Looking backward to go forward

Two years ago, I had a car packed with camping gear and food, a bank balance made healthy by two years of saving, and five months of holiday laid out in front of me. I’d just quit my job at Griffith Uni, with the intention of moving to London, some further study, then a new career.

One of my favourite places from the trip. It just seemed so right, drenched in sunshine.

I’ll spare you the full recap, because I’ve done it before. No, this post is about something a little more personal. My contract ended last Friday at Lottolab, as we weren’t able to secure more funding to continue our work at the Science Museum. I’m now out of work, having (!) turned down a job writing news for the Science Museum a fortnight ago.

In my “Goodbye Griffith” post, I put down in black and white a bit of a mission statement:

With Kevin Rudd backing down on climate change legislation until the next election cycle, I feel I’ve made a good decision: I can’t sit and watch major problems, for which a scientific approach offers the best understanding and possible solutions, be decided on the whim of polls. I hope the contribution I can make will be a significant one, but even if it’s not, at least I’ll have tried.

It eerily echoes what I quoted, more than a year later, in one of my most heartfelt and scary posts I’ve written: Extinction. I referenced Frank Turner’s song Eulogy:

On the day I die I’ll say at least I fucking tried, and that’s the only eulogy I need.

I still feel that way. But what have I done about it in 24 months of studying, socialising, spending and other words that start with s? It’s a question that nags at me. My lifestyle’s not a profligate one in London, and I would wager my personal carbon footprint is lower here than it was in Australia. I talk the talk online, and I’ve taken part in some climate action events here and there.

But, my work was a step or two away from where I wanted to be. Putting on Lates events was great fun, and I think the educational side of Lottolab – the i, Scientist program – is world-class in encouraging critical thinking, curiosity, and questioning in kids. Another side of my work was running a drop-in neuroscience lab: similarly, interesting for people to interact with science in such a different and real way, but a notch down the ladder in terms of changing how people see the world. And then there were the Lates events. For me, in hindsight, big successes of orchestration and excellent experience for me to learn to cope with managing large teams under intense pressure, but really speaking, it was about entertaining people.


Now, I’m not going to run out and sign up as a volunteer to canoe in front of icebreakers, but I’m getting closer to a picture of what I want to do with my life, and I want to keep building towards it.

I want to be a cumulonimbus. Sorry. Back to the navel gazing.

I want to be a cumulonimbus. Sorry. Back to the navel gazing.

So, what do I do? Just like I was two years ago, I’m unemployed. This time, though, I have considerably less cash to throw around, meaning a new job is a priority, not 5 months of travel followed by the student life. That’s the downside. The upside is I’ve grown an enormous amount in terms of what I know I can do. From weathering a night alone in a tent during a storm that ripped roofs off houses, to co-ordinating 40 people in delivering a science event for 600 guests, to interviewing an expert on bioterrorism, or even just learning how to navigate London on foot – the last two years have been tremendous. It’s hard to imagine how the next two could be quite so action packed. The next steps might be more ‘sensible’.

Or could they?

Categories: Puzzles, Things people do, Thoughts | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Looking backward to go forward

  1. Your journey over the last three months reminds me of one of my favourite XKCD strips:


    Wherever your efforts lead you, I know you’ve got the tenacity and the smarts to make a difference. Onwards, upwards and gainfully employedwards!

    • If there was anyone more bloody appropriate to post a link to that – one of my favourite XKCDs of all time – I’d be surprised. How’s things with you?

  2. One thing you do have from the last 2 years is a huge network of amazing and influential sciencey folk to draw upon – that’s something far more valuable than cash.

  3. Talent will out in due course. And – yes – that means you ;-) You will have so much fascinating stuff to occupy you in the years to come. Enjoy the reflection as you pause for breath – it’s my favourite bit.

    Steve x

  4. Good luck with whatever happens.

  5. Cheers folks! Steve, you’re right – I spent yesterday trawling through my photo archives and also shoebox full of ‘important stuff’ which includes ticket stubs and suchlike. It’s scary how much you forget you’ve done… walks down memory lane make me want to keep paving the street ahead.

  6. Anonymous

    Thats Illuka
    (useless comment)

  7. Chris

    What an amazing and worthwhile 2 years, So impressed about how your life is shaping up. Look forward to the next ‘chapter’.


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