I was recently informed that I will graduate on the 30th of June. That’s the theory anyway, with a few little exams and project deadlines before it becomes a reality. Beyond lies July and the rest of my life, a great yawning chasm of unknown. The ‘what are you planning to do with your life?’ questions started long ago, soon after the ‘what are you going to study at university?’ questions were answered. The difference now is that not just grandparents have careers on the brain, but every single person I talk to.
I’m approaching the end of a four year course, but many of my friends graduated last year and are already out, making their mark. Whether that mark is earning £80k as a stock broker in the City, or fashioning a particularly fine arse-print in front of a TV somewhere, they are no longer students but part of the ‘real world’. Soon I must follow. How will I begin to stamp my presence upon the planet? How can I be sure that in centuries to come mankind will still speak of me in fear or reverence? (I’m not fussed which.)
We all have goals in life, however ill-defined, some of which we meet and some we must eventually relinquish in favour of other targets. I didn’t emerge from the womb with ready formed intent to become a physicist (let’s face it, that would have been twisted), and it took time for my thoughts to meander in such a direction. Legend has the young Fyse transfixed by a bridge whilst out one day, and asking who was responsible for such a wondrous creation. Thus when friends possessed fervent ambition to be a fireman or truck driver, I proudly stated my aim to become a civil engineer. This slowly warped into ‘physicist’, but the central interest in the workings of the world remained.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at university, occasionally even finding my subject rewarding, but I have been immeasurably lazy and my academic record is far from spectacular. I long ago accepted I would never set the world of physics alight, but possibly harder is that I now don’t even want to. Physics with a wow factor brought me to the subject, all black holes and quarks, but it is easy to become snagged by more obscure fields. Far from the particle accelerators and string theories of fundamental physics, I now find myself engrossed in the calling mechanism of the bullfrog, specifically how it produces very low frequencies in a small body. And how such work is related to speech recognition? Now that’s fascinating. Whatever I end up doing next year, it will not be what I envisaged ten years ago. Hell, probably not even a month ago.
Few and far between are people for whom plans remain set in stone, whose lives roll out in front of them as if predetermined. We all face harsh realities, and talking careers with a history finalist friend the other evening, he hit suddenly upon one of life’s great undeniables. The common bond that underpins the brotherhood of man, nearly all of us must face it at some point, coping in our own manner. Brow knitted with consternation, he sighed as if acknowledging some terrible reality. “D’you know”, he said. “I think it’s time to finally accept the truth. I am never going to be a professional footballer.”
Amen, brother. Amen.