When I was 12 I wanted to be a vet. At 15 I dreamed of being a firefighter. By 17 I thought about joining the army. Through it all what I really sought was a way to keep being an athlete; a competitor; a player; an opponent; physically strong; mentally tough. I was a tomboy, ‘one of the lads’. Going against the grain is never easy, yet sport was my safe haven.
But I also had an intellectual wondering and I secretly consumed knowledge like my life depended on it. In an odd way it did. Some days I could hold a book and feel as if I was breathing in the letters from the pages and I would imagine who might have held it before me. My curiosity ran through me like a thread. I sensed people in a way I couldn’t explain. I watched inquisitively and quietly. I was like a chameleon blending into the background. I was already a sociologist at heart.
I went about my sports science degree largely doing modules in physiology and biomechanics, trying to resist the enticement of sociology. I knew it was where my passion lay but I worried about employability and the direct paths to a vocation. Yet, slowly, it was opening up this whole new world for me, a whole new way of seeing, a level of understanding that I already seemed to have been looking for. I was living it. I just lacked the academic training.
Lucky enough to have the support and guidance of a fantastic tutor, I knew I wanted to continue to shape my sociological imagination. My endless curiosity about other people’s doings and my fascination with listening to and analysing their interactions was no longer just about learning my own place, but about whole groups of people. So with a few detours along the way, I started a PhD. Combining my passions for rock climbing and sociology, I decided to explore the realms of gender and risk in climbing and mountaineering. And here we are. I am a sociologist. I am sociology.
I knew it was where my passion lay but I worried about employability and the direct paths to a vocation.
Rebecca Darlington (Postgraduate Student)
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