It is difficult to believe that only a year ago, I was beginning my MA in Art History at The Courtauld. In 2010, to inaugurate my beginnings on the British Isles and my time in London, I bought a mug inscribed with the words “Curiouser and curiouser,” a quote from Alice in Wonderland, printed alongside an image of the protagonist staring at her flamingo-turned-croquet-mallet. As the year progressed, and I journeyed through the next step of my education, the mug’s decoration seemed only fitting. The lessons and experiences I had felt a bit like a wonderland, and, in nine short months, it also felt like a quick-lived dream. Now, a year later, I’ve written my dissertation, graduated and moved into the real world. And here I am on the other side.
In Through The Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll’s sequel to her first journey, Alice adventures once again, this time moving across the chess board of a parallel world from pawn to queen. And once again Alice’s story seems to fit just right.
Strangely, I now feel that I am somehow back at square one. I pursued a Master’s degree to further my study of the arts, yet I also believed that it would get me closer to getting an art-world job that would bring together my language, writing and research skills. Yet, facing the realities of today’s economy, I have often fallen short because I lack the exact job experience required.
I now find myself working a full-time unpaid internship at an auction house in London, an opportunity I have been eager to undertake. I aim to gain insight into a more commercial art world, apply my skills, and evolve my previous understandings of the worlds of art. While I’m still only three-and-a-half weeks into the process, the internship has had its highs and lows. I seek to complete tasks set before me with professionalism and tact, but also hunger to learn more and put more of my intellect to work. The internship itself seems to be without structure. I still hope to find a mentor who will recognize my abilities and talents and put me to task. There are moments of frustration and moments of fulfillment in new beginnings. Tension stretches between knowing my intelligence and my capabilities, and completing the more simple jobs at hand. I am ripe for a challenge. There are times when I step back and look at my credentials and wonder what an education is worth. As many of the people who now work in the department started as interns, I wonder if the unpaid internship is simply a rite of passage into this art world.
The process thus far has been frustrating and challenging, humbling and instructive. While I like to think that the world is at my fingertips, many times it feels that it is just out of reach. Yet, as I move ahead, I have decided to face all challenges with equal enthusiasm and determination, and to seek out chances to learn and prove myself.
Part of me wonders if, like Alice, I will ascend in rank, or, at the end of it all, I’ll wake up and realize that it was all just a dream….