Why do we always seem to be drawn to what we don’t have? The politics of envy seems prevalent in both my personal and professional lives at the moment.
Just 3.5 years into a career in professional services, I’ve reached a strong position – roughly equivalent to a new appointment at senior lecturer.
I should be proud. Progress and stability are increasingly hard to come by in Higher Education. And even had I embarked on a career as a lecturer and everything gone perfectly, it would have been almost impossible to match that level of progression.
But I still can’t help a little jealousy creeping in. The early autumn brings a lot of chatter, not just about teaching and new syllabuses but also the various book contracts signed over the summer.
There are PhD graduates I know that have become heavily involved in events and conferences that I never got anywhere near. Like Marvell himself, there are coterie circles that can feel difficult to penetrate.
I haven’t been entirely motionless over recent years. After contributing to the beautiful Republic to Restoration volume, I’ve just finalised another proof for a chapter on Marvell and ekphrasis.
To be published alongside Stephen Cheeke, who inspired my undergraduate studies in so many ways and taught my final-year module on ekphrasis, will be some honour.
I was content with the idea of that chapter of life closing in the perfect fashion – or so I thought.
But now, I’m hungry for more. I have a wonderful thesis at my disposal, which took longer to write than it really needed because I wanted it to be my best work. It was.
It was also never made public.
So, if my career doesn’t depend on it, and it’s not in the public domain, why don’t I pursue publication? There would appear to be nothing to lose.
The honest answer is because I don’t want to be told ‘no’. I wouldn’t like to revisit the sensation of failure and I certainly don’t want to encourage it voluntarily.
Only, these onerous pangs of envy are driving me to an uncompromising place where I risk letting inferiority set in if I don’t confront these demons. At least by trying, I would give myself a chance of succeeding.
It’s strange how our desires ebb and flow, given all we aspire to achieve and occasionally in spite of it. Having worked so hard to consolidate a good position out of little, I don’t want the midlife crisis to spring up now.
Being a digital professional has a uncompromising urgency to it. Most of the work you do is immediate, and it can be in your power to change everything instantly – so the opportunity cost of not completing things sooner is forever escalating in your head.
Academic publication, on the other hand, is among the slowest of turning wheels. Patience is probably the greatest asset.
So, maybe, once my current project is done in late September, it’s time to create a little head-space and work out a plan.
After Men are once come to mistake themselves as so necessary, it is no wonder if they impute it for a great Obligation, as oft as they condescend to give the Publick an account of their Privacies. There is not any so undecent Circumstance of their life but they think it worthy to be committed to Paper, and, foul as it is, yet they forthwith send it away to the Printer.