Disclaimer: Self-introspection is magic. But abundance or scarcity may lead to self-loathing or what we call a ‘neutral gear at life.’ Here are some of my lessons from both of the extremes.
I’m one of those people who wish they were allowed a real-life background score for the more important, happy and sad things in life. The background score works as a catalyst, and you swoosh out and back in your life, but now with a perspective from the outside- seeing yourself walk in happy strides, with a feeling that the world is there just for you to see, feel and experience. I believe in those rare moments when you realise yourself to be in absolute awe of yourself, you should get a chance to feel like the main character of the story.
The last time that happened to me was the fifth of May, coming back from my ‘placement day’. I stepped out of 100 Willowbrae Avenue and I could see the ocean meet the sky right in the middle of my world. I stopped walking and exerted a long, deep breath. The breath declared an understanding, an acknowledgement. The substance, context and intensity of the breath is what this writing is about.
Choosing to Choose is Hard
It was semester two, the one that involved getting a placement for credits. The moment I gained an understanding that I had to put myself out there and declare the choices I have made in my professional life, I flew from the idea for months. I knew the reason behind the fleeing was not insecurity. I had a decent amount and quality of choices to showcase in my resume. It was rather, the overwhelming amount of roads that I could take from there that was daunting. I was uncertain if I could swap lanes or go back and change my direction altogether.
What helped me was thinking about what I thought I wanted then, with no thoughts about how it would or could translate into the future. Back home, in India, I always felt undone thinking about working at this small yet fierce publishing house that was beautifully making a beautiful amount of difference in putting a feminist perspective forward. I wanted that. I found the ideology here in Scotland Street Press. But manifesting it also channelised the feeling of unpreparedness. It took me a while to count the number of new things and skills I had gained since being a publishing student at Edinburgh Napier. For instance, I had a stronger social media presence that I didn’t even know I made, doing the smaller tasks and class activities. I had done tiny but many new things as a part of monumental projects that I undertook in my course.
My take: Nothing is absolute and keep in mind how the discourses and narratives are intertwined. You will never do just one thing in publishing.
Discovering skills I didn’t know I had
Still looking at the skyline and the ocean separated by an indefinite boundary, a sudden wave of awe washed over me. For I never thought I would deal with publishing rights or marketing or be a person of contact instituting relationships between publishing houses. I remember my teachers telling me, though, that most students come with a perspective and leave with another. And I would always do a quick aptitude check in my head for other departments and think ‘not me though’. And I stood there, realising I had just come out from a day of researching publishing houses in India, devising a foolproof plan to connect with the one house we wanted and initiating a working list of organisations in Scotland for our book promotion!
My take: “I know! All I can think about is Avril’s voice saying, ‘Be open to possibilities.’”
Stating my needs when I didn’t know of any
Being one of those people who doesn’t like to take space didn’t help when I promised myself to be open to newer things. I didn’t know how to define the type or amount of work I could do for my placement, or present a timeline for the days I would be working. It helped to know that the discussion could be immensely flexible and considerate, from both sides, and that my placement was not wholly bound by it. To calm the whole ‘what if I would want to do something more/different?’ thinking pattern, the thought of ‘you can always do more and extra outside of your placement duration’ helped.
My take: Start where you are, with what you have and what you know. It is like the domino effect. Just choose to address one and the rest of them will follow to present themselves.
Embracing where I am
As a student in Edinburgh with a home 4,154 miles away in India, I never felt homesick (except for the time I actually got sick). As a fledgling amid the Scottish, I remember pausing myself to hear Dave’s ‘cheery’ goodbyes at the end of our InDesign classes. And to be associated with Scotland Street Press and reading manuscripts with Scottish writing is exciting! I am sure I seem like a wee girl in two ponytails saying ‘whoa!’ looking at the rain to the natives here. But I have realised that I may have a higher sensitivity to spot ‘all things Scot’ in comparison. And this tempts me to count it as a skill and use it to introduce Scottish ways to newer places.
My take: The only way to ensure that your placement is where you are ‘meant to be’ is to think and understand the opportunity in its singularity and embrace it.