In his very readable work The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson gives a surprising candidate for the worlds most addictive thing; “the monthly wage.”
Ferguson’s explanation is set in the context of entrepreneurship versus the comfort and certainty of a regular income. He explains that the reason relatively few chase success as go-it alone pioneers, is because many don’t want to risk giving up the security that a monthly pay packet brings.
Those who do break the habit are more often chasing greater financial rewards or are pushed on by a reckless self-zeal in realising success long dreamt of, in an occupation of choice.
As one of the more mature students on my course I am perhaps entitled to include myself in this latter category. This I do having given up the monthly wage drug to pursue a postgraduate qualification in journalism.
Four years after completing my higher education studies with an MA in History, I have decided to return to the realm of those learning as opposed to earning. It has not been a spontaneous decision but one planned out over several years. Only two weeks in however the anxiety and withdrawal symptoms are very real.
To go from four years of a steadily increasing bank balance to one that is rapidly dwindling in the space of a few weeks with more pain to come, is a disconcerting experience.
To further exacerbate the tension the increasingly desperate state of a journalism industry has already been fired home by several prominent figures within the department and more widely by those working within the industry itself.
This is not a new phenomenon however and dwindling revenues have been a feature of journalism for several decades, better explained by those more experienced. At 26 and after four years in the “real world” of work and money going back to the beginning is not the easiest task.
The financial hit is only part of the bigger psychological readjustment that has to be made. The issue here is that worldly experience which is priceless in almost all other situations can be a hindrance on vocational courses such as journalism although not always.
Experience for me has brought about a greater awareness of personal space, social etiquettes and a deeper understanding of issues that make in my own mind at least a news piece rather shallow and devoid of necessary context.
Unfortunately the existence of a reporter is justified by having to break some of these noble barriers to get the story however mundane. More importantly to get it fast. Experience also dampens the reckless energy that allows for the digging of information with little regard for ethical pitfalls however slight they maybe.
My consolation comes in knowing that by leaving the world of certainty for a less straight forward path of adventures and pitfalls aplenty, I have demonstrated to myself at least that I also possess a modicum of that reckless streak.
The challenge for me and many a mature student on vocational courses is to find it sooner rather than later.