It has often seemed to me like I was born late – as sense of almost missing the bus, or never finding the bus stop – has added a feeling of urgency to my life. This led me to being a ‘late’ Early Career Researcher. I only got my PhD done when I was fifty and now I am about to turn sixty I can see how the various elements of my curiosity lead me to where I am today. I got off to a good start doing an undergraduate degree in history with Honours but then I swerved off course and pursued a range of creative interests in music and education. It would be lazy of me to say I research life because I was always a reader and gathered a wide range of theory, explored a range of diverse traditions in cultures from various angles and applied many of these insights in my teaching.
What I discovered is that I love telling stories that enable, and that what appears as reality is in fact only an accepted narrative. There are rules of course, but rules are there for a reason – they bring coherence to the world so we can get things done; yet they also invite the subversive in us. My teaching kids in alternative environments taught me this and also allowed me to tell great stories. Interestingly this lead me back to history and thinking about how we all work in time in different ways. Time and then the future became concerns of mine.
Yes but what does this mean in terms of my research? I discovered that the future was a legitimate field of research. Well, it aspired to legitimacy and I could see how much of what concerned futurists had been core business for me with my work with children. The imagination and the creative elements of culture had always fuelled my teaching; the role that experimentation and dreaming play in thinking and acting in in the world; the embodied work done in workshops and the strategies to disrupt patterns and assumption that inhibited the realising of potential all fitted in this mix. Along with an attention to detail and a kind of pragmatism that only sitting in a class with kids for 20 years can deliver.
So I entered academia as a futurist and all my colleagues wondered what on earth that meant. It was great being a Post-doc because I could actually demonstrate how Futures Thinking was relevant to issues. I was looking at climate change impacts on the South East region of Queensland. We did lots of consulting and then my history background kicked in. It was the bookend to a great story in which we developed historical scenarios and used these to stimulate conversations about the future. Who would have guessed? This lead me into the history faculty at my university and then to a decade of teaching. The PhD students came and went and we wrestled with the academic machine and institutional knots that seem to come along to try us. But the learning was good and I got to teach overseas in Taiwan, Singapore and India as well as do short stints in Sweden, the Philippines and the US.
The key thread through all this was my writing. I grew up in a creative household of painters and took music and writing as my muses. Ultimately writing won out and I have come to appreciate how years of writing in newsletters for parents at schools, blogs and journals, short papers for colleagues and ultimately papers for journals, chapters for books have all been part of facilitating my research journey. My writing is what connected me with others all over the world; it is also what cemented my identity as a researcher who communicates via face-to-face interactions and through the written word. For me even writing poetry is a form of research in which I explore theory through what I do – it enables me to explore things in the cultural space and challenge the preconceptions about what research is.
Theory and Distance dwell
amongst the thrown-ness of it all.
Embodied scholarship and
personal resistance work this space;
The churning Chaosmos.
My body wears it all!
Poesis and poetry, declarative in nature
demand a response:
‘We will rise up!’ She declares and I respond:
‘Again and Again!’
This is a body wisdom calling!
My heart throws itself against my ribs
mixing eros and critique, blood and light!
And what is this path?
A challenge to conditioning;
A doing differently;
A patterning of new lacuna;
A dancing of community back into the flatlands.
My Voice sings
my body’s ability to act
as an intimate conduit of Transformation.
My voice an I-We-Us-Them-It harmonic
A singing bowl for the Chaosmos and the
skin that seals us all in.
That is, until we realise our perfect connection to
A grace of Greater Things!
No longer an Early Career Researcher, I still feel like I am running late, about to miss some imagined bus. Maybe that is part of the human condition? Or maybe it’s just me?