Sometimes I want to start a degree again. Western Herbal Medicine, or Naturopathy. I've wanted to be a naturopath for years, but only after it felt too late, already in a well paid teaching job as I was. People always argue it's not too late, that feels like a kind encouragement over a truth, and I smile agreeance whilst I don't want to argue that perhaps I don't want to work at all. There's an impossible tension between wanting to earn money doing something you love, and not wanting to be beholden to work at all.
Feverfew, growing wild near Bruthen, NSW
When I was a teenager, I didn't have a passion except for literature. I loved reading and I loved studying, so an Arts degree it was. I was an all round student, smart at Maths and Sciences as well, though I didn't believe it at the time. If I was to write back to my teenager self I'd tell her that she was good at everything, and not to believe the niggling doubts she wasn't. But off to university I went, as you did, and it took me ten years to finish my degree because I was busy living - gallivanting round Australia, travelling to Europe, having a child. Bar work and the dole (Jeff Kennett's surf team, as we called ourselves in the '90's, driving old Holdens and Fords into the sunsets of Western Australia) and later the single parent pension paid the rent.
Mullein by the kerb, Bradford on Avon, UK
Eventually, I did a year diploma to qualify as a teacher, and here I am today thinking, god girl, if you could have chosen any career, why that? And I know why I did - it was because I loved literature, and studying, and that meant I could keep studying and keep reading, which I did. I also believed I did it because of empathy - I had such a bad time at school that part of me had to return to the place to help kids like me. I love teenagers - their bright young minds, their developing identities, their wounds and their wonder, their enthusiasm and their quick to forgive nature. Give 'em a bit of love, and they shine. And I've had a lot of love to give. Even on my darkest days being with students cheers me up. They have a way of pulling you outside of yourself.
But if you offered me a million bucks, or even 200 grand, I'd quit in an instant and never look back. It's exhausting and my heart's not in it anymore - kids don't read much anymore and the curriculum either dumbs things down or packs too much in so you can't spend too much time on a text that deserves more. Staff politics is not my thing. Earning money to pay bills is not my thing - it's something I've never cared for, this merry go round and money hungry circus that the world's chosen as their modus operandi. Build more, expand more, consume more - dollar dollar bill y'all. Oh to be back on Jeff Kennett's surf team and handing in a dole form once a fortnight and finding twenty cent pieces covered in fluff and green in the crook of the couch.
Unidentified herb, roadside, Northern India
But back to the question, posed by @galenkp here on HIVE. If I could do any job in the world, what would I do?
Well, I'd love to be a herbalist - but that's more about studying herbal medicine than actually doing the job. I love to study - it's so interesting. Herbalism is one of those huge subjects that could take you lifetimes to learn, and there's so much in it, from ethnobotany and the cultural overlay placed over plants, to energetics, to homemade balms and salves, to supporting and nourishing through diet, to just a practical every day herbalism through kitchen witchery. I'm not sure I'd like to practice in a clinic, but teaching people about the medicinal value of backyard plants and how to use them sounds right up my alley. I've loved plants and herbs since I was a teenager when Mum and I made a herb garden and she'd send me off scouting for plantain. You come back to your dandelion roots, I guess.
I wish I'd known it was possible to study herbalism or naturopathy and that I would be good at it and could make a career from it before I went into teaching. I didn't know - I guess pre internet days information was a little scant. No one I knew followed that pathway, so it wasn't on my radar.
Plantain billy tea, roadside, Tathra NSW
There's lots of things we didn't see coming back then. We didn't know you could shape your own career, or that social media was going to be so huge and a way to earn money. Even podcasting - man, if I had had known how much I'd love them I would have continued with journalism and thought about sound engineering. I love the idea of telling stories through that medium and podcast popularity has boomed of late.
It's all a moot point - I'm not sure I want to dedicate my life, time and money into anything but community work and travelling and not being part of a money money money world anymore. It does feel too late. I don't have the energy.
Who knows though, who knows.