Now is the autumn of our discontent

It’s been a long summer around here, but it’s now over. For the first time in 5 years, I managed to take some vacations — which for me meant spending 4 days with my parents in the Portuguese Highlands, where the country is rough, the people are rough, and Internet and wireless telephony is shaky — but the food is nice, and we can grab apples, figs and grapes directly from the trees 🙂 (if you imagine Portugal to be a sunny country with beaches stretching over miles and miles, I should mention that most of the country is actually very, very hilly — there is, in fact, just one major city which is completely flat, the rest is pretty much built on top of hills and mountains. The Portuguese Highlands are surprisingly similar to Scotland  — not so cold, no sheep, and men wouldn’t dream of wearing skirts, but the rest is not fundamentally different, also including the Celtic influence and the legendary avarice 🙂 Oh, and yes, disagreements about water rights are settled by the axe — literally so, even in the 21st century). By sheer coincidence, the very hot summer also turned to a mild autumn during these days, a season I always loved.

During these days I managed to think a bit. Sometimes it takes some physical distance to be able to reflect a bit, stand back and change the perspective. I’ve started in September my third job — not to get rich, but merely to be able to pay all my taxes and still have a bit left to eat — and this shows how tough the economy still is: six years ago, I would be comfortably living just with a single salary and a single job. These days, people are lucky to have a job at all. On top of that, mostly for fun, but also thinking that due to the changes introduced by the Bologna Process, everybody around here will be able to do a 3-year degree and top it with a mastership very easily in the same time that I had to painfully trod along just to graduate, I suspected that my own career chances would dramatically decrease as the “new” college degrees become commonplace. It’s time to go ahead with the PhD, and possibly even go beyond it with some post-doc in a few years, since otherwise I’d fall behind all those people hunting for a job. It’s also a good strategy to increase your education during periods of economic crisis. Education is not (yet!) extraordinarily expensive in my country, so it makes sense to spend time learning while you can. On top of the three jobs and the academic studies, I’m also taking an advanced course in practical Buddhism 🙂 which will be enough to keep me busy for the next few years.

Still, surprisingly, I seem to have more time free. None of my jobs are 9-to-5, and neither are my studies. For those among you that love routine, my lifestyle would sound incredibly stressful. Some days I have literally nothing to do; others, often in succession, are crammed full with activities over 19 hours or so. Weekends and holidays mean nothing to me, but, on the other hand, I can just take the Tuesday morning off, without anyone complaining, and blog about silly things, instead of worrying about work. The trick is simple: almost all my activity is done online. I’m a 95% telecommuter — the remaining 5% are for those backward-thinking clients and tutors who still think that breathing the same air as your partner/student/client in a room is a requirement for increasing productivity.

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