Today has been a day like many others. I awoke when the din from the kids down the hall from my bedroom caused me to stir. I accompanied the three youngest downstairs, changed a diaper, and began arranging for their breakfast. First, of course, I put on the coffee.
A two-hour delay at the public school extended the cacophony of raucous play that followed the morning victuals of the children. So, another cup of coffee.
I was able to delight myself for a short time reading more from the novel, “An Artist of the Floating World”, written by Kazuo Ishiguro. It is the second novel of his that I’ve read this week, and I am drawn to the way he te lls his stories. Masterful. But, I will write more on that later.
I am told that we are missing some items for tonight’s dinner, small items whose absence could ruin the meal. I was going out anyway to get more cigarettes, so I don’t mind a stop by the local market. It is in these times, while I’m driving alone or wandering the aisles in relative peace, that I think most on my current writing projects. I work out story lines and am often encouraged to deepen the realism of one of the characters by observing those who are also wandering around the store.
While we are each wearing masks, something I still don’t like and probably never will, it is still easier to focus on someone’s mannerisms and not be distracted by appearances. We’re all faceless shadows, discernible by the ways we move, speak, and interact. From a distance, of course.
After returning home and shelving the most reverent of ingredients, I pour a fresh cup of coffee and head to the front porch to smoke and ponder the last hour of my life. I watch cars and neighbors pass, waving even if I go unnoticed. The phone in my pocket buzzes to announce the arrival of a coupon from the local auto parts store inviting me to save ten percent off my next purchase. Not today, but thanks.
I barely notice that my fingers have opened the email app allowing me to see what’s new. And then I see the title of an email that stops me:
“Do you want to love your job?”
The first thought through my mind is, “Who would answer ‘no’ to that question?” As my eyes wander to the sender, I scoff heartily, hoping I didn’t expose the irritation in my heart.
The sender of this email is just one of a number of employers for whom I spent many years attempting to work. When I retired from the service in 2014, I spent the next four years in college getting my degree. The purpose, I told myself, was to make myself more marketable, thereby securing better employment and pay. Six kids are expensive. This absence from the workforce was, in many cases, the reason I would never be hired.
I spent two years, from 2018 to 2020, applying for numerous jobs at this and other employers. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) interviewed me for a position nearby, but I was told that I was still to “army” for their department. I didn’t know what that meant, but irony was not lost on me.
For another job, one in physical security (I am too “army” after all, right), I didn’t get the position for which I applied because they wanted me to consider another position with higher pay. When I inquired about the original position, whose schedule better accommodated mine as a military spouse, I was informed that the position, while still open, was not a match for me because I was over-qualified. Only this position at the State Department was suitable for someone of my experience, they said.
Amazon was another company from whom I sought employment. I didn’t then, or now, have the technical savvy required for most positions, but there were a few for which I qualified. I never heard back about those. Also, I was unable to secure the “free AWS training” I hear about for veterans. I consoled myself by remembering that I still have my Prime account.
There were three positions on USA Jobs that showed promise. I was notified shortly after applying that I’d been selected as “best qualified”, which did boost my spirits for a time. One by one, though, they fell away. I would receive an email informing me that, while I was among the best qualified of all the candidates, I was not selected for an interview. Fair enough.
And yet, this employer, whose email caused me to pause and compose this blog post in my head, is one I thought for certain I would be able to work for. I have contacts there, one of whom happens to be an old friend of mine. There was another gentleman who works there that I met in a book store in 2019. Like me, he’s a veteran, a retiree, and was not overly qualified for the more IT-related positions. He offered to sponsor me for a position.
Between these two contacts, they sponsored me for four of the five applications I submitted over the following 12 months or so. Most were writing positions, while another was an analyst position. All were entry-level. Even with my meager network, I was unable to secure an interview. I got the impression that I had somehow not “made it past the computer”. It was but a few months ago that I received the final rejection I would allow from them.
I reflect on where I am now. Do I want to love my job? How presumptuous of you to think that I don’t. My life, like most others around me, does suck sometimes. Kids become ill, toilets flood into the basement, savings accounts are depleted, and then there’s the stupid masks.
I do love my job. I write articles for my clients and, even though it’s sporadic, I love it. I run and operate a blog and other websites. I’ve started my own freelance writing business. I frequently write and submit my work into contests. I help my fellow writers when they’re stuck or need advice.
In addition to all of that, my job, I manage the welfare of my many children and the relatively smooth operation of my household. It runs about as well as an infantry platoon in combat: it may be messy at times, but we’re hitting all the targets. Chow is served. Casualties are immediately treated. Resources are expended in the course of our battles, or saved for future ones. Preventive maintenance happens on a weekly basis. We host MWR events in the living room every Friday. The youngest troopers are still in training each week, or public education. We may not always be clean enough to enter the dining facility in Baghdad, but we keep fighting. We fight for and alongside of each other. Sometimes with.
Do I want to love my job? I do love my job and all the hardships, heartaches, and victories it can afford. Do I make as much money as a position at your firm? Of course not. But at least I am doing something I love, surrounded by people who love (and annoy) me. I appreciate your tepid concern for my wellbeing, but I have the best job in the world. I write.
And, I don’t have to wear a mask.