Sunday, January 10, 2010

Before and After

I'm sorting through all the photos I've taken in the past 22 months, including the Tonga ones, with a view to printing and albumising them all. Digital photography makes it all too easy to neglect these old-fashioned processes, yet I do value hard copies of images, and would like to retain the good habits I was in when I was still using film.

Anyway, during the sorting of the photos I took, filed month-by-month on my computer, I was struck by these two images of the same pile of driftwood, taken nine months apart. The first was taken in September 2008, when I'd been in Tonga only a couple of months, and the second was taken in May, on the weekend before I left. They struck me as a fitting metaphor for how time makes changes, on every level of our lives.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

More musings

You know, everyone talks about how hard it is to come back to this society after something like the AYAD program, particularly in a place like the South Pacific where there is not much consumer choice, and be faced with 15 varieties of margarine and and every kind of vegetable you could want. That stuff really didn't phase me too much upon my return, possibly because I came back to Oz four times during my time in Tonga.

But I've been back for the better part of a year now (well, it's 8 months, that's more than half a year), and there's still this niggling disatisfaction that I feel with where I am. That's not just Canberra, but the choices I face in my life - and those are not choices revolving around margarine!

Before I went away, I felt really blessed with what I did for a living. I had work that stimulated me and fulfilled me, a job that seemed just perfect. I get paid to learn about things, things that seem interesting, and then to condense them into succinct paragraphs or sentences and distill them either internally (writing about collections being acquired by the Museum) or to the general populace (exhibition text or journal articles). And it's still like that now, but somehow...I'm not satisfied.

My Mum once told me that there are two kinds of working people in the world, those who live to work, and those to work to live. When I just did shit-kicking work to fund my travel and adventures, or my university degrees, I thought that I was someone destined to work to live. That work was something I did to pay the bills of the stuff I'd rather be doing. But getting into the museum sector, and particularly becoming a curator, well, that just seemed to fit so well with me, and I suddenly realised what it was like to live to work. To be really fulfilled by the job you do.

Now that I've come back from Tonga I don't know that I want to do that anymore. But nor do I just want to be a shit-kicker, either. It feels like, working where I do in a position that is soooo competitive to get into, means that I cannot deviate from the path to do anything else. If I want to be a curator, then I have to BE A CURATOR, and fit the rest of my life into the sidelines.

I don't mean that I have to work long unreasonable hours or sacrifice personal time, it's more just a sense that once you are in, you cannot afford to lose the tenuous grasp you have on your position. People where I work think I went to Tonga for a vacation, that it was all one big holiday for me and I achieved nothing career-wise. Well, for the most part they're right, but in other ways they are very very wrong. I did write guidelines for the interpretation of heritage sites for an entire COUNTRY, you know! Not only that, but I know for a fact that those guidelines have been utilised since I've left. And that's not even looking at what I learned about working with others, or in a cross-cultural environment.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is, I don't really want to work full-time anymore, but being a curator - at least where and how I'm doing it now - is a full-time occupation. The only excuse you have if you want to work part-time is if you have a baby. I'd love to work either 4 days a week, or ideally do 9 months on, 3 months off, but that just ain't going to happen. Not unless I ditch this job altogether. It's kind of sad - I feel that I have to choose between my job and my life. And I'm pretty sure that's not how it's supposed to be. At least, not in other societies...