Lately, I’ve been torturing myself with some questions about my own credibility. Who do I think I am, asking all these questions and writing all these answers as if I know? I suppose from my perspective, my experience backs up my effort and my conclusions. But as far as anyone else is concerned, I worry that I might be seen as claiming more authority than I really have or deserve. So what am I to do? Well, as far as I can see, the best answer is to talk about it, and be transparent.
In qualitative research, a point of best practice is to disclose facts about your own identity that might be relevant to your analysis and interpretation. I see this blog as a form of qualitative research. Though maybe not in a way that would be recognized academically. Hopefully I’ll excuse myself from those standards after being straightforward like this. That’s certainly part of my aim: to lighten the load of self-censorship I’ve been experiencing. The point this all is licence.
So here are what I see to be the relevant facts: I am a twenty-four-year-old male, with an undergraduate in Philosophy from one of the top universities in the world for the subject. The reason I bring this up isn’t to brag, but just to make it clear that I’m interested in the high-level pursuit of clear reasoning, and I’m willing to suffer through the sacrifices you need to make to get a chance at that.
Hopefully that indicates some credibility. But I will also be transparent about the fact that I chose to give up my aspirations of being an academic Philosopher because I didn’t much fancy my chances, which left the expected value of getting a PhD quite low in my estimation. I don’t really think I’m smart or driven enough to make a difference in that field, either.
Taking all that into consideration, I decided to pivot into a career in Psychology — I figured that would be a way to be useful, and so far that has been right. I picked up a conversion Masters, and I’ve been working in Mental Health for the last year and a half across a bunch of different entry-level jobs. I’m happy that the British system for acquiring a doctorate in Clincical Psych is so brutally selective. If I hadn’t been forced to take a bunch of entry-level jobs like I have, then I would have missed out on some of the most important and meaningful experiences of my life.
I’m sad about those — I’d love to write about them, but my fear of breaching confidentiality laws means that I’d better not. Suffice it to say that for those of you considering the Dclin, who may be bristling at the possibility of being a care worker or a support worker: just do it. It will change your life. For anyone else considering working in care, I would very much recommend that you try it. Even if you hate it, you will learn something about yourself that I don’t think you would necessarily be able to learn elsewhere.
For the reader of my work, hopefully you can trust that I’ve done more than just read books and stare at the wall. I’ve taught English and I’ve taught Tango; I’ve lived as an addict, which is a form of occupation; I’ve worked as a carpenter’s assistant, in a burrito joint, and in a homeless shelter; I’ve been homeless; I’ve run support groups; I’ve written poems for strangers in the street and I’ve published essays and short stories. I’ve also recently started at a post as an Assistant Psychologist and teaching assistant. I’m not saying all this to brag. If anything, I feel somewhat embarrassed about the weird and scattered experiences I’ve had so far. It makes it difficult to take myself seriously when I’m applying for jobs. But I hope it helps you trust that I’m not making shit up.
I suppose the most important thing I can commit to as a writer is not to put anything down that I haven’t considered thoroughly and that I don’t try and live my life by, so that’s what I’ll do. In these essays, if I make a recommendation, I will only do it from a place of having tried it myself.
I suppose that makes me somewhat of a lay-scholar, and I’m happy with that. It has a lot more humility to it. Maybe one day I’ll be a proper academic, but for the minute I’m just a human being trying to make some sense and develop some skill for dealing with the difficulties in my life. I write about them because that helps me fix them in my own mind, and because it makes me feel accountable for them. If my thoughts are useful or consolatory to anybody else, that would probably make my life. But I don’t know if I can count on that, so I try not to think about it too much.
So there it is. Now I can be comfortable in the stance that I can speak freely, because I know that I’ve made my station in life abundantly clear. I don’t have to worry about anyone taking me with more seriousness than I deserve and getting themselves in trouble over it. Here’s my disclaimer: take it all this as an experiment. That’s what I take it as — life is for experimenting. But I just don’t think I can rest ethically if there’s a risk that anyone will take my ideas as anything other than experimental. I just want it to be clear.
So yeah — don’t get it twisted. Take me seriously at your own risk. That being said, I write everything I write with the genuine desire that could be of value to someone. That’s the main point of it, actually.