What is the real-life equivalent of Fox Mulder's job?
March 25, 2011 1:16 PM   Subscribe

What is a real dream job that includes ongoing travel, a combination of art and science, trouble-shooting and making a significant difference in the world? Something that compares to being a traveling trouble-shooting wizard, except without the magic.

I'm a junior in college, and I've mostly (70-75%) settled on being an English teacher in an independent school (if at all possible), with an eye toward starting my own private/independent school one day. But I'm restless. I've long had 'dream jobs' I've discounted because they were impossible, and from most to least likely, they are: a) traveling scientist (on a boat or expedition, maybe) in the Amazon/etc who also writes a journal and/or fiction based on adventures, ala Darwin; b) "Starfleet"/Star Trek-style xenobiologist/xenoanthropologist who travels with a crew to observe and make first contact with alien species; c) a traveling semi-academic magician (and partner) who travel, trouble-shooting problems big and small and seeing the world/countryside as well as studying magic in the wild (so to speak).

Things I like about the traveling magician concept is (in no particular order): making a real, significant-- sometimes dramatically big-- difference to people's lives; traveling and seeing the world(s) and the people/creatures in it, but especially the different usages of 'magic' (insert interest/talent area); always dealing with something different at each stop-- rarely the same exact problem twice in a row; studying the varieties of applied magic and constantly advancing my skills and knowledge as I go. I like that magic is something I love, want to use/explore, and am very good at (I imagine).

Things I know I'm good at: understanding people (psychology) but not necessarily interacting, writing, visual art, non-linear abstract reasoning, thinking on my feet, being open-minded and flexible, and general creativity in problem-solving, dedication/resilience. Things I dislike or am not currently good at: politics, linear/logical reasoning (not consistently), diligence and/or doing any one thing for a long time, time-management and organization.

The thing about the magic/xenobiology is that both are fields I'd be vividly interested in if they existed; I wouldn't be good pursuing something I find banal or ordinary with any degree of dedication or consistency. I love the intersection between creative arts and the scientific method (reasoning to problem-solve and discover truths and/or create models of reality). I don't think traveling was that important; what's more important is the constant shift of environment and premise. Trouble-shooting can be substituted for discovery, but I think discovery+application (doing something to help or improve or protect) makes me happier.

Things like Green Peace and the PeaceCorps don't quite work because (as far as I know) they don't need my skills and are more activist than discovery-based organizations. I also don't particularly want to be a cog in a machine.

I'm not too convinced there is any realistic equivalent to my ideal. But since I just now saw the conceptual connections between the things I like, I thought I may as well ask.
posted by reenka to Work & Money (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Archaeologist/cultural anthropologist? Theoretically, you'd get to travel the world, use science to find things and analyze them, and problem solve/create to create a history/culture about the things that you find. All about discovery and application.

I have no idea how practical this is, except that I know people who do this sort of thing and they are, indeed, quite awesome.
posted by phunniemee at 1:25 PM on March 25, 2011

Any kind of field science involves lots if travel and fun experiences. Also lots of hard work, bugs and waiting around. Not very many showed, I've gone 2 or 3 months without a shower and eaten nothing but fish for weeks at a time. Most people do it because they enjoy the adventure aspect and keeping a journal/ blog or writing books is super common. I'd suggest you dig some of those up for inspiration.

You do need a bio degree for those kinds of jobs and if you plan to work at sea its a good idea to make sure you don't get seasick!
posted by fshgrl at 1:56 PM on March 25, 2011

Working for a group like Earthwatch would give you contact with lots of opportunities for this sort of thing.
posted by Lifeson at 2:25 PM on March 25, 2011

Get some work on ultra high end cruise ships (although at the ultra high end, they are big, very fancy yachts). They take incredibly smart high net worth people to place where they can see, for example, marine mammals mating or nesting. They go to the most exotic, precious places you gan get to by sea, and are extremely eco-conscious due to the nature of their clientele.

Me mail me for a list of companies if you want. There's only a handful.
posted by digitalprimate at 3:16 PM on March 25, 2011

(b) is actually quite similar to my past ask-mefi question here ..
I guess restlessness strikes all of us sooner or later

(c) is not really clear. Do you mean 'magic' in the sense of performing art, or 'magic' in fantasy (involving spells and scrolls and such) ?
posted by joewandy at 3:23 PM on March 25, 2011

Response by poster: Ha. Yeah, not quite (the same as simply 'a Starfleet officer') because I don't want to emphasize the 'officer/explorer' part and more the 'study/discovery/help' part. You got answers like 'the Coast Guard' which would be pretty silly for me. Starfleet isn't precisely relevant except as an example. That is to say, I'm not even aware of a xenobiologist on the Enterprise, as such. My point was more to see the underlying ideas (which I outlined) rather than looking for translations of specific made-up jobs (such as xenobiologist), in part because the only obvious translation would be 'biologist', in that case (which indeed was suggested).

I didn't realize that people could consider 'magic as performing art' when I said 'wizard' and 'helping people', etc (and I imagine if it needed to be clearer, I'd need to go into a whole lot of extraneous info as to what I consider 'my type' of magic, etc--- but spells and scrolls and other accouterments aren't important compared to simply the status of magic as an intersection of art and science in my mind). That is to say, 'fantasy' magic is a creative act-- you create a spell, an enchantment, whatever. You can also study magic in a systematic and rigorous way, there are magic 'ecosystems', creatures, rules-- logic. It is really the only pure fusion of art and science in a way I 100% like that has been conceived of-- everything else leans either more towards art or more towards science. I think that's because magic can 'co-create' reality, so you are participating in the same thing you can study. That is to say, as if a biologist also created species. In fact, the simplest definition of magic is the idea of co-creating reality, or simply breaking/remaking the 'rules' of the world. The obvious translation of that is writing (as was also suggested), but it's a romanticizing of writing. Since I am a writer, in my experience what you're doing isn't creating but synthesizing, distilling, describing. It's a secondary process, a translation. Magic is a primary process, since it deals with the 'machine code' of reality whereas writing is software. Kind of a buggy software language. :)

Even so, all this has been great food for thought so far! I hadn't considered cultural anthropology seriously! Though I have considered biology.
posted by reenka at 3:38 PM on March 25, 2011

One way of bringing a freeform 'if you could do anything for a living what would you do' concept closer to realization is to ask (and answer if you can) 'how would you get money for that?'.

Meaning that if there was a Starfleet you could join it and they'd take care of your material needs, or if there was a Department X, you could try to get recruited. Simple enough, but those don't exist. Is there some IRL organization or patron that would pay for the services you imagine yourself providing? How would you contact them and get them to give you money for it?

Or if there is no one to hire and pay you, how would you acquire the resources to meet your material needs in another way? For instance, if you did your thing like a travelling show, could you just pass the hat to the crowd? Or would you need an agent\publicist that people seeking your services would contact to engage you?

You're going to need to eat, sleep, and wear clothes, in addition to acquiring and maintaining whatever tools your trade requires. And if you want to travel, you've got to either have a vehicle or buy tickets. All of this will require the coin of the realm.

There's nothing wrong with looking for your dream job, but at some point real money has to enter into it. So figuring out how to get paid might help narrow your focus.
posted by bartleby at 5:17 PM on March 25, 2011

Here's a slightly less ethereal version of this that could still be really amazing: teach at American/international schools all over the world. Many Americans do this, and it can be a great way to spend a few years or many years or you'll life. A lot of folks go to one school for two years; and then go to another school for two years; and so on. You can live on any continent in the world doing this. Well, maybe not Antarctica. But you can travel all over the world with lots of holidays and weekends and summers to explore all this other stuff!
posted by bluedaisy at 8:46 PM on March 25, 2011

I don't think traveling was that important; what's more important is the constant shift of environment and premise.

Consulting. Now, your background and other questions don't really make you sound like the sort of person who'd be interested in management consulting, but some kind of "school system 911" sort of consulting work sounds like something in line with what you're describing-- something like an educational consultant who comes in, evaluates what's going on in a school and identifies changes that need to be made. Building credibility in that area means that you probably have to pay a lot of dues getting experience, by teaching and/or by working with some larger consulting company that works in this space.
posted by deanc at 11:33 PM on March 25, 2011

You should definitely read David Abram's The Spell of the Sensuous or at least the first chapter or two, and it looks like he also has a book called The Nature of Magic.
posted by slidell at 1:30 AM on March 26, 2011

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