Working at Not Much

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I have been goofing off this morning, not blogging. My bio-rhythms were much better yesterday, so I don’t think we can blame that, but instead of blogging I’ve been watching Sandra Boynton videos, playing Solitaire and reading feel-good stories in the Washington Post.

Here is my question for Ms. Boynton and everyone else who turns cows into cartoons: why do you draw them with udders and then give them masculine voices? I always wondered why certain evangelicals got themselves so worked up over SpongeBob’s sexuality (and when a friend asked, this was my response: no, he’s not gay, but Squidward is) but never once brought up the cartoon Back at the Barnyard, also a Nickelodeon production whose lead character was a “cow” complete with udder named Otis.

If you’re worried about cartoon characters confusing poor impressionable young children with suspect sexuality, why wouldn’t you take your pitchfork after Otis and his friends who thought so little of his gender-bending that it never got brought up once?

I moved past the eternal cow mystery and the card games (win some, lose some — that’s how Solitaire works) to the Post. There are many people better placed than I to eulogize that lion of the Civil Rights movement, Elijah Cummings, so I will move on, as I did, to the stories that rarely rate the front page but were easier today on my brain and heart.

There were the two women in their 20s, rummaging through a “curio” room in Tennessee who came across World War II love letters between a GI and his girl back in New Jersey. One of the women said the letters read better than any book she’d ever come across, and the two of them set out to learn more about the young lovers.

Turns out they got married and had four kids, and the two women were able to drive 800 miles to meet the family, both parents now deceased, and turn over the letters. My favorite part was that their father used to put a board down on the back porch to practice his tap dancing, and he tapped at all four of his children’s weddings.

Then there were the ring stories, the diver who found a class ring from 1960 in some body of water around Boston. He reunited it with the owner’s daughter, who took it to her father. He had given it, back before he graduated high school, to his girlfriend of the time, and she lost it but had no idea where. After he got it back, he gave it to his wife of 50 years and told the diver, “I’ll never learn. I gave it to another girl.”

And the man from St. Louis whose wife got out of their car on a very snowy road in Alberta, Canada, stepped into much deeper snow than she expected, brushed herself off and felt her $10,000 72-diamond engagement ring slide off her finger. (The ring was not nearly as garish as I was picturing, 72 diamonds costing $10,000.)

The man waited until the snow melted, bought a metal detector, corresponded with a “ring finder” who lived a couple hundred miles away from the site of the loss, then told his wife he was traveling on business and went instead back to Alberta. Against extremely long odds, including magpies eyeing shiny objects, and without a metal detector, one of the searchers found the ring just about where the wife had been standing.

Then it was on to the advice columns, where half of the fun of reading them in an electronic format is all the additional, unsolicited advice the letter writers get from the commenters.

The most notable problem of the day came from a recent college graduate (gender unspecified, but everyone was quick to assume female) who had been offered her first career position with good salary and benefits, but she (we’ll assume too) was dreading taking the job, which wasn’t her dream job. Family and friends were telling her to take it anyway.

Most of the advice, including from Amy whose column it is, agreed with family and friends: take the job. It doesn’t have to be permanent. It’s easier to look for a job while employed. You don’t want a large unemployment gap on your resume. J. Paul Getty (quoted at least twice) said he never worked a job where he didn’t learn something. Good luck, kid.

Okay, that last part was my helpful advice. But I also think the people who pointed out that dream jobs aren’t always dreams were worth listening to, and that you might find yourself doing something you never planned but which proves satisfying.

Since I never really planned any of the jobs I’ve had, I don’t know that there’s a dream job out there for me. In seventh or eighth grade when I had to do a report on a profession I’d like to pursue, I focused on journalism. That’s because I hadn’t yet heard of freelance writing, which is where I focused my attention for my sophomore career exploration.

As an adult (in age at least), I ended up doing both, although not very much freelancing because that’s all about marketing, which I’m horrible at, even if it’s marketing myself. But I didn’t really plan any of it, despite my career reports.

I took a total of three journalism classes at the University of Colorado, and lots of history (one six-credit freshman survey course and I could have had a double-major) and creative writing, which is the very useful degree I graduated with. If you want to live in a small town, which is one of the many things college taught me, and you have a writing degree without a teaching certificate, you might find yourself applying for jobs with newspapers.

I didn’t have any clippings from the college newspaper work I never did, and I even had one jerk say of the photographs I handed him, “You say you took these,” so I wasn’t getting hired at any of the small papers I applied to. One editor was impressed enough by my college transcript that while she didn’t hire me, she sent my resume out to the other newspapers in the small mountain-town chain, where I got a couple of interviews but still no job offer.

It wasn’t until I came home to Gunnison to get some more of my things and my mother said, “I think they’re looking for help at the newspaper” that anything took. Even then I didn’t get hired on the basis of my journalistic skills, but because the general manager noted I’d been in town a long time (15 years way back then) and likely knew people.

He was right, and it was helpful. The job also gave me those clippings and published pictures my resume had lacked, so that I could do what most young journalists do, which is keep moving up and up, year by year, to bigger newspapers. Only I never left. My one year turned to five slid right into 10.

So you see, young letter writer? You might take a chance, even if it isn’t your dream job. Maybe you’ll hate every minute of it. Or you might surprise yourself. Good luck, kid.

I’m out of time and nearly at my word limit. Perhaps tomorrow I can regale you all with the far more unexpected turns my career path has taken — and me without a resumĂ© since 1995.


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