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1 June 2010

Can anyone help this man?

Readers! Help me play agony uncle to Chris.

By Mark Watson

As you’ll know if you have been following my blog — and I apologise if not, as some of this won’t make much sense — a number of themes have recurred many times already, and will continue to recur. They include setting ourselves personal challenges and working on them collectively (as seen in the Ten-Year Self-Improvement Challenge [TYSIC], which I will be summarising later this week); embarking on bizarre team efforts (like the iPod, which changed hands again today, I’m delighted to say — more details to follow); needlessly interfering in lives (as in the feature where I act as agony uncle, despite not being qualified); trying to motivate people. Today, as part of a new collective venture — not that I’m letting any of the other ones go — I present you, the community of my blog readers, with a new challenge that brings nearly all these themes together.

Essentially, this is a special one-off, bumper edition of Can I Help You? — my agony column. I have received this email from a reader, Chris. In a nutshell, he doesn’t know what to do with his life. He isn’t despairing, or I wouldn’t dream of playing God with his emotions, but he is flummoxed. And directionless. As a group, I think we can refocus him.

I’ve chosen Chris to do this with partly because of pure whim, in the spirit of the strange, ten-year ad-lib that is this blog, and partly because he stands for quite a lot of regular readers. People are often bringing up problems with being undermotivated/unsure of their next move/disillusioned with careers, and so on. I think this will be an interesting test case to see if our considerable team skills are enough to reroute an actual human’s life. It is sort of like The Truman Show meets The Sims meets a reality show meets me, Mark. How can that not be fun?

Also, this is something we can put a time limit on. Chris (as you’ll see from his email below) is going to be up in Edinburgh in August, like me, and a number of TYSIC participants and other blog readers. I suggest that we vow to give Chris a new direction in life by August. We deliver him a plan by, say, mid-June. Then — perhaps at my book launch on the 11th of August, or at one of my shows, or something — we meet Chris and he reports back on whether things have improved.

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So — I’ve published Chris’s comment, almost in full, below. I open it to your suggestions. It could be that you have an idea that ties in with your challenge, or someone else’s. It could be that you can think of a worthy cause that needs someone to fight for it. Or something more whimsical. Or have some serious career advice. Perhaps you are looking to recruit someone for something, professional or ideological. It could be anything. But whatever you want Chris to do with this life from now on, write it as a comment. In about a week or so, I will sum up the results and we will draw up the first stage of a game plan for Chris. If this works well, we will move on to clear up someone else’s life. If it backfires and Chris suffers a breakdown, we will delete this blog entry and all others relating to it.

Here it is. Good luck everyone; good luck Chris.

Basically, I’m two-thirds of the way through a university course I’ve near enough completely lost interest in with absolutely no career ideas to follow it up with. I don’t even have an idea for a dissertation. I will finish the course, I’m too far in not to complete, but I have no idea what career path I would take. And I’m fed up of living off pasta and Mars bars.

I’m doing geography, by the way. And I don’t want to be a weather man or a geography teacher — which seem to be the only two suggestions from most people . And anyway, the world doesn’t need another town planner or geologist or whatever.

I’d been thinking about it for a long while: the only thing I really want to do would be some outrageous venture across America, which I currently don’t have the money to do, I don’t think, and some time I will try and do that. Some day. Or something like it. Maybe a career path will stand out some time in the future but, until then, I should make myself busy. Reading about your brother’s efforts; supporting the sport he clearly loves in an area so far away from the commerce and glamour now associated with top-level football, which I personally hate, is inspiring. For me to do myself, though, it’s a bit too grand but a great idea.

So, given that I can’t think of anything worthwhile for me to do with myself, my first thought, of course, was What Would Mark Watson Do? (Not quite accurate, I haven’t had any realistic plans for many years). Yes, I could speak to a careers adviser or somebody but, no, they are not trained in this area: I ask a comedian/entertainer/writer/sport fan for a reason . . .

In the short term, I’ve got about 100 days — in fact, more than that, I think — until uni term starts again, and apart from doing some work to pay the rent for a house, I’m not living in at the moment: I am a free man. And this time needs filling. So after all that let’s refine this a bit. How about: what should I do with my summer? At least as a starting point. Whatever one you prefer or have more experience dealing with. I’ll be up in E’brgh for the fringe fest so if anybody has an idea that can tie in with something there, that would be grand; or ties in with all the other challenges going around. Maybe this can be decided by a vote or something.

I’m usually based at my uni in Bath, but currently back in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Cambridge. If that makes any difference to anything.

This post originally appeared on Mark Watson’s blog.

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