I recently posted “Are we there yet?” on social media and got a spattering of ironic answers like I had hoped for. These are my people. I haven’t posted for a while, as the large workload of a PhD takes over and takes all my spoons. This taking of spoons is the right taking of spoons though. I’ve found my way back to anthropology and through a rambling route to life as a scholar of humour studies and political science.
The ironic posting of a phrase that parents cringe at on road trips, sums up how the world sees me, not how I see it. I’m not a huge fan of capitalism’s straight line slavery. School, university, marriage, mortgage, children, heirs apparent, taxes and death – not a pathway for me.
I’m never going to get there, nor am I trying to. I see climate change issues as more important than a mortgage, and as long as I’ve got a roof over my head a rental is fine. I’m at uni again at 50, and I’ve never stopped formal learning, there are spattering of professional qualifications throughout my working history. I’m divorced and I’ve come out as queer in my 40’s and have no desire to partner with anyone and am not in the slightest bit lonely. My adult offspring is happy and well and does not need to keep up with the Joneses and is more radical than I ever was at their age (I am so proud!). I am content with my life of life long learning and never being tethered to the assumed value of the reproductive organs I was born with.
I despise the status quo and I’ve done a lot of change based projects, research and work in my life. Even my comedy was intended to be nerdy, making people think. As someone who organically struggles with change, I’ve learned to love it, nurture it and explore how it happens.
Whilst I am not “there yet” and don’t aspire to be; I have found a winding path in life I love and people to tread the journey with. I think that path has people who come and go, and some that walk it with you at different points. Some people stand by the path in the woods, often telling me I am a role model, but not brave enough to step on my path. Oh, Robert Frost’s the road not taken, is always a favorite poem.
Until I was 40 I spent most of my life lying to myself that I could “get there”, coming out as nonbinary asexual and pansexual attracted in my late 40’s and breathing a HUGE sigh of relief. Then managing late diagnosis of autism on top (after years of partial diagnosis and realising this was who I was). But the throwing off the shackles of heteronormativity brought a level of discomfort coupled with a contentment that outweighed any challenges and allowed me to persist and find repurposed equanimity.
I think that’s evidenced by doing a PhD at 50 and the huge bell curve for learning it entails. I’ve never stopped learning, and I struggle with people who tell me they know all about something, but can’t give me any current or even recent viewpoint other than a sweeping dry plain of generalisation. I tend to smile and wave at these people hiding from their position in the hedge by my path, as they offer “I get it” when they clearly don’t.
Some people think this commentary makes me elitist, and as someone with working class roots, this makes me laugh heartedly. My Dunning Kruger remains intact and I am okay with managing that. I think my working class roots and the issues of disability I face make me less inclined to the trappings of an overly invested sense of self-importance.
Rest assured I butt heads with elitism in the academy, but the point is, the academy and humour studies needs my working class perspective – and there is nothing wrong with wanting an education. Life will educate you enough, of no doubt, but I am damned tired of Australians anti-intelligentsia.
It’s take a long time to settle back into my birth place Melbourne after a life in the bush. It’s been a painful and tumultous few years, because I think I may have spent 5 or so stuck in the “I get it but I don’t hedge”.
But I really am satisfied and content with what I contribute to the world and who I am.
I’m glad I stuck it out, got out of the hedges and kept travelling down the road less taken.
So my answer to “are we there yet”, quoting from Clive Hamilton (you may remember the book called Affluenza) is that I feel I am on my way to…
…some identity more authentic than those constructed for us by the clever manipulators who make brands and produce popular culture. At a minimum we must fight hard against those influences, for it we do not we will end up as mere ciphers.Clive Hamilton (2015), The Lies of Happiness. In On Happiness (edited by Camilla Nelson, Deborah Pike and Georgina Ledvinka.
P.S. If you find yourself stuck in a hedge and unable to find a path out, start by trimming the hedge of people, things and influences that don’t make you feel whole, supported, loved and valued. Eventually the hedge will start to resemble something you like and you can step out from behind it or remain content inside it, that’s really up to you.