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Roads untravelled

My mind has turned to reflection on the jobs I wish I had pursued in my youth, possibly because it is Monday morning.

Foremost is probably ‘carpenter’. I did not know I should have been a carpenter until my father, a carpenter and cabinetmaker, had passed away, and I was far too old to begin an apprenticeship. I like working with wood, and I very much like the journey from idea and visualisation to the concrete object. I like the ritual of preparing and cleaning up a workspace, and the calming repetition of maintaining the tools. In the foolishness of youth I looked at the rates of pay for carpenters in Australia in the late 70’s and early 80’s and pursued computers instead. Given a time machine I would travel back and smack myself in the head, fruitlessly telling myself that satisfaction and low stress was worth the dollars. Then there was that whole construction boom thing in the 90’s which saw carpenters and bricklayers become some of the best paid people in the country. So it goes.

I toyed with the idea of being a stage manager. Being able to snatch crystalline order out of the whirling chaos backstage during a performance, to martial resources so that at the right moment it just… worked… This was exciting and satisfying, even if the role even in amateur circles (or perhaps especially in amateur circles) was poorly recognised. But again, I looked at Australia at the time and saw the number of stages and performances diminishing, and the available jobs dwindling close to zero. Who needs stages when there is cinema and television, right?

And a clown. I could have been a clown, the chance was there for me to get the training, and I have the disposition. To be able to balance on the edge of chaos, to break expectations and jar perception – now there’s some job satisfaction. But again, that Australian problem. There were enough clowns already. The country did not need any more, thanks. Not exactly a job with career prospects either. It’s like a priesthood, with years of service rewarded only by penury and obscurity at the end.

Or a professional tuba player. I was pretty good in school, good enough that I could have pursued it academically. The tuba is to my ear the horn most like a voice, and while not quick to speak it speaks lyrically and authoritatively. Even played softly it’s sound has a solidity of presence not heard in the rest of the brasses, which is odd as most of the time you do not consciously hear it. In an orchestral and brass band context it’s role is mainly to provide a platform for the other instruments to stand on. But again, it was Australia, and there was less than a handful of jobs for tuba players in the country. Financially a foolish thing to pursue.

Are there any common themes to be found in the roads I did not travel? Hard to say, really. Perhaps one is a desire to enable and support creation, to provide stability and foundation for concerted endeavours. Definitely a desire to create something from nothing, to make the thought concrete. All in all it means nothing, except that it is Monday morning, and I want more coffee.

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