Finding a job

I am not independently wealthy. Well, not by the measure of most folks, notably my father. I am independent, and I measure my wealth as my ability to remain independent, not in currency or possessions.

As graduation time comes around again, I see everyone asking the young graduates “what do you plan to do?”, so I know I’m not the only one still looking for ideas. There have been times that I have thought that I’ve done it all, but the truth is that would be neither possible nor even desirable.

After Emma died, my initial plan had been to follow her, but she asked that I not, so I respected her request. She must have wanted some time alone anyway. I had a relatively large sum of money, and had I stayed in my little apartment in South Philly, I projected I would not need any additional funds for almost ten years. All my life friends, relatives, and total strangers had suggested I write a book. I love the world of words, more so than photography, in that words direct the reader into a line of thought they had not considered, where a photograph may only do so to those whose minds are open to the possibility.

I remember three distinct “discussions” with my father in the Spring of 1977. One had was centered on the reason my father’s other son (the good one) had moved to California. Obviously it was my fault (it was, but not in the way he thought). He thought it was because I had pierced my ear and tended towards somewhat flamboyant ear rings. I must be gay (actually, the word he used was “faggot”), and he was too embarrassed to live in the same house. The truth was that I had seen a girl’s phone number next to the phone and called her, made a date, and then developed a relationship with her. The girl was one that my father’s other son was pursuing, I thought it had been a message for me. To make matters worse, she had only been talking to him to get close to me. So yes, he was embarrassed by my sexuality, but it wasn’t because of any ambiguous desires.

Another had to do with my yearbook. There was a practice of taking quotes and having them printed under your picture. My quote was “To be successful in a group, one must first be an individual”. I was greeted as I came home with “What the hell is this supposed to mean?”, as my father, a rugged individualist, explained the virtues of conformity, at a volume that shared the information with anyone who might be within one hundred yards. I admit I did not have a proper response, it was only later in life I would learn to ignore fury and remain calm. I explained my meaning, that one’s value to a group is in having a distinct set of experiences and views, but on this day he wasn’t buying it.

The third had to do with what I wanted to be when I grew up. My response was “Happy”. Not good enough, as he spent a great deal of time explaining the intricacies of happiness and how it was not a goal, but the product of reaching one’s goals. Just a note here. If you ever find yourself trying to tell someone how to be happy, you’ll be more convincing if you appear to be happy yourself. Fortunately I decided not to share that jewel of knowledge at that point, and left the conversation with all my teeth.

{To be clear, my father only very rarely struck me, and I love him very much. Many of his lessons were time bombs. When I was nearing forty, I came to understand him much better. From that experience, I learned to be patient with my children, they’re starting to close in on forty now so we’ll see how that works out. Although he said many hurtful things over the years, I know he always meant well. I inherited from my father some wonderful qualities, he is a genuinely good man.}

When Emma died, I found that I was no longer happy. Not much of a shock to anyone. But I knew the path to happiness was in removing myself from society, and writing was a great way to do that. Unfortunately those pesky desires were still alive, so I sought out companionship. For better or worse I met the most incredible woman, and left Philadelphia behind. I altered my budget and still had five years in which to get things going, but I failed to recognize the expense of an ex spouse. My experience had been that the female tends to be on the profitable side. Take notice, that “rule” is not written in stone.

So finances went from black to grey to pink, and I’ve been actively pursuing employment for the last few months. It’s been an enlightening process.

My first application was responded to immediately. An animal shelter was looking for an experienced manager, but they were non profit and couldn’t pay what I was asking. I didn’t care, I took the job anyway because I love working with animals. I could see some obvious problems but was assured I could change anything that would make the shelter run more efficiently. I had never had a prospective employer lie to me before. Not only was I not the manager, nothing was going to change, and even providing appropriate care was not on the agenda. I left after two weeks.

I had a couple of other second interviews, surgical instrument repair, copier technician, and pizza delivery, but nothing really fit. I took the job at the farm, and a week later they told me they were cutting back. I started cold calling companies, and although they were polite, I don’t expect a callback. The most interesting was Chuck E. Cheese, they have a fascinating pre-employment test (really, you should apply just to take the test), and the kid who interviewed me was interesting. I keep trying to explain that I have no expectations of making anything close to my previous salary, but they get a little quiet when they realize your age. As if the twenty year old they hire will stay for twenty years.

A friend recommended me for a position in home care, helping a quadriplegic woman around the house and cooking. Sounded perfect, we liked each other, I completed all the background checks and such, and when I called her back she said “I read your blog, and you didn’t tell me you’re moving to Belgium”. Well, if I can’t find a job I will do so sooner rather than later. I can’t commit for the remainder of my life, that’s something spouses do. She could have least complimented my writing.

At anytime else in my life, I would be perfectly happy to face the possibilities, to play whatever hand is dealt, but for some reason I feel I have more responsibilities today than ever before in my life. I thought I was freer than ever before, but I am far from it. So I am less than happy.
That is not to say I am sad, but a number of disappointments have left me somewhat depressed. That feeling that accompanies the realization that you are finished changing the world. I did what I could do, and felt pretty good about it, but it’s messed up again and I feel left out sometimes.

There remain adventures ahead, and the maturity to appreciate and find the humor and beauty in them. And I have a wonderful companion with which to share them.

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6 comments on “Finding a job

  1. Mari Collier says:

    It’s a brutal job market out there right now. The older one is, the more brutal the reception. When I was in my 50’s I searched for employment. Everything was fine until they realize how “old” I was. Their eyes would glaze over and, of course, the second call never came. I went to work for Kelly Girls. Fortunately, they sent me to this new company called Nintendo. I don’t know of any start ups like that now. Best of luck.

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  2. A heartfelt post KB. So you find yourself traveling the cul-de-sac of mid-life instead of the excitement of a crossroad? I hate cul-de-sacs. So monotenous. Like mice on a wheel. I think we all come to this location at one time or another and we have to alter our expectations and forgive our younger selves for not reaching all of the goals that the bravado of our youth was sure we would accomplish. Even Thomas Jefferson lamented an underutilized life at his end, so we’re in good company. Especially you with your wonderful wife.

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  3. Forgive me. I didn’t mean to pry- more like just responding to your post.

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