"My entire career—to borrow from Jim Grossman and Tony Grafton's much-discussed article (published in Perspectives and in The Chronicle)—is a Plan B. Or, if I am really honest, it's a letter much further down the alphabet.
Perhaps no one who knows of me as an Oxford editor would think that is the case, but virtually everything in my life since my high-school graduation has been the result of not getting what I really wanted. To think about autobiography or personal history in a historical way, my life's course has been set by moments of contingency—when societal, economic, or familial forces collided with internal forces, usually despair, self-doubt, or personal rejection.
Without detailing what I really wanted, I will just say that I've come to appreciate that being No. 2 or lower on the hierarchy has made me who I am. That person is surely more resilient as a result, and there is extra sweetness in achieving what I have had to work hard to get. If one believes that larger forces are at work, my experiences could be a sign that someone or something knew me better than I knew myself, and that my Plan B should have been my Plan A all along, if only I had been perceptive enough to recognize it."