Tuesday, 1 November 2011

"It's a moral dilemma"

I know my time could perhaps be better spent not reading terrifying articles on the internet, such as this one about honour killing I found through a link from one of my friends, but stories like these remind me that I really do want to do something that makes a difference in the world, and I'm not sure that publishing, if I can even manage to get into it, could ever do that.

I finally had the time to go into the Oxfam shop in Morningside yesterday, and I realised how much I miss volunteering there. Sure, you always get the customers that are real weirdos - inevitably, charity shops tend to attract them. But generally, the vast majority of the customers are friendly, and many are interesting if you can get talking to them. There are lots of reasons that someone might be shopping in a charity shop, and it's always interesting to hear them.

I also loved coming across hidden gems, especially when I was working in the stock room going through new donations. I love coming across books with the previous owner's name written inside the cover. There could be so many stories about that person. What did this book mean to them, how have they lived their life, what have they achieved, and why have they ended up giving this book away? What did it mean to them that it doesn't mean any longer? Pretentious, I know, but I find it fascinating.

And sometimes it was boring, when there was nobody in the shop for an hour and you had nothing much to do, sometimes the people were unfriendly or just busy, but at least it was something to do, and something that was worthwhile. At the moment I sometimes feel that what I'm doing is useless, and that if I wanted to get into publishing in any way, I'd have to move to London and stay there for the rest of my life. And I don't want to live in London. I don't like it and I don't know it. I don't even know where I'll be living next year - that all depends on things I can't control.

The problem is you don't get paid for charity work. So far, I haven't even been qualified enough to get a job in a shop, so who knows what I'll end up doing next year. I feel torn between doing something vocational and doing something worthwhile, and by worthwhile I mean something that makes a difference. Nothing that's worthwhile seems to pay enough, but even for something as seemingly harmless as publishing, I'm always worried that I'm selling my soul. Publishing is for profit. I accept that and I've always known that was part of the deal. What I haven't yet got to grips with is how to reconcile that with my values without selling out.

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