Day 13: The Loneliness of the Mid-Career Polymath - An appeal to my kind!
"So what is it you do?"
I dread this question... Which is convenient when trying to relocate to a country where practically nobody knows you and you KNOW it's going to be the first bloody question they ask.
I don't dread the question because of any embarrassment at my occupation. I long since got over and encouraged others to get over the curse of the embarrassed creative. Long since I stopped being an aspirational anything. (except belly dancer - more on that later)
I am more than willing to tell you when questioned that I'm a writer, even though that immediately conjures the image of the feckless dreamer or 'snowflake' (as the current term du Jour seems to run), glasses - CHECK , ti-di t-shirt WELL, SOMETIMES, unseasonal wearing of flip flops CHECK, eccentric facial hair that denotes both creativity and the inability to properly function in the real world. Can I get a hell yeah...
The problem... (and as I've discovered when talking to immigration lawyers that it is indeed a problem) is that I do more than one thing. I write across multiple platforms. I teach across multiple platforms and even countries. I'm also an academic consultant and educational expert - a partner in my consultancy. I'm also a producer, again across multiple platforms. I do development, marketing and finance packs, content writing and occasional journalism.
The challenge is that Immigration forms, the tax system, any functional degree of small talk and common taste and decency would all rather you were able to answer this question in three words or less. And I'm supposed to be good with words!
I saw a great Ted Talk on this which kind of summed up my own take. It enthused brightly that 'The world needs us Polymath types' as the future will be as dynamic and multi-facetted as our potentialities allow us to be. Great in principle but no help when trying to fit your CV into one box without a 600 word explainer for the terminally confused to go along with it.
More than the irritation of fitting the appropriate box, Polymathery (Which I'm determined is a word - spellcheck and your little red line be damned) has other impacts; trying to demonstrate your career earnings when a prospective employer is determined to set your payment against your individual rather than collective salaries; dealing with the fact that your multiple part time occupations mean you are self-employed, employed, freelance, a contact worker and an international earner all at the same time. (You can tell I'm about to fill in my Tax return); being proudly informed that your mortgage agreement with the bank was the second longest negotiation in the history of an international bank because they were unable to consider the majority of your income toward the deal and had to 'consult a specialist' to work out what if anything of my income was admissible in the tyrannical little boxes of their forms.
So how does a person who doesn't fit on forms convince the most rigid border service in the world that Polymaths and in particular, this polymath have something to offer the United States as a whole? I have not fully formulated the answer to this yet and my sanity and love life depend substantially on doing so.
The best answer I have so far lies in the secret weapon of the polymath. Multiple careers, multiple locations multiple upon multiple can, if you're lucky as I consider myself to be, create a small army of people who are willing to go to bat for you, to help you build the necessary framework to overcome, convince and contribute to the system.
You know who you are and I am thankful to have you and anyone else who reads these words and feels like they can put a rung on the ladder that will see one of our kind over this wall, before they start building them for real.