My earliest answer to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up” was “nurse”. Looking back, this was clearly ridiculous – I had no interest in medicine and didn’t have a particularly caring personality. Today, I am quite squeamish and I’m not good with blood – so much so that my younger brother used to find it extremely amusing to watch the colour drain from my face as he even said the word. I think probably my answer at the age of six or so was mostly based on the fact that it was a job I could name.
By the age of eight I was an avid reader, and I had decided I wanted to be an author. I filled notebooks with pages of notes, dialogues, sketches of characters, and maps of settings. But when I sat down to write, my interest seemed to peter out before beginning and middle had found an end. Maybe, not a novelist, then, I decided.
At fifteen, I set my sights on journalism. This was writing – something I still loved – but somehow more practical, and news articles had a far less daunting wordcount than a book! I spent a week’s work experience at the offices of the local paper. I got to visit the magistrate’s court, attend the birthday party of an old lady who had reached some significant milestone of age, ask local people how they were enjoying the summer weather, and write copy encouraging people to adopt rescue kittens from an animal shelter. Alas, while it was satisfying to see my name on the byline, the office was sweltering thanks to the broken air-conditioning and I couldn’t help feeling that this kind of journalism was rather less glamorous, and rather more nosy, than I had been hoping for.
Maybe a career in writing wasn’t for me – maybe I should read what others wrote? As I left home at eighteen to study English at university, I assumed I would end up somewhere in the publishing industry, or a teacher, but two years later, I was doubting again. Volunteering in a school showed me that I didn’t want to spend my workday talking to children, but publishing seemed too corporate, too cut-throat and competitive for me. Coursemates had sought out experience and internships in the industry, and been part of student publications. Meanwhile, I’d been involved with the uni dance society, choreographing and teaching ballet routines for showcases. I loved my degree, but I began to wonder if the hours I spent in rehearsal were an indicator of where my true calling lay – should I take a radical step and train to teach dance?
The short answer was no. Reaching the required standard was going to involve more hours of exercise than sounded pleasant. Something else, then! Fortunately, in my third year of university, I realised how much I enjoyed research. Reading new ideas and assembling what I learned in new ways was both analytical and creative, and my dissertation (on the subject of the circus in 21st-century novels) excited me enough to hold my attention even late in the evening. On the basis of this and a summer study trip abroad, I applied and was accepted for an MA overseas, thereby allowing me to continue learning and developing research skills, and putting off further career decisions for another two years.
How does this long explanation introduce Not Just The Circus? Well, I hope it gives an insight into my state of mind and stage of life, and some of my passions. I love learning, reading, writing and dancing, and I’m interested in being part of the world. I don’t know what my future looks like – but I’m excited to find out!