Wanted: Financial Reporting Accountant…..Programmer Analyst…..Hospice Social Worker and Bereavement Counselor…..Assertive Community Treatment Team Leader…..Second Shift Vacuum Coating Technician…..Part Time Wrecker Driver
Last winter, just before Christmas, I applied for a job at the Trinity Lutheran Church. Secretary. Part Time. “Pastor Peggy” returned my email within minutes to say that I was perfect for the job. However, she had already hired someone. However, she was pretty sure this person would be leaving town at the end of May. She asked if she could contact me at that time to see if I was still interested. I said yes, never dreaming that I would remain unemployed for another six months.
During the first week of April, Pastor Peggy contacted me to report that their secretary was indeed leaving town (for Rwanda) at the end of May. Was I still interested in interviewing for the position? She attached a job description that had not been included in the classified ad back in December. I know this because if it had been included, I would not have applied.
The job primarily surrounds the publishing of the weekly worship bulletin and the weekly email to the congregation. It is a flexible 3-4 hours per week and pays $12.00 per hour to start, with a 25% increase in hourly pay after review in six months.
I wanted to write back and ask, “Is this a joke?” (A friend of mine quipped, “Are you sure she didn’t leave off a coupla ones in front of the three and the four?”) I had assumed that part time meant at least twenty hours and that the position entailed administrative and communications tasks above and beyond publishing the weekly bulletin. What good was forty-eight dollars a week?
Well, it would be gas money, I decided, with something left over for stamps, laundry, etc. Also it occurred to me that this could be a painless way of slipping back into the workaday world after a long stint of unemployment. The interview alone offered a refresher course in sitting on the other side of a table from a prospective employer.
Immediate openings! Carroll Concrete: experienced drivers…..CE Bradley Laboratories: motivated plant labor…..GAA Horse Rescue: nonsmoking, experienced English rider….. Landmark College: Computer Science Faculty…..Brattleboro Swim Team: swim coach.
After countless job interviews, I’ve learned a few simple rules – well, one, actually: when it comes to life choice questions, lie. It’s not that I exaggerate my skills or fabricate an overwrought background for myself. As a matter of fact, I tend to downplay my achievements and capacities to spare myself the embarrassment of explaining on my first day that I do not know everything there is to know about QuickBooks, InDesign or Quark LX Press.
But for me, there are certain questions that need to be finessed: Why did you leave your last job? Why do you want this job? Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Pastor Peggy never asked that last question, the one that if I answer truthfully can sink me. (I do not see myself still working at this crummy organization for the pittance you want to pay me because I do not find this position interesting or motivating nor am I even remotely interested in pursuing a career based on this company’s goals.)
We met on the Friday after Easter Sunday. Our interview lasted an hour and fifteen minutes and although it was affable and pleasant, I couldn’t help wondering why a job so brief required so much deliberation. It made more sense when I learned that there was one other candidate.
After that, my mood shifted between sheer horror over the possibility that I might not get the job and seeing the humor in standard questions like: how do you handle stress? I mean, how stressful can a job get in a matter of four flexible hours divvied over two days? (I work out and I swim, I do tai chi, keep a diary and watch old movies I’ve seen twenty-five times. I cook. I get massages and pedicures. I have a best friend, a therapist, a church and a priest.)
Wanted: Experienced truck driver with CDL and HAZMAT Endorsement…..Vinyl sider, pickup truck required…..LP Service Technician and Heating System Installer…..Carpenter experienced in all phases of construction….. Production, Packaging & Warehouse Purchasing Agent…..Material Planner/Accounting Manager
As promised, Pastor Peggy called the following Tuesday with her decision. I’m glad I didn’t take the call. I don’t know what I would have said to someone who thinks I can’t handle four hours a week putting out a church bulletin. The voice mail explained that the other candidate had extensive experience with Publisher. (I had said I’ve worked with Publisher, but not extensively, and that it might take me half a day to re-familiarize myself with it.)
Four hours a week. Putting out a church bulletin. (On Publisher.)
Naturally, I over-reacted. A wave of heartless, suicidal impulses swept over me, through me and to the bitter end of me.
Fortunately, the call came half an hour before my weekly therapy appointment. I believe I cried all the way there. Nobody wanted me. Or needed me. Or even liked me. Nobody. It was a baaaad feeling. Surely I was the most incompetent, talentless, helpless and hopeless person in the world.
After hearing me out, my therapist said: Martha, since I’ve known you, you’ve been conflicted. We know that you can do any job you set your mind to. You could be running your own business, you could be executive director, marketing, communication, development director, whatever. But you keep choosing not to be.
True. I never went into academia, which would have been the most logical choice. Or the law, which didn’t interest me until lately. Or the medical profession, which would have been the thing to do.
Wanted! RNs, LPNs & LNAs!…..Home Health Care…..Recovery Residence…..Labor and Delivery….. Psychiatric…..Medical/Surgical….. Nursing Supervisor….. Emergency…..Critical Care…..Medical Technologist…..Inpatient Physical Therapist.
All the jobs italicized in this blog post appeared in the local paper this morning. I’ve never seen so many employment opportunities listed in one day since losing my job a year and a half ago. Somehow this was more depressing than seeing no jobs at all because despite the encouraging number, not one of them is pertinent to anything on my resume. Sadly, I fixated on “part time wrecker driver.” It evoked images of me driving a tow truck around in circles picking up the pieces of my own wrecked life.
My therapist reminded me that my current predicament is pretty much the result of the choices I have made. The mad genius bohemian that perches on my shoulder is also settled deep inside me, entangled with my temperament and my identity. Mad genius bohemian was always there. At age thirteen I remember thinking I might want to be a psychiatrist or an archeologist. But then I wrote my first novel.
These days, either to torture myself or to explore the feasibility of establishing new career goals at my advanced age, I glance through job listings on LinkedIn: Senior Writer/Editor. Development Communications Writer. Marketing Manager. Publicist. Social Media Writer. Director of Editorial Services and Web Content. These are things I could be doing now if I had pointed myself in their direction ten or twenty years ago.
I never did, though, and I never considered motherhood or conventional marriage because these professions would have consumed me (I try not to do things halfway) and I would have lost my bearings as a writer. I cooked in restaurants for twenty years and then switched over to office management. Jobs that did not fully involve or engage me paid the bills and left me free to focus on my real work, the only thing I ever cared about or wanted to do. My choice. Every step of the way.
Casting off the victim mentality abets moving on. Taking responsibility for my life, the way it appears to have turned out, enables me to take charge of what it might still be. I understand that for a no-name novelist to be published today, and/or to make a living at it, is just about impossible. But if I gave up now I would have to wonder what my whole life has been about. I set my course a long time ago and the only thing that makes sense is to follow through on it, regardless of where it may lead.
Mad genius bohemian won’t quit.
Are you unemployed? Underemployed? Job hunting? Or have you just given up? Do you have a job but wish you were doing something else? Have you ignored realities to pursue a dream?
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