It wasn’t that long ago–in geological terms–that I came to a fork in the road of my career path. I’d graduated from college with a degree in philosophy, but faced an uncertain future. All the graduate students in philosophy that I encountered didn’t seem to do much of anything. They hung around the same coffee shops as me, shooting the breeze, which for a philosophy major can be a gale-force wind.
Philosophy graduate student in lounge, pretending to understand Kant
I learned that job prospects for philosophers were slim. The only thing you could do with a philosophy degree was become a professor and teach other people philosophy, who would then face the same inevitable future, the way the fate of a cow in a slaughterhouse differs little from those who go before it or come behind it; get off boxcar, walk straight ahead, don’t ask questions–BAM!–get stunned in the head. The cows I mean, not the philosophers. The latter were already a bit light-headed.
It all struck me as one big, pointless hamster wheel of a life, and one that I wanted no part of. But because I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I was best suited for, I drifted into the law, that occupational sinkhole into which liberal arts majors with no particular skills or overriding passion flow.
Probably irrelevant, but this turned up on a Google image search for “Kuder Preference Test.”
It was only after I’d settled into my profession and was resigned to a life reading boring documents all day that someone told me about the Kuder Preference Test, a personality test designed to help people find their true calling. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t know that such things existed back when my future lay before me, instead of behind me. A simple twist of fate, as Bob Dylan might say, but it made all the difference, as Robert Frost would say–assuming he and Dylan were on speaking terms.
Philosopher or Rodeo Queen: We’ll see which one suits you to a “T.”
And so it is that I’ve embarked upon an intellectual exercise: Project myself back to the moment when I stood upon the precipice of my working days; I was trained as a philosopher, but I’ve carried with me in my time travels a fascination with a number of strange occupations; chicken sexer, trout farmer, rodeo queen, to see if I would have been better off pursuing one of them instead of the law. To assist me in my inquiry, I’ve invited Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most readable–and controversial–philosophers of all time, and Kimberly Ray Markey, Miss Texas Rodeo 2019, to share insights into their chosen fields of endeavor. Fred, Kimberly–welcome.
RODEO QUEEN: Thank yew SO MUCH for inviting me here today, it’s certainly a pleasure to be here!
ME: Kimberly, I’m going to ask you the first question.
RODEO QUEEN: Shoot.
RODEO QUEEN: Ha, ha–you’re a stitch!
NIETZSCHE: Can we get on with this?
ME: Sor-ry. Anyway–what would you say is the most important thing to remember if you want to be a rodeo queen?
RODEO QUEEN: Faith, family, and love for our nation are put first before all things.
NIETZSCHE: Life terminates where the “Kingdom of God” begins.
RODEO QUEEN: What’s his problem?
ME: Those are more like–helpful personality traits. I meant things you have to know in order to become a rodeo queen.
RODEO QUEEN: Be prepared to be an honest and gen-u-wine role model. There is ALWAYS a little girl aspiring to be just like you!
ME: Fred–how about you. What does it take to become a world-class philosopher and spoilsport like yourself?
NIETZSCHE: Success has always been a great liar.
RODEO QUEEN: Jeepers–somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed today!
ME: Nobody’s asking you to reveal your professional secrets, Fred, just what worked for you.
NIETZSCHE: Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.
ME: Kimberly–being a rodeo queen must be dangerous. Do you have any safety tips for young girls just starting out?
RODEO QUEEN: Never let your hat fall off. If it does, make sure your head is in it.
ME: Fred–people think of philosophy as a sedentary job. Is there more to it than that?
NIETZSCHE: The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
ME: So there’s a solitary aspect to it. How about you, Kimberly?
RODEO QUEEN: My advice is–leave your boyfriend at home! He can be your best friend, but being a rodeo queen is an honor, and should be respected!
ME: Okay, so I could go either way on that point, since I don’t play well with others. Kimberly, becoming a philosopher requires many years of intense intellection.
RODEO QUEEN: What’s “intellection”?
ME: The act of using the intellect. Is there a comparable aspect of rodeo queening?
RODEO QUEEN: You betcha! I tell other girls they have to study, study, study to be a rodeo queen! Every rodeo queen contest has either a test to take about their rodeo or rodeo questions in general. Also, be up on current events. There are always interview questions that come up about current events, rodeo knowledge, or about the rodeo association you are running for.
ME: Well, I have to say I’ve learned a lot about both professions, and I’m really torn as to which way to go. Fred, do you think your sister might take a crack at becoming a rodeo queen?
NIETZSCHE: The perfect woman is a higher type of humanity than the perfect man. The natural history of animals furnishes grounds in support of this theory.
ME: Speaking of women and animals–Kimberly, any final thoughts?
RODEO QUEEN: Being a rodeo queen is just a part of life, not all of it. If you aren’t enough without the crown, you never will be.
ME: (. . .) I find that to be a most . . . comforting philosophy.
All quotes after “Can we get on with this?” verbatim. Rodeo queen’s name–but not Nietzsche’s–changed to protect her innocence.
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Let’s Get Philosophical.”