch capitalist may enjoy the welfare provided by a national health system, an accountant may be an exemplary bee keeper, a chef can excel as a stand up comedian and a housewife and mother is most definitely a logistics expert. Plurality on a social or political level is essential to our survival and is intrinsic to our core. Just as we carry the DNA from both of our parents, (each of which are the plurality of their own inheritance) we can expect our output to be made up of at least the mixture that was our input. The expectation of a single career for life is often no longer preferable or feasible, neither is it plausible to stick to 'one thing at a time', a concept that's been rendered redundant by our multitasking lifestyles, the evolution of which is no coincidence. Diversity in our life/career/hobbies reflect our ability and our hunger for stimulus as well as necessity. The goal is to maximize this trait without overwhelming and becoming counterproductive. Each to their own in terms of content and capacity, but it's safe to say that each and everyone of us is more productive with variety and that monotony is both motivation and soul destroying. We never were or can be just one thing. Life itself is neither singular nor linear. Which takes me back to my original point; career, careers, things we do, things we are. It is natural that we associate career with earning, consequently whatever it is that we do that brings in the most revenue becomes our definition in terms of usefulness. (You are what you do/earn) This is a blatant reflection of the capitalist system; use and self in terms of capital gain. We need reminding of how both state funded and non profit organizations contribute to environmental and humanitarian needs as well as serving the community and society. Finland is running a pilot project to see the value of a Universal Basic Income (so that low income people can show their true value and contribution to society without the crippling oppression of poverty). Read about it here. What about those that do immeasurably valuable work yet earn nothing? Those who volunteer? Are housework, tending a vegetable plot and mothering considered valid careers yet? Certainly they fulfill the definition in terms of being "an occupation undertaken for a significant period..." and we can also say they fulfill the criteria of offering "opportunities for progress", yet they are unpaid and written off as the figures on the spreadsheet of monetary based worthiness plummet.

So about earning and making that career add up; My organic garden produce amounted to a few buckets full this summer so had I spent the time on my more lucrative pursuits I could afford a years supply of vegetables, but my well being earned through my garden toil and knowing that we ate homegrown organic is priceless. Friends and colleagues have advised that to be taken seriously in any one area I should allocate it exclusive dedication. An artist should not admit to a second job and likewise a modern work ethic seems to prohibit time and passion spent on an activity perceived as hobby. I sincerely beg to differ, in fact I deeply oppose this view and in doing so I'm happy to carry the duality of my career as a spatial designer/painter. Indeed the plurality of my existence itself is self sustaining and mutually beneficial. I'm also a mother, a relationship partner, a housewife, a cook, a gardener, a hostess, a thinker, a writer and anything else I might add to the list. One's individual ability to multi task and juxtapose every aspect of our lives dictates how successful we are with each or all of our facets. There are limitations; the constraint of time if not well managed has the potential to bend us towards breaking point, however the repression of any of one's facets can equally play havoc with the psyche. Each of us has the right and the responsibility to be the best and most fulfilled we can be and thus we can excel in terms of productivity for self, family, friends and for society in general. So no, I'm not just one thing at a time and I resent that I can't quadruple-barrel my career title and be taken seriously. Career does not define self, a career alone should not be the sole means upon which we survive and whatever it is that feeds our stomachs should not dominate our lives to the extent that it obliterates any other form of living and self expression. From this point it's clear that I support schemes of minimum survival wage. (Universal Basic Income)

which can also employ more while creating fewer working hours to free people up to simply be and do stuff! (knit, bake, dig potatoes, volunteer, build a shed etc.... oh yeah and time to think... think outside of the box!)

Asides from my careers that "earn" in the conventional sense it might be that my long term service to mankind will be best measured by the value my children bring to society, maybe the vitamins in tonight's dinner here at my house are worth more than every painting I have ever done in that these are what sustain a new generation. The long term cause and effect is impossible to calculate, but can be sensed through the short term successes of allowing my instincts to lead and the facets of me to reflect back on to each other. Not allowing internal and external synthesis denies us the right to contribute and live fully. In my case I find myself stifled unless I'm able to be or do all of my stuff. The contemplation and concentration that I expend upon a canvas transpose to my spatial design, in turn the creative analytical puzzles that I solve while I design aid my home front problem solving and in turn my intense nurturance for my family promote my empathy skills that swing back to aid my painting and my capacity for human scale design, all of which are what bring me here to think and write. It has been easy to give this example of myself, but others whose careers, interests, hobbies etc have less tangible bonds are no less mutually beneficial. Tangents and opposites are equally essential in creating the varied, multifaceted individuals that we are. Everyone has bits and pieces that make up the puzzle of self and aid in making each individual an integral and potentially very valuable asset to society as a whole. Given half a chance.

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