The absence of choice
So recently, I had the dubious opportunity of visiting the Work Abroad Expo in Cork. This was perhaps not a place I could have seen myself visiting a few years ago. But then, neither was a Fas course, or a dole queue. A lot of things are happening around here that we did not foresee, or did not want to see.
My going there was more of an afterthought. Canada was being sold hard on the news – they had jobs. They wanted me. When relatives asked how the job-hunt was going, I mentioned Canada, and suddenly was off to the expo.
I was so unconvinced, I bought the ticket only to force myself to go. I was unaware they had to stop selling on Monday (the day I bought mine) until Tuesday, when I met someone without one. My small enthusiasm was diminished. I woke up on 07:00 on Wednesday, and couldn’t get out of bed. At 09:00, Paschal Sheehy was interviewing people in the queue who had been there since the early hours of the morning, and by half past, I had learned not to bring the car to the hotel. I was so vexed, that when I realised I didn’t have my headphones to keep an ear on the situation via radio, I resorted to twitter.
The expo was not that bad for ticket holders. The queue was long, but we were prioritized over the ticketless unfortunates. Once we got through the door, it was not as congested as Dublin, and I managed to talk to some people at the stands and sit in on two talks: one on Quebec, the other on Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan was sold as just like home, but better. Better governance, better decisions, less fantasy banking. Quebec seems like a gleaming research planet on Star Trek, but in French. Both were very attractive.
Anyhoo, I was fairly satisfied with my odyssey and while the crowds were underestimated, lessons had been learned at the Dublin expo. Credit where credit is due, I was willing to share this when I came across a tweet by the really lovely journalist Pamela Duncan, looking for someone who had been to the expo. I thought she was looking for comments on how it went. Following an exchange of details, she explained what she actually had in mind. I was a bit embarrassed, having misunderstood, so I endeavoured to answer her questions in an email, and expected that she would respond, politely declining my assistance. As you can see, I have tendency to go on. The email was a little long. But she felt I was a suitable candidate, and took a few quotes from it. Which was nice.
Then paralysed with embarrassment, I kept it to myself until it was published. I showed it to my mother and it cheered her up, so it was worth that much. My Dad also got a kick out of it, though he spent some time wondering how I had fabricated an article about myself. Both were visibly disappointed it wouldn’t appear in Time magazine.
The Time.com article is here.
I have decided that I might as well share the waffley email. If I had been writing it for something like this blog, it would have been heavily edited. As it was going to someone I didn’t know, from whom I never expected to hear again, the filter was turned off and I was just typing. It is just a rushed snapshot of a moment in one person’s life. It is a moment where a decision is being made, but I don’t feel like I’m making it.
I always wanted to work and study abroad, I hoped to do it. What has changed is the removal of choice. We have lost many material things in this country and little by little, we are losing our choices. I recently heard of a man, who when he went to pay his mortgage, was told by the bank that he should not be shopping in Tesco as an Aldi was nearby. They had seen a transaction on his statement. The bank is telling him where to get food. They are wading so far into people’s lives, that they dictate on their sources of sustenance. Everyday we are taking more decisions in the absence of choice. Need, obligation or fear decides us. Losing the right and then the ability to choose surely feeds into the myriad other mental stressors our nation is enduring. Even our government is denied this privilege of choice and it is as if we are in the control of absentee landlords once again. At what cost to our psyche?
Final comment. I was reading the other day about the INSPIRE programme, which aims at getting more women involved in politics. I always had an interest, more so in my mid-teens before I was disillusioned (saw sense). As the opportunity antenna are constantly extended at the moment, I thought about it briefly. But who would I represent? My demographic is gone. I would have to run my campaign in Saskatchewan.
Here is the promised text, warts and all. If you’re still reading, you’ve earned it. I have only taken out one sentence about family members which they may have considered too personal, indicated by the ellipsis in brackets.
Thanks for your email. Just to give you an idea of where I am at the moment. I have only started to consider emigration recently. I have been working in commercial archaeology since I completed my masters in human osteology in October 2010. I started in law, so by the time I reached archaeology, I had missed the boom. There was a lot of talk about the ‘good old days’ on my first contract, which through the luck and skill of my director lasted 6 months longer than the proposed 8 weeks. Since then I have been out of work for a period of 3 months, which was partly due to back injury, followed by 3 months work in the north. At the end of January I had 6 days work, which generally, though I believe it depends on your dole office, the system is not designed to support.* Commercial archaeology is tied into construction, and so has suffered as construction has declined. There is something like over 80% unemployment in our sector. I have specialized, so someone would have to emigrate or die before I get the job I want. The surviving archaeology companies are downsizing, not recruiting. I would like to do a PhD, but because I never met the thresholds for grants, I have too much debt to do so right now.
I can now either stay here on the dole, or in a job for which I am untrained, or which requires something like the leaving cert (which is a bit galling after 6 years of university); or I can move to find work in my chosen field. After the jobs expo, I am even considering taking a job in something else just to [get] going, until I find something I want. Fas have told me to retrain in IT as I do have some experience in that line. I could do that at the expense of the Irish government and then emigrate… When I did law, we felt sorry for the computer science students, because everyone had been talking about the .com bubble, now we don’t have enough of them. I also don’t want my parents worrying about me. Most parents have enough of their own worries now without fretting over their adult children.
I don’t want to leave the country right now, even though I always envisaged getting my PhD abroad, and I am trying to find work, particularly in the heritage sector. I did live in Germany for a year during my law degree and loved it. Quebec seems similar to the ideal European city, shiny, with good transport infrastructure, free education, safe etc. I live in West Cork and the towns are deserted of people my age. Everyone talks about how depressed the small towns are here, and how it doesn’t seem as bad as when you go to the cities. My sister works in London, and seemingly, you wouldn’t know there is a recession there. The minister for advanced education** etc. in Saskatchewan gave a great talk during the expo, and though I am usually cynical, I thought how nice it would be to have a government made up of intelligent people like him. Far away hills may be green, but anything would be better than what we have here.
I have a relative who has spent four years in Australia, working and going to college at night. He loves it there, and was able to visit recently for the first time this year. […] People of my parents age keep telling me they would go if they could. I find that nearly sadder that the youth leaving. A good number of my friends started work just before the end of the boom, they would have finished college in 2006, 2007. They tend to be employed. A few of my law graduate friends have tried to stay in education to wait out the recession, but now are emigrating to the UK. There were unfortunately too many people encouraged into law. Other friends are trying to find a way out. One is in New York on a holiday. He’ll probably come back to collect his clothes and leave. The archaeology sector was supplemented by a lot of Polish and Swedish people in the boom. They are now petering out of the country.
Anyway, sorry for the waffley email, I wanted to give you some details in case it didn’t suit your story. I have an appointment with the dentist today, so I won’t be available from about half one till half three or so. I’m not sure if I will be able to speak for a few hours afterwards!
Best of luck with the article.
I got a filling. I was fine after a few hours. Thanks for asking.