Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A personal interlude

I worked for a long time at a private School. I was always flattered when colleagues said “You ought to teach”, but I was happily in a groove where the technology I managed dominated my sense of identity. I was happy to pour myself into work where the satisfaction I gained was from enabling others to teach well. I got a real thrill when I saw people using technology to educate better, but there was always something else lurking at the back of my mind.

You see, I was always something of a "Philosopher-IT Manager", and friends became used to a lecture in politics as I fixed their email, or a spirited debate on the interface between Science and Religion while I fixed a printer (especially when I was cruising the Science faculty), or perhaps a bon-mot from my slightly warped sense of humour. If you passed my cramped but familiar office you may have heard me quoting Carl Sagan as likely as Augustine, while my walls were a shrine to photos of my beloved wife and son, salted with dog-eared sheets with quotes by Teddy Roosevelt, XKCD cartoons and a huge, byzantine map I had made of our burgeoning network. For those who looked closely, the map included several easter eggs, like a Where's Wally figure, or the USS Enterprise tucked into a corner. Yes, I was chronically overworked and under-resourced, but for the most part, I felt appreciated and the time, ten years, just kind of blissfully slipped by. It was the ideal life. I was blessed beyond measure. I was paid what my skills deserved. Until nearly the end, I loved what I did. I was among friends, and I had any number of outside interests, like my local dramatic society The Richmond Players, a place of respect in local politics, welded-on friends, and material and spiritual richness in my life.

I could have joyfully seen my days out doing that, regarding my service as worthy. But I had a growing conviction, starting a few years ago, when I realised that my real passions lay with ideas. The prospect of a life where debating bigger questions was not just an amusing adjunct to work or evening avocation seemed like an impossible dream. Imagine being paid to think and argue! Or teach! Colleagues, mistaking my intentions said, "Oh, you'd make a great computing teacher." Frankly, the idea of teaching computing now makes my skin crawl. I'm still a tech-fanboy (or it's sub-specie, the Apple fanboy), but I'm done with that. Something else has taken a hold of me. Exactly what direction I'm being led in isn't clear yet, but I am now enjoying the journey again. I'm back at University, and my recurring thought is “I should have done this years ago”.

I won't pretend that the decision came easily. This year has been the most challenging of my life, but I'm amazed at the serendipity of life. That security of circumstance which I feared most to lose was precisely what held me back. Anyway, I can’t abide self-pity. You get back up, shake the dust off, and you get on with things. The best is yet to come!

I've been into my new degree for a couple of months now, long enough for some distinct impressions to crystallise. Studying History, Politics and Philosophy has plunged me right into the debates that interest me most. Despite initially chafing at the absence of choice in the first year, doing subjects regarded as "foundational" like Media and Visual culture, or Australian History, I’m hugely enjoying having my beliefs subjected to the need for analysis, emendation and proof. When I get time, I’ll share some vignettes with you.

Welcome to the University of Nathan.


Monkeytree said...

Hey Nathan,

All the best with the new ventures. I look forward to your diverse philosophising!


rajane said...

This was an interesting read Nath. It's also prompted me to read back over some of your old material, and I've enjoyed a pleasant hour when I should, no doubt, be undertaking varous domestic chores! I'm so glad you're pursuing a study/career path of "ideas". It's clear that you understand this is what Education is about (or SHOULD be), and I find this refreshing and challenging. I look forward to more reading here. Rachael