I’m a west country man. There. I’ve said it. For me the great cultural landmarks are: The Wurzels; The Cerne Abbas Giant; and, Thomas Hardy. So it’s hardly surprising that – in my time of trial – I should look to those beacons of west country goodness for help and guidance.
In vain have I struggled to find a clear message in I am a cider drinker or I’ve got a brand new combined harvester. Should I change direction and return to my family’s agricultural roots? Or should I sleep out overnight on the Cerne Abbas Giant? I might not find a job but I could just make medical history.
No, instead I turned to Far from the madding crowd, perhaps one of the greatest titles in English literature. Early in the story the ambitious Gabriel Oak finds himself down on his luck after a business failure. So he goes to a jobs’ fair in Casterbridge. He starts the day hoping to be hired as a farm bailiff or manager. But as the day drags on he changes tack. He puts on a shepherd’s smock and grabs up a crook. For a shepherd he will be.
But no. Recruiters are now looking for bailiffs so there Oak stands his skills now unwanted. Tainted for having been ambitious enough to have had his own farm. Doubly tainted too for that farm failed.
Putting on the smock and gathering up the crook had pigeon-holed Gabriel as surely as naming oneself on a CV as a public sector worker. Hardy’s advice remains pertinent today. Gabriel concludes that,
It is safer to accept any chance that offers itself, and extemporise a procedure to fit it, than to get a good plan matured, and wait for a chance of using it.
As I have been thinking again about my passions, my skills and my next move this quote has been floating around a lot in my head.
My normal inclination would be to do what Gabriel did. Elaborately prepare for my ideal job. But I think Hardy is telling me to be far more flexible than that.
It’s very confusing. Made more so by recently being told to harness passion to confidence to elbow my way into a job.
So. I must be committed and passionate. But flexible and fleet of foot. Analytical about the labour market and my skills. And yet boiling with enthusiasm to get stuck in. My head now definitely hurts.
But I come back again to that image of Oak standing unhired because he was offering analogue when the hoary-handed sons of the soil wanted digital. Is that me? If it is what should I do about it?
Mrs RPS has suggested that I might get on the front foot and offer my services to the government as the Official Fool. Afterall she reasoned it already has a photographer, a film-maker and stylist so a ruddy-faced roly-poly funster with an inflated animal bladder would surely not be noticed. I’d have to keep the bells and ‘hey nonnies,’ down to a minimum though – government is a serious business.
Anyone seen my cockscomb?