My friend, Grace, got in touch recently with news that her professional life is running in tandem with mine:
Isn’t it awful that two such well qualified, nay, dare I say, over-qualified women like us, are languishing to such an extreme in the Land of Rejection? Aren’t you tired of ‘eating gopher’?
Allow me to explain Grace’s strange turn of phrase.
There is a moment in the film “O, Brother Where Art Thou?” starring gorgeous George Clooney, where the three main protagonists are hiding out in the woods. They lack food and shelter.
The more resourceful member of the team goes foraging for food, and comes back with a few small gophers he has found and killed. He prepares a meager meal over the campfire, turns to George Clooney and offers him “a bit of gopher”.
Clooney’s response is absolutely hilarious! He says: “No, I thank you, but I’ll pass. Whilst I’m sure that gopher has been well-prepared, I do believe it will only serve to frustrate my appetite, rather than fully relieving it.”
From this, my delightful friend Grace has created a shorthand code: “eating gopher” - pursuing tasks that do not truly satisfy; or, getting by with whatever happens to be available.
As always, Grace’s missive has been perfectly timed to illustrate our ongoing synchronicity. We’d both received our latest round of rejection letters. Mine came yesterday from a local college turning me down for a part-time, temporary (2 months) post as a Drama Lecturer. Grace’s was even more of a blow, rejected for a post as a temporary, part-time, research fellow/administrator for a Senior Researcher in her field.
“How on earth could they turn me down?” Grace lamented. “I mean, the guy conducting the research has listed one of my books in his bibliography! Obviously, I have something to offer the project.”
And of course, she’s right. She has a great deal to offer. “Why am I not good enough to sharpen this guy’s pencils?” she continued. I could hear her tears through her email. This warranted a phone call.
“Gracie,” I soothed, “don’t give up! Things will get better.” I heard myself saying, not entirely believing my own words. Like me, Gracie has made a major life and career change in favour of following her heart. Also like me, she realizes that she has much in her life for which to be very, very thankful. It is tricky though, after spending decades defining oneself by one’s career to sudden lose that, and attempt to rebuild said career in a different country.
“These things take time,” I said, trying to sound wise. “The world has changed, and as such, we need to change, too. What I think is required is a change in approach and perspective. We have to stop playing by the old rules,” I said. Some call it, rather tiresomely, “thinking outside the box.”
One way that I have tried to think differently about work is to think about teaching in a more broad and expansive way. And, I was recently rewarded for my efforts. I have been offered a post as Leader with a top British holiday firm, HF Holidays.
After a rigourous (I kid you not!) assessment weekend, I was selected to lead on their Shakespeare, Theatre and Literary holidays! I’m absolutely thrilled. And today, like a gift from the gods, my official HF Holidays Leader’s fleece has just arrived!
So, I shall be doing what I love, just in a new and exciting way. A darn sight better than sharpening pencils, and certainly better than eating gopher!