What should I do with my life?
Now, it just so happens that I DO know who bernadette is and I could, theoretically, provide an answer particular to her. But that wouldn't be much fun for everyone else. So, let's just keep the "bernadette" details to a minimum, and I will provide them on a strictly need-to-know basis.
Here's what you need to know: bernadette is ABD (translation: "all but dissertation"). Like many of you, she has spent the last several years of her life as a grad student, and she is now at the end of that line, which is also the beginning of another line. The Academic Life Line. The little depot that connects these two life-lines is called the Job Market Station, and its pretty miserable. So miserable, in fact, as to prompt many a traveller to seriously consider another path. I don't think our mystery subject "bernadette" is really planning to forgo her original itinerary, but that's not the point here. She wants to know what her alternatives are. And I am happy to provide some counsel...
I've often imagined what the other me, in that other parallel universe living that other life, might be doing. When I imagine this, I try to consider the Alterna-Me as having a whole other set of options than the ones I had (or have now). So, Alterna-Me didn't go to grad school. She doesn't play guitar. She may not even be from the South. She's just a blank slate, and the possible options for her professional life are wide open. Just like bernadette's in this little experiment here.
So, operating with the assumption that bernadette might be willing to completely wipe clean her own life-slate and actually consider anything, these are some things I think she should do with her life:
1. Ride that lonely road as a truck driver. Unfortunately, we tend to associate truck drivers with generally uneducated and uncultured people. We snobbily imagine that the only people who would choose such a life are those who are too poor to have options or too unmotivated to think of something better. But I've always had a kind of romantic image of the truck driver's life. A new town every night. Endless time to think. An arsenal of one-of-a-kind characters to count among your friends. Just you and your music and your big-ass truck. She could even use "bernadette" as her CB handle. It may be a "lonely" life, but I think there's a very good possibility that it's not that way at all. Your relationships with everyone would kind of be like an academic's relationship with his or her "conference friends." You see them every once and a while for a few days, so you don't have long enough to develop all of the negative complications that come along with really knowing people. It would be like living an endless conference tour. And you should see inside the cabs of some of those semis... they're nicer than a lot of apartments I've been in.
2. Call the shots as a referree. Now, I'm being a bit unfair here, because I'm partly using things that I already know about bernadette to make this suggestion. For example, I know she's a pretty good judge of things. And I know that she doesn't tend to sway under the pressure of other people who may be unhappy with her judgments. I also think she looks good in stripes. Anyway, I'm not even sure if one can actually have a "career" as a professional sports official, but it seems like it would be a great one-- with a few obvious blips of misery when you make a bad call in front of millions of people. But, hey, we all make bad calls in life. The difference between ours and the ref's is just a difference in degree, not in kind. The referree's life is also similar to the academic's in this way: you only work for a few hours on a few days a week, and you have an "off-season." (Yes, I know that's not really true for academics, but that's what people think.) bernadette also tends to be a somewhat elaborate hand-gesturer, which would come in "handy" here.
3. Make little children's dreams come true as a carnival barker. I know, I know. We think about carnies the same way we think about truck drivers. I don't really have a romanticized notion of the day-to-day life of the carnie, and I can't say that bernadette might not become bulemic if required to eat that crappy food every day... but wouldn't it all be worth it for those moments when you get to say: "You, young lad, are a WINNER! Choose one of the BIG animals for your prize!" That always looks so fun. And ditto the thing about hand-gesturing above.
4. Go undercover as a food and travel critic. This may fall under the general category of "referree," but it has the added draw of being a clandestine operation. Plus, you get to eat well and go to cool places. If you publish your critiques under a pseudonym-- like, oh I don't know, "bernadette" maybe?-- then you could avoid punctuating your life with the referree's shame and embarassment. It's a win-win, really.
5. Take the easy road as a golddigger. Marry rich. Hey, women do it all the time. I saw this reality show on television called "The Real Housewives of Orange County" and it's really hard to find much that's too bad about their lives. Sure, you could be giving up on your own dreams and abilities for a wad of cold, hard cash. Sure, you might have to snuggle up at night with someone whom you find totally vacuous and repulsive. Sure, you may be setting back the feminist movement 75 years. But, hey, if you're going to be so high and mighty about this suggestion, then why don't you just go to grad school and try to get a life as a professional academic or something?
I'm sure that bernadette is open to any suggestions you may have about what she should do with her life as well. I mean, for goodness sake, she put that question to me on my blog, so I'm guessing she's not that picky. Bless her heart.