It’s true that I’m perpetually occupied with my missteps in life. Thirty years ago I already had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do with my life: to be a graphic designer. But by then, I had already chosen a subject other than art for my GCSEs.
I couldn’t then take either graphics or art at A-level, because my talents were apparently three years behind. I could probably have done a Btec, but for some reason that was frowned upon in my family. So I just took a random selection of A and AS-levels instead, which wouldn’t help me at all.
A year after leaving college, when I finally reconciled myself to going on to university, I managed to identify a vocational course in Salford that would accept me without a background in art. But just as I was about to make an application, my father advised me that I needed to get a proper degree from a proper university, which meant abandoning my dream career in favour of something completely abstract.
So it was that I became an expert on water pollution in the river Ganges, soil erosion in Sub-Saharan Africa and the development of Iran’s oil industry. Trivia which has been of absolutely no use to me whatsoever in my career. It might have helped me if I had gone on into a career at the Foreign Office or with the United Nations, but I had read so much Edward Said by then and fully imbibed post-colonial discourses that I left university completely disillusioned, believing I had no right to work in international development as a white, male westerner.
In short, my proper degree from a proper university was of absolutely no benefit to me whatsoever, for it hadn’t even bestowed me with self-confidence. Ironically, I eventually ended up in web development, a field that shares only one thing in common with my degree: half its name. So it turns out that a vocational degree even from a supposedly lesser university would have been far more useful to my livelihood and ultimate destination.
So many missteps along the way which meant I could never do what I really wanted to do. I have for the past decade fulfilled a role that is sort of linked to that nascent vision of mine, but sort of is the operative phrase. Occasionally, it offers a creative outlet, pleasing to my mind, but I have forever been overlooked for roles that would truly make use of my skills, most likely because I lack the confidence to sell myself at interview, having neither industrial experience nor the requisite educational foundation.
So see how one small misstep thirty years ago could snowball, with repercussions for all that followed. I’m not sure if it is too late to correct course. Probably. I’m a dinosaur, soon to be rendered obsolete by the upcoming generation. The best I can do now is help our children make more informed decisions, less prejudiced by outdated snobberies.
After that, I’ll probably head off to Turkey to pursue that other childhood dream of mine, to be a farmer living in a little house fed by natural springs, looking after our tea and hazelnut fields. Somehow that dream has nearly come to fruition; the only missing piece being that we’re stuck here for now. Perhaps in another decade, when our kids emerge into a world of work better equipped than I ever was, if the Most Merciful wills.