At 6pm today, my university’s IT department will cut off my computer access. Yes, I won’t be teaching, at least for the coming semester. I went from full-time to part-time teaching last year, demoting myself from Associate Professor of Practice to Adjunct Professor. I am now a plain Ms. I quit to spend more time with my mother.
I was terribly chuffed at the “professor’’ tag because I was so simply NOT one. As a practitioner, I imparted more skills than theory to undergraduates and was more intent on driving some uncommon common sense into their examination-oriented brains, than formulating frameworks and pointing out paradigm shifts.
So 2022 will definitely be a NEW year for me, one without the routine of preparing for work or going to work at a certain hour or day. People say I should now take it easy and smell the roses but I admit to feeling a certain amount of trepidation. I have been working all my life, and the prospect of being “free-ish’’ fills me with dread. Those who know me will say that I will have more time to read, do Lego, paint or simply write columns like this. My question, however, is whether this will be “useful’’ to me or anyone. I don’t like the idea of fading out, like a dying battery. Or having to dip into my savings.
I put out a call on my FB for ad hoc work a month ago and was delighted at the variety of responses I got. Without naming names, individuals asked me to write an official letter or look over their copy for a paper; companies asked if I would cast an eye over a business proposal, write blurbs for their website or conduct media training classes for staff. I got enquiries from charities and government agencies. (I have since been told that I undersold myself and I’m “spoiling’’ the market.)
When I was asked to write for my social media platforms, I was flummoxed. I have never been “sponsored’’ and I wanted to gauge reactions first because I’m sure not many will identify my work with topics that aren’t “newsy’’. But it seems that social media people are quite used to reading paid articles. A company paid me to write about osteoporosis. It was fun doing research – and I really won’t mind doing more so long as sponsors don’t require an expert opinion from me. Hint. Hint.
I’d like to think that being free has opened up more possibilities for me – and others – to use my skills in different ways. One of the top skills I’ve acquired over the past decades is the ability to cut to the chase and to detect “bullshit’’. I can see information gaps and contorted logic from a mile off. I am sure there are technical names for such skills like creative or analytical thinking but I tell you hand on heart, you lose them if you don’t use them. Writing skills are secondary to the ability to think.
What will 2022 throw at me? One worry of my life, past, present and for the future, has always been staving off boredom. I need diversification, new projects and to derive a different meaning from every single day.
In 2021, I wrote a book. I wasn’t happy at first. I am a fast writer and the idea of being weighed down by book research over many months is not my idea of fun. Not for Circulation – the George E Bogaars story – meant rounds of research as well as reporting but it turned out to be a fruitful and enjoyable experience delving into past records and speaking to pioneers.
I think I would still balk at being asked to write a book – unless it’s an idea I’ve dreamt up, like GE2020: Fair or Foul. Many people have asked for a recounting of my experiences as a journalist in Singapore. I don’t want to do this but I am thinking of marrying some personal anecdotes with a “how-to’’ on journalistic practices. It’s something that’s at the back of my mind which I intend to bring further upfront in 2022.
Others proffer the idea of starting a news portal again, like the old Breakfast Network or The Middle Ground. But no. I think people under-estimate the kind of energy and work that goes into running a professional site which is self-sustaining. I am decidedly past that stage/age. It doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t pull what I already do on social media onto a new platform and even make some money out of it. I’d probably enjoy going one-level up, providing daily takes on the news, writing unfunny stuff funnily and engaging in some online tutorials about writing short and sweet. I might even, ahem, do video and podcasts.
That’s the wonder of going online which I found after leaving the print and hard copy industry in 2012. There’s the flexibility of writing style and the variety of presentation. I think I might just have an edge. Too many people exploit technology to present content, but aren’t too fussed about the content itself. I am, however, so “old school’’ about content that I have often been accused of being “picky’’. This accounts for my many (or almost daily) #berthablowsup when I see professional content that I don’t think makes the grade. So maybe a mix of online commentary, writing and training for free or a fee?
Why not teach journalism somewhere then?
Truth to tell, there is little demand. Fewer and fewer young people want to join the profession, unless it’s because there’s a scholarship somewhere for them. There are also few openings for them in the job market, what with the transformation of Singapore Press Holdings publications into a media trust. (Before you ask, I did ask if it needed trainers but was told it had enough.)
I tend to think that as a career choice, however, public relations would be a better option than journalism. PR people seem to be doing more and more of the jobs that journalists should do, except that they write with their clients’ interest in mind. (Not that I like the transformation).
Of course, there is always travel, charity work and new hobbies. I can use my SkillsFuture credits as well, and engage in late life-long learning (!).
But I think I will stick to doing what I know how to do – except that I will try and find more ways to do it. That will be 2022 for me. I think.
I wish everyone a very good 2022 ahead!