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How can one ‘be’ when there is nothing ‘to do’?

Only yesterday it was reported that the level of unemployment in the UK has continued to grow. This affects disproportionately young people. This is a guest post by Ewan; he wants to be a teacher at a time when funding for education is declining in real terms and teachers are encouraged to take severance. This is how he feels!

I am a 20-something (nearing 30, but shh!) and long-term unemployed. It’s not fun. Not fun at all. When you’ve been unemployed for so long, it really gets to you. Firstly, because the frustration of not being able to progress and get on with your life. And secondly, you begin to learn to accept it in a way. Then you don’t do anything about it, which is what I have done for some time.

Having a career, or even a job, gives us a sense of identity. When we meet new people one of the first things we ask one another is “What do you do?” It makes us who we are, and that question always gets me. It’s like I hear it coming every time I meet someone new, and I dread it in a way. I have a T-shirt that says “To be is to do.” – Socrates; “To do is to be.” – Sartre; “Do Be Do Be Do.” – Sinatra.

I think it’s because I do not ‘do’, I feel as though I have no identity or a sense of ‘being’. Of course there are other aspects that make us what and who we are but ‘work’ and knowing that you are making a contribution to society that enables you to live, cannot be under-valued.

All I want to do is teach at primary school level, helping young children to learn and bring out the sunshine within them. But winding back a few years, I failed my final exams in English Literature because of emotional problems. I couldn’t focus on studying, and so I tripped at the last hurdle. Since then I’ve been trying my hand at becoming a Teaching Assistant. I’ve completed a Teaching Assistant course and I’ve also completed a Mentoring Training course, which includes a certificate from the NHS on Mental Health. I have done work experience in schools and it’s looking like I’ll have to do some more. But will I just continually be volunteering? How long will this last for? I suppose the only thing to do is keep ‘doing’.

I’ve never been a very confident out-going person and I’m very introverted. It’s strange, because I know that I’m great with people. I’m friendly, charming (naturally!), I don’t speak over people and I listen. But ‘meeting a new person’ is always a daunting task for me. The only things I’m not introverted about are social networking sites such as Facebook, probably because it allows me to break down the fear of face-to-face situations.

Then there’s the feeling as though I’m a burden on my parents. I am in fact. There’s no denying that. I don’t want to be but it’s so difficult for someone who is as introverted, low in confidence, and lacking ‘work’ identity as I am to push on. It feels like a daily struggle and for too many days I’ve never found the strength to overcome it.

I don’t blame myself completely. The recession in the UK and the continuously raising unemployment are things I can’t do anything about; these affect all of us. So it would be unfair to say that it’s entirely my own doing. At the same time, that’s not an excuse to just give up. I know that.

What I must do is to start ‘doing’, irrespective of ‘work identity’. If I need to volunteer in schools again, then so be it. I need to pluck up the courage to give my old university a phone call and ask them how (or if) I can finish my degree. These are tasks I need to set myself. I can write and moan about it all day long, but tomorrow is another day.

I think Sartre and Socrates are both right. It goes hand-in-hand. “To be is to do.” – Socrates and “To do is to be.” – Sartre. My life at present is Sinatra’s “Do Be Do Be Do!” And I will change this!

23 thoughts on “How can one ‘be’ when there is nothing ‘to do’?”

  1. Ewan, you shine brightly in that post. It must be hard to feel you cannot get to where you want to be. I just have one suggestion about your degree. Have you looked at the Open University? They will accept your previous studying to give you credits and you might feel more comfortable with the online situation rather than physically going into classes.

    Incidentally, you write really well – is there an outlet there?

    As for the cuts in education spending – words fail me! It’s so short sighted.

    • Thank you. Yes, I have heard about something like the before. I have called my old university since writing this post. They said that I’d have to fill in an application form, and then an academic will rule on whether I’d be allow to start part-time in September. Sounds like too much red tape and it would mean that I’ve to commute as I don’t live there anymore. An Open University though, sounds like a better deal. It’s good to have more options open though.

      And much appreciated on my literacy qualities! I plan to write further posts in the future. Watch this space.

  2. I totally understand where you coming from, I’m the exact same way but have gotten better 🙂 It’s better to take action than not at all because you’ll never know where you might end up

  3. Thank you, Aaron. It’s good to know that there’s people who have been there, done it, and got the t-shirt. And I like t-shirts.

  4. Being an introvert I can understand why this must be difficult for you. I think it’s important to never lose sight of doing what you love, if you do that you will get where you are going be it the long way or the short way.

    • Thanks Andrea. It seems to be the long way so far. But maybe that’s because for some time I hadn’t really had a sight of doing what I love.

  5. At the same time I really think it is so cool to say that you are a full time blogger. If you can maintain a living doing blogging full time, you are in a great shape. Although it may not be as good as having a job and a boss…

  6. I just wanted to say how much your post moved me tonight, it reminds all of us that not everyone is getting where they want to be in life, and it’s a rotten situation to be in. I feel so sad for young guys like you who have so much to offer, but can’t find a way in to a job. I would agree with the person who says try Open University, or even distance learning through another college/ uni.
    Your writing is very readable so maybe you have hidden talent you can exploit and help relieve the feelings of hopelessness, I think creativity is so important, finding a way to express yourself is good. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    • Thank you, Helen. Yes, I would say that I’m good at writing, if I may write so myself. I’m going to be looking at Open University next week.

    • Thanks a lot, Paul. I think the one thing I look forward to most about becoming a teacher is the use of the Almighty Red Marker Pen! Although it would be nice to not have to use it.

  7. Thanks for the response to this post, guys, and for being so encouraging: Ewan is a talented young man who has been doing all possible to keep his motivation in the face of many pressures. Your kind, wise words of advice will help him follow his dream.

  8. Ewan hon, a point to ponder in the whole “nature v nurture” debate – are introverts born or created…………….. clue ……………. did you ever meet a “shy baby?”, would an infant that didn’t “speak up” and ask for milk ever survive?

    So play along with me and consider that being more extroverted “could” be and acquired skill – if that is the case, how could YOU acquire the skills? For my money you can’t beat “Toastmasters” – I’m certain there is one local to you.

    I learned my “chat” by waiting tables and working in bars, this was never going to be my career choice, but it was a way of learning the skills needed and getting paid for it too. In fact one of my best jobs came after I served a table and one of the guys was the Production manager for two huge Rock Bands.

    So could you look “sideways” and find your missing skill set and how to fill them in a paid capacity too, until the plan of finishing your degree and landing your dream job comes to fruition.

    Nothing beats being busy

    • Extremely intriguing, Elaine. I don’t know what to find more intriguing; being a ‘learned’ introvert or what the two Rock bands and who the Production managers were! Very good points.

      Your response about babies not being shy would make sense evolutionary-wise. I think it could very well be a learned behaviour.

  9. I have that same problem. I have so many people that connect and relate to me that I find I can be an introvert to the point of losing potential friends or even business. I just started a few months ago reaching out to more and more people and a lot of great things have happened both friendship wise and business.


    • Jai,

      Yes, that does seem to be the trend. I’m beginning to do the same now. I hope things get better for you. If a method works, then apply that method.


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