We’ve probably all had to deal with that devil on the shoulder asking if whatever you’ve chosen as your professional career makes any sense – it’s not really worth anything, is it? Most of the time, there’s a relatively easy way out, something to validate the choices made: “I’m a nurse to help save lives” or “I’ll make myself a boatload of cash to have a comfy retirement”. But what if you’re an art historian?
I’ve now been working on my PhD in art history full time for six months, a year before that with a job on the side. Before getting into art history I studied to be a visual artist, and did my bachelor’s degree in art – oil painting, to be more precise. In a moment of weakness, I cried at the graduation dinner with my family, because I felt I’d chosen a useless field as my career. Why couldn’t I have just kept it as a hobby like so many others, and done something sensible, like… accounting? My father was furious. He wasn’t furious because of my choice, but because for a moment I’d lost my faith in myself. He’d supported me financially through studies and bought me paints and canvases since I was a kid. He’d worked his ass off at a stressful job so that I could do what I wanted. And it’s true, I really wanted to ‘do art’. But is it enough?