Belfast Telegraph

The cards that can tell us whether or not we've been dealt a decent hand in life

By Mary Kenny

Have you ever considered walking out of your marriage or relationship? Have you ever had a career crisis where you thought, "I've missed my vocation?" Have you ever asked, "What should I do with my life?" Most people probably have.

There have been advisers, counsellors, maybe parents and teachers to guide some of these decisions, and now there are packs of cards, which you can play either on your own or with a friend, that might prompt such life decisions.

Stay Or Leave is "a tool to decide whether your relationship has a future", and the 52 playing cards in the pack each puts a question to the player. Turn the card one way for 'stay'; turn it another for 'leave'. Your score at the end reveals the answer.

Try these questions: 'How would you respond to news that your partner had fallen deeply in love with a rival?' 'Are you talented at being happy in other areas of your life?' 'How good are you at living on your own?'

Dissatisfaction with sexual relations, difficulties with emotional connection and family background are all mentioned - 'Did your parents separate?' 'How did you feel?' Then there's the 15-year test. Before modern times, the average marriage only lasted about 15 years because one or other of the spouses often died. The card asks, 'After 15 years, almost everyone thinks they've married somewhat the wrong person. What light does this aphorism shed on your choices?'

Questions probe the irritating or disagreeable traits in a partner: several throw them back on yourself. 'What difficulties might you be contributing to the relationship?' And, darkly, 'In what way are you a damaged person (we all are)?'

Children are mentioned, though not as a deciding factor. 'If you have children, will they take the separation badly - or adjust to it and feel okay with it?'

At the end of the card-play, you add up the score: 26-plus 'stay' cards and you're good. Then in gradations: consider staying, consider leaving, and 0/10 - leave.

What's not mentioned, significantly, is money. And property. I've known quite a few couples who stayed together for such reasons. Sometimes it worked out.

These cards come from theschooloflife.com, whose instigator is the popular philosopher Alain de Botton, so we also get a quote from the gloomy Dane Soren Kierkegaard: "You will regret whatever you choose".

My second pack is called Career Crisis. Here, there are 60 'prompt cards' to deal out, against which you can match anxieties about your career choice.

The cards remind you that "in 1700, in Western Europe there were some 400 different kinds of jobs you could choose from. Nowadays, there are approximately 500,000".

This hugely increases the chances of choosing badly. Yet life-courses can be changed, and "change begins when the fear of not acting at all at last outstrips the paralysing fear of making a mistake".

"Money, creativity, respect, stability. Rank in order of importance". "Every successful business is at heart an attempt to solve someone's problem: what are - for you - mankind's most interesting problems?"

The School of Life encourages us to nurture our feelings of envy in the career sphere: "Envy feels unpleasant and shameful, but it's a vital clue to your own submerged ambitions. Keep a record of everyone you meet whose job makes you envious. Slowly assemble a portrait of your ideal occupation through an analysis of your envious emotions. Keep an Envy Diary".

Our prospective working lives, a card tells us, are like Russian dolls. "There are at least five utterly plausible career selves within each of us". Reassuringly, a card also announces: "That you haven't yet found your vocation is no indication that you will never discover it. Even if you are currently 73". A card asks if you had to run a shop, "What would it sell?"

Unhappiness at work can be a springboard: "Every moment of unhappiness is, potentially, a new business waiting to be born".

Most practical is my third set of playing cards, What Should I Do With My Life? These 52 cards describe a range of jobs and professions, from actuary to wind turbine technician, with details of job description, personality suitability, skills and degrees required - and, most enlightening of all, the chances of being replaced by a robot.

The actuary (whose job is "finding potential danger everywhere") has a 61% chance of being replaced by a robot; a podiatrist ("feet go wrong a lot, gangrenous extremities, ingrown toenails…") only 9%.

The jobs which rate a more than 60% chance of being robotised include sushi chef, database administrator, barista, copy editor, electrical engineer, legal secretary, loan officer, tree surgeon and procurement clerk.

The careers with a less than 10% chance of robotisation, meanwhile, include obstetrician, optometrist, plumber, home-maker, forensic psychologist, epidemiologist, dermatologist (zero chance), graphic designer and urologist.

All the rest range betwixt and between, with even a hospice nurse and a teacher near the halfway danger zones.

The cards can be shuffled and played as a beggar-my-neighbour game. Or they can just be used to help decide on a career choice. Definitely one for this year's school-leavers. Maybe even primary school-leavers.

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