#5 on the list of ‘Required Documents for Application to this Master’s Program’: an updated curriculum vitae (résumé). According to the explanatory note, a curriculum vitae is “an overview of your personal details, and your educational and professional background”.
I wonder, should someone who doesn’t know what a resume is even be allowed to apply for a postgraduate degree? Also, why specify that the resume has to be updated—isn’t that kind of obvious? No, prospective student, don’t send us the Comic Sans MS document you wrote in Microsoft Word 97 with nothing but some babysitting to boast. We want experience! We want extracurricular activities! We want sweat, unpaid internships, after-school jobs in shoe stores and downtown cafes—anything to prove your dedication to responsibility and hard work!
When I was five or six years old, it was my life goal to own a petting zoo. I wouldn’t stop penciling meticulously designed floor plans into the margins of my primary school notebooks. Rabbits would go here; goats there; horses would get a pasture of honor in front of my house. Countless drawings and frustrated teachers later, I had perfected the farm’s architecture to a point where I had no idea what else to add.
In my first year of high school I befriended someone who had her heart set on studying education and child studies. Though I wasn’t interested in kids much, I graciously offered to open a psychological clinic with her. “I’ll just write,” I suggested. Our business model would be as follows: my friend would fix people, but not too fast, as I’d draw inspiration for my novels from their suffering.
It was a foolproof plan, until I fell in love with punk rock music and decided I’d manage a famous band instead. As my teachers droned on, I herded a couple of handsome boys around, made sure they didn’t wander off festival grounds or overdose on drugs. One evening we lit an illegal campfire in the venue’s parking lot and sat and drank and sang until our lungs grew too heavy to carry the words. Another night I slept on the hood of the tour bus, blinking up at the stars every time I woke. I snubbed out the inevitable fights that came with life on the road and bought Strepsils for the vocalist when he contracted a throat infection toward the end of tour. From time to time I wrote concert or CD reviews to keep my writing skills from growing rusty.
As high school graduation neared, all my peers were dead set on going to university. I wondered if anyone had considered the option of not pursuing a degree. What’s wrong with working at a bookstore or a small pub? Sure, the days would be long and the pay not great, but it’d be enough to support a simple lifestyle. In my mind, I lived in a tiny apartment in the center of town, maybe with a view of the canals; high ceilings, wooden floors, broad window sills, warm colors. After a long day at the bookstore or a night shift at the pub, I trailed home through the quiet streets.
“You’re crazy,” my father told me. “Go to college.”
So I did. In reality, I worked at a gym for a while; as I frothed milk and scowled at impatient customers, my brain plotted a neat little life for me there. I’d get a health psychology and food science education so I could sit in the office upstairs and have people pay me for my amazing advice on diet and exercising.
After a meeting with the student counselor, I decided to take over her job. I always thought I’d be a great psychologist.
“But you hate people,” my mother protested.
So I became a secretary instead. I filed stuff, chatted with customers, typed away at my laptop all day long (a skill I’ve been honing for years), made appointments for my employers, picked up the phone—
“You never even pick up the phone when we call you,” my friends said. “You don’t do phone calls.”
So I became the personal assistant of Robert Downey Jr.
Meanwhile, I was switching up my writer’s career as I progressed through the Literary Studies track at university. First I was merely a bestselling fiction author; then, I took Life and Travel Writing and turned into an autobiographer and travel writer. The latter career path snowballed into me working as a hotel reviewer and tour guide for a while. Mostly in Australia.
Later I became an editor at a respectable literary magazine and, after that, at a publishing company. I was also a translator. And a film critic. I reviewed books and wrote daily columns for my favorite newspaper. Wherever I went, people were lining up with wads of cash to hand me in exchange for my excellent scribbles.
Over the years, my mind has collected the work experience of several lifetimes. The neural pathways of my brain are clogged with future plans, possibilities, dreams. The curriculum vitae of my imagination could fill several filing cabinets. Surely, it would far exceed the upload limit of the university’s online application system.
But when I open the actual CV document I’m going to upload, I feel a little embarrassed. In-between all the mind wandering, I’ve neglected to acquire any truly impressive jobs in the real world. So much for “updated”. I wonder if this means the program might not accept me. Maybe I should start working on a back-up plan just in case.