I knew things were going too smoothly. The short term of my life was looking like a pleasant stroll through grassy meadows, as a flutter of birds twitter chirpily, while the sun beams down casting the surrounding greenery in a pleasingly yellowish hue. The long term was still looking hazy but things were shaping up nicely. The reason for this positivity was that after a lengthy interview process I managed to secure a teaching position in Singapore. I was extremely pleased, and I’m not the easiest person to get excited.
Then, alas, things conspired against me. I say ‘conspired’ – I am completely responsible for the screw ups that have occurred. I gained a 2:2 English Language degree from the University of Sussex. Being a first generation scholar and someone who has spent many years on council estates, I felt quite proud of this achievement, even if the reaction of people when I told them my grade was akin to telling them I was dying of cancer. “Are you alright? Don’t worry, it’s all gonna be OK” they say. I’m sure a few people will bring me flowers the next time I see them.
That’s not the big issue. I was under the impression – a mistaken one – that I only needed a 2:2 to jet off to Singapore and live the Far East high life. Friends and family were delighted that I found employment in lands foreign, although most gave me the same advice; “Make sure you don’t end up with a lady boy”. Aside from the extreme stereotyping, I’m disappointed that I received no practical advice. When discussing the ins and outs of living in an unknown land, there were no considered warnings about drinking bottled water, the state of the country’s motorways or how to avoid the death penalty. According to mates, my primary worry in Singapore would be performing the no-pants dance with a ‘woman’ hiding a cock between her legs. Cheers fellas.
My contract came through and a very generous one it was too. My post-tax salary was just 3% lower than my pre-tax salary, which makes Jimmy Carr’s financial arrangements look outrageously fair to the taxman. Then I read that I needed a 2:1 to qualify for the scheme and my heart sunk. It’s not that I’m not smart enough to get a 2:1 but I didn’t exactly strive to achieve it. Didn’t think I needed it. Over the past three years I have adopted a rather optional approach to lectures and seminars, which isn’t in keeping with the spirit of independent motivation needed to succeed in higher education. By the time I realised that a 2:1 was much more preferable it was too late and I was writing numbers in full words to extend my dissertation’s word count from 7400 to seven thousand nine-hundred and ninety-four.
The upshot is I lost the Singapore job. There will be no gender-based confusion for me now unless I watch the women’s wrestling at the Olympics this summer. I’m looking with a hint of desperation at other foreign jobs, not for any particular desire to leave Britain but so that I experience a different culture. If I can find a country where you can get served within four years at the Post Office, even better. Perhaps more gutting is the thoughts of others, perhaps thinking of me as a failure, when my personal assessment couldn’t be harsher. I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t keep the job quiet and now I’m paying the price (although admittedly it would be impossible to keep such a thing schtum – I can hardly turn up at work and say “Sorry boss, I’m off to Singapore tomorrow, all the best”).
But this is my life and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be made to feel inadequate by a bunch of talking heads. I suppose it’s the first time I have ever really experienced significant failure outside the dating arena, so it comes as a bit of a shock. But I use writing as therapy, so hopefully putting these thoughts to paper will save me a trip to a psychologist in my mid-thirties when I’m still earning the minimum wage, tracing back my upbringing and bursting into tears when I remember the day I collected my degree results and they consigned me to a life of poverty. Besides, writing is much, much cheaper.
I’ve even been researching jobs in places like Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t allowed to vote, drive or walk unaccompanied without a male companion. I’m not sure if my conscience could accept this state of affairs but if I’m ever employed by the oil-rich nation, I would have to keep my opinions to myself as the Saudi rulers make Europe’s far right extremists look as liberal as a gay pride march. One leading Saudi politician recently said women will be allowed to drive only when society is “ready”, presumably after watching educational Western programmes like Top Gear or Formula One races, where women in the driving seat are plentiful. In other words, the principles I have been quietly cultivating for twenty years shall be eviscerated in favour of £30k a year tax free and extremely generous terms.
Oh the capitalist stooge I have become.