Today is the first day of my postgraduate life. Only, because the bus systems in Canberra are so messed up, I have decided to listen to the lecture recordings and go to the online tutorials, so today doesn’t feel all that momentous. I’m a little disappointed, to tell you the truth. I was so looking forward to meeting some new people. I mean, I hate the awkwardness of the first day of, well, anything. But then you meet someone who is just as awkward, or who loves your Doctor Who shirt, or is reading the same book as you and it’s like “hey there, shall we face the awkwardness together?”. I met my best uni friends in situations rife with newbie floundering. So, I was kinda hoping to be able to go through that again.
Then again, there’s something to be said for the whole online support thing. Especially since you can go to class in your pyjamas. Plus, no ridiculous public transport prices!
This whole thing reminds me of why I moved to Canberra to study the Graduate Diploma in Psychological Science in the first place. Well, this, and the lovely people over at Daily Prompt.
My fantasy is to become a writer. Specifically, a novelist. I mean, I would love to be able to write poetry or scripts, but novels are my passion. So I studied the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Creative and Professional Writing) in the hope to, not only become a better creative writer, but also to learn some professional skills that would help me into a writing career. Because, let’s face it, writers can very rarely live off of their royalties.
I went into the BFA with the dream of becoming a music journalist. You know, working for Rolling Stone, RockSound, AP, or Kerrang!. They were my ideal jobs. Interviewing my favourite musicians, going to gigs, and writing about it all? It sounded like the Holy Grail of Jobs.
I knew I’d made a mistake from my first class. Journalists aren’t actually very creative. They can’t create tension, build character, or play with readers’ emotions. All they can do it give their readers the facts. In the most boring way possible. We were told, time and again, that the most important information needed to be in the first paragraph (which is actually the first sentence; sentences = paragraphs in journalism, how’s that for messed up). There was no skilful deploying of information. No creating mystery or intrigue. Just “this is what happened to who at this time in this place”. Boring.
When I started studying journalism in my second year, a truly horrible story broke all across the Brisbane news. A woman had been murdered by her husband so he wouldn’t have to give her money when they divorced. Because he was cheating on her. I really, really can’t understand humanity sometimes.
So the woman was dead and her husband was going to prison. And their two little girls were surrounded by the story day in and day out. I can’t even imagine what those girls would have gone through at school. Not only that, but those poor girls have to live with this their whole lives and … it just breaks my heart.
Right around the time that this story broke, my Newswriting class learnt about “death knocks”. A “death knock” is when a journalist goes to the surviving members of a family after there’s been a particularly horrible (read: newsworthy) death, and asks for the story. In my mind, if the family wanted the story out there, they would have gone to the papers themselves. But no, journalists go and try to coerce the story out of these grieving relatives. I don’t care how politely and sympathetically the journalist might try to be, they are still asking for a story that will cause the family nothing but pain. Just to sell a few newspapers.
I left that class with a whole new perspective on my future career. All I could think about was that if I were to ask a family those probing questions about their dearly departed loved one/s, it would be to help them. To help them move on and cope with their grief. Not to help my editor reach his sales quota or whatever.
The next week I was in the career counsellor’s office and was asking how I could go about becoming a psychologist.
There are so many branches of psychology that it is mind-boggling. I enrolled in psychology in the hopes of helping people suffering from mental illness, or helping dysfunctional families get back on track. Both of these specialities spoke to me on a very personal level. I could go into either career and feel like I would be helping make the world a little brighter for someone.
Then, during one of the final lectures of my BFA, a lecturer spoke of Creative Writing as Therapy. You’ve all heard of Music Therapy and Art Therapy, right? So why can’t we use Creative Writing as an outlet for people who may not be able to verbalise what they’re feeling? For those who may not be very good with a piano or a paintbrush?
I tried to find internships or programs that I could work for once I’d graduated, but Australia is a little behind the times when it comes to Creative Writing as Therapy and all I could find was a research paper written by that final lecturer of mine. So I widened my search and came across an institute that specialises in writing as therapy.
For those of you who are familiar with my blog, or even know me personally, you will know that the possibility of working in London is a dream come true for me. I could work as a family or mental health shrink helping people put their experiences down on paper in London. Dream. Come. True.
There’s just one other possibility. Something that started during my history classes in high school. I hated the way that the Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home. They were forced to fight in a war that we shouldn’t have been fighting in the first place. There were so many protests to pull our troops out that you would think that, when they all finally came home there would be celebrations. But no. Our troops were shunned. Condemned for actions they had no control over and forced to deal with the effects of war by themselves. It wasn’t until years later that the Vietnam War was even acknowledged.
So what if I could help returned soldiers? Help them cope with the transition between war and peace? Maybe try to make up for the despicable behaviour of previous generations? That would be incredible.
I mentioned this in passing to my dad and step-mum one night after dinner. They took to the subject like ducks to water. There’s a charity here in Australia called Soldier On, founded to help physically and psychologically wounded returned soldiers. Working for Soldier On would be amazing. I could introduce the idea of Creative Writing as Therapy for those soldiers who don’t really want to talk about their experiences. Especially with someone who has never gone through what they went through.
So then I thought about the One Year Roles offered by the Australian Army. What if, after I graduate as a fully-qualified psychologist, I go into the army for a year and become familiar with the military way of life? I could combine that with both of my degrees and hopefully become someone who could really help the brave men and women who served our country.
It’s a good thing I have at least three years before I have to make my decision.