I wrote this one a LONG time ago(2008!) and was thinking about how I ended up where I am. This is part of it. The explanation for my long stint in jail. I really think I would have been better off if I had stayed in jail until I retired.
I’ve always loved reading and that likely explains why I like libraries, but has little to do with why I am here. I decided when I was in 6th grade that I was going to be a teacher. After that decision was made, I never really thought about doing anything else. I went off to the University of Kentucky and declared elementary education as my major. The first couple of education classes were great. I enjoyed the hour here and there that I spent in the classroom and had good grades in the education classes. When I got to the semester before student teaching, I was spending 2 days a week at an elementary school. I quickly realized that I didn’t like kids enough to spend all day in a room full of them and also that I wasn’t very good at teaching them.
The year before this, I needed a part time job. I put in an application to work at the university library and received a call to go talk to the head of the periodicals department. She asked me to go get my application from the library administration before the interview. The library administration told me my application had been pulled by the circulation department already, so I headed over to get it from them. The circulation department head told me then that he wanted to hire me and that I would be happier working there than I would in periodicals. Not really caring about the department, I said OK and accepted the job. After a year there, I became the Sunday night supervisor. I really loved the job and the people in the department.
When I reached the crisis point of knowing I could never be a teacher, my adviser saw how much I loved the library and suggested I look into getting an MLS. I discovered that I was only a few credits away from a degree in communications, so I switched majors, got the BS in Communications and when on to get an MLS from the University of Kentucky.
I worked in market research for a year while getting my degree and started looking for a library job when it was time to move to Maryland for my wife’s job. My first two library jobs were with a temp agency. I was placed at a law firm across from the White House for a couple of weeks and then did a week at the World Bank. My one and only full time job offer was with the Maryland State Correctional System as a contract employee. I spent a miserable year there and then started looking for a new job with benefits. I interviewed several places and ended up back in jail, this time with Howard County Library at the county jail. Thirteen years later, I am still in what at the time I thought would be a nice in between job before getting out of jail for good.
As for why I am still here, part of it is that I have not been offered any other jobs I have applied for in the system, but also because I really do believe I am helping people each and every day.
This one popped up in my memories. Looking back, I Miss how much I loved working at the library at UK. Great people that made the job fun. I also miss the freedom of having a job like the newspaper job where I depended on no one but myself. After the newspaper job I worked at a market research job until we moved here and I started library work. Now I want to go back to just having a job, not a career.
So, this whole first seven jobs thing has been floating around and I’ve considered doing it, but never got around to it. I was just going to post a list, but a friend just posted hers on Facebook with narrative, so I decided to that as well here. So, here they are:
- Ohio County Board of Education – I’m not sure what the actual job title was. It was part of the summer youth jobs program. I was placed here two summers in a row. We took delivery of textbooks, stamped them with their number for tracking, counted out the proper number for each school and then delivered them to the schools. Not a bad summer job. All I remember from this job is remembering that I was still weird and awkward around adults.
- Commons Grill at UK – Not sure if that was the real name of the place. It was on campus near or in the Blanding/Kirwin complex. I was the guy who retrieved the food when it was ready. I didn’t cook anything or work the register. I occasionally scooped ice cream as well. I had issues with management because they didn’t think school obligations were more important than work. I was in a theater class at the time and had to attend plays as part of the class. They would schedule me during those times, my coworkers wouldn’t trade shifts, so I didn’t show up. Not the best way to be as an employee, but I cared about school more than the job. I would post my written reprimands on my wall in the dorm. Needless to say, I did not return the following semester.
- Houseboy at a Sorority – I can’t remember the name of the sorority. I served dinner and washed dishes after. I only have vague memories of this job and can’t say if I was a better employee there than I was at the grill. I do remember one night when I was the only one there and the person in charge was annoyed that I couldn’t do the work as fast alone as I could with help. I remember some of the girls from the house coming back to help me with dishes when they realized I was alone.
- Resident Janitor and the Baptist Student Center – I cleaned the building in exchange for a basement apartment. I enjoyed living where I already spent a lot of time, I enjoyed my friends always being around but I did not enjoy being a janitor. I also don’t think I was very good at it. I left after one school year.
- Circulation Department, King Library, UK – While working at the above job, I decided I also needed a job that paid actual money, so I applied for more campus jobs. I was afraid that I would not be hired because of my time at the grill, but it didn’t take long for the library to call me for an interview. The department that called was the periodicals department. I went up to periodicals and they asked me to go get my application and come back. Turns out the circulation department had also pulled my application, so I went there to pick it up. When I went in to get it, they told me that I really didn’t want to work in periodicals because I would be happier working for them. We talked, they gave me the schedule I wanted and hired me on the spot. I then had to go tell the periodicals person that I would not be interviewing because I got another job while looking for my application for the interview there. This was the first job I had where I felt like I was actually good at what I was doing. I liked most of the other student workers, I liked the non-student staff and I enjoyed the work. They liked me as well and eventually I was the in-charge student on Sunday nights. They liked me so much that when they couldn’t give me full-time hours in the summer due to budget cuts, they found me jobs in other departments to supplement my hours so I wouldn’t quit. So, I count my time in the campus mailroom and the distant learning department as part of this job. The only reason I left was because my wife graduated and got a real job in Cincinnati. It’s possible I would have stayed there forever had we stayed in Lexington.
- Page at Boone County Library – During my time at the above job, I realized I was not a good teacher and changed my major to communications with the goal of going to grad school to get an MLS. While doing that, I needed a job in the Cincy area. Boone County was the first to hire me. I didn’t get a lot of hours and didn’t make a lot of money, but I did get my first experience working in a public library. They later took me on as an intern in the reference department.
- Single Issue Sales/Cincinnati Post – I needed more money than I was making at the library, so I left and delivered newspapers for the Post. I delivered a morning and afternoon edition to street racks and stores in downtown Cincinnati. I actually really enjoyed this job and was in great shape due to my decision to park and walk the streets with my papers instead of driving rack to rack. I was actually pretty good at this as well and made decent money. I also had to work holidays and weekends and eventually looked for a regular 9-5 job. And then I got fat.
So, yesterday, I wrote about turning the page and starting a new chapter even if the new chapter is a mystery. That’s easier said than done.
If I was the only person my actions impacted I would likely pack my bags and move back to my home state. I don’t know that I would consider moving back to my actual hometown, but I would go somewhere smaller and quieter than the place I am right now. As I’ve written before, I hate the burbs. I would find a job to pay for my living expenses and lead a quiet, secluded life. That would only work if I had no family. This option is out because my family lives here and has no interest in abandoning their lives to move to the country with me. Even if I could convince my wife to do it, I would never voluntarily live hundreds of miles away from my kids. So, that option is obviously out.
Another option that is out is me quitting my job and taking a sabbatical while assessing my options. That was the dream for a little while during isolation. I would dream of talking to my wife and telling her that I needed to quit my job and take a break for a while for mental health reasons. In the dream version, she would agree that we were able to absorb my not working for 6 months and that I should do it. As long as I never talked to her, I could continue to dream about this. Unfortunately, I eventually had to actually have the conversation with her and thus ended the dream. I can’t just quit my job without my wife’s blessing. That wouldn’t be right. I guess she is not interested in having a house husband for a few months. Also, apparently quitting my job and taking a break while doing work around the house isn’t a real life plan.
So, where does that leave me? It leaves me not turning the page because this is a terrible time to try to make a major change in life. Finding a new job is hard in the best of times. Finding a new job when you are over 50 is hard in the best of times. Starting a new career over 50 is almost impossible even in the best of times. I’m wanting to do it n the middle of a pandemic. That just isn’t going to happen. Thus, my initial plan of a 6-month sabbatical in hopes of things being better sometime in 2021.
It’s too bad no one will pay me to write a mediocre blog. Page turning will have to wait for a bit.
Support the Common Tater
I posted on Facebook yesterday that it might be time to delete the app from my devices to force a break. I wrote about that in this post in the past but never did it. It’s become too much of a habit for me. It is even more of habit during isolation. I struggled to focus on a book. I watched a lot of TV and movies, but it’s easy to scroll mindlessly through Facebook and Twitter while watching a random TV show. I don’t post as much as I used to. I don’t interact as much as I used to. I scroll through more than I used to. There is not a lot of good there. It’s a bad habit that I need to break.
I have done a little better. I do crosswords on my iPad now during times when I would usually be on social media. I play Risk on there as well I’m reading a little more than I was the past couple of months. I still do sometimes scroll through aimlessly, though. Habit? FOMO? Who knows. Facebook is no longer pictures of people having fun or posts about the lives of my friends. It is mainly people arguing and posting political opinions. I still get some good content on Twitter, but it is a lot of the same there. I could fix Twitter easily by unfollowing the random strangers who annoy me these days. Facebook is harder since they are all friends and family. Deleting the app from my phone would be easier.
My phone, in general, has become a negative in life. There is the constant lure of social media. There is also the constant threat of a call from work that will ruin my day. And I can’t guarantee those calls will respect my personal time. I’ve had to tell people I was turning my phone off on a Saturday to get them to stop texting me on my weekend off about things that were not emergencies. If I didn’t get texts from family who don’t live with me I would turn my phone off at 5 and leave it off until 9 the next morning. That’s not possible, so the dark cloud of work looms over me all the time.
My phone has become my enemy that I helped create.
Another Saturday rerun that really resonates today. I desperately need to figure out how not to have my traditional career. My traditional career is not where I need to be mentally at this point in my life. The problem is it’s is not easy convincing others that a sabbatical while I figure out my next step is a reasonable thing to do. I’ve longed for the simple life for years and nothing has changed there. It resonates even more now as we move into a reality where others can officially judge my life choices on a daily basis.
I am reading the book Walden on Wheels for my book club. It is a memoir by a guy who details his time trying to live simply to pay off his student loans. He works in Alaska at a camp here he gets free room and board, he works as a park ranger, he hitchhikes home and when he goes to grad school he lives in his van. As I read this book(and listen while sitting in rush hour traffic) I think two things: 1. This guy is a dick and 2. The simple life doesn’t sound so bad.
While I have no desire to be this guy
I wouldn’t mind making some changes. I’ve written here before about how much I dislike the suburbs. The suburbs is the opposite of the simple life. The suburbs means a bigger house with room for lots of stuff. The suburbs means a yard you have to keep manicured so your neighbors don’t hate you. The suburbs means the need to drive everywhere you go. I’m here until my kids graduate and get their own places. Once they are settled I will work on convincing my wife to consider a condo in the city. I’m not sure how successful I will be, but I would love a life of no lawn and the availability of public transit.
A simpler life also means the possibility of lessening the need for a job you don’t love to make the money you need to live life in the DC suburbs. The condo in the city won’t be any cheaper, but I hope to be retired by then and can save money by having no need for money for more than a couple of Metro rides a week. I was at Panera today and again longed to be the person who could enjoy sitting there sipping my coffee with no office to get to. I could deal with the suburbs if I could somehow make a living writing or doing some other job I could do from my laptop at Panera. I would take the simple life of living in the suburbs with no need to deal with rush hour traffic and no need to leave the house and deal with difficult people.
So, while I have no desire to live in a van down by the river, I do desire the ability to live a life less dependent on a traditional career.
In this case I mean sick as in physically ill. Every other day is the rambling of a mentally sick man. Today I am home sick from work. I went home early yesterday because I didn’t feel good. I woke up this morning not feeling great again. I knew the minute I woke up that I shouldn’t go to work. I got out of bed anyway. I had coffee and read the paper. I still knew I didn’t feel good enough to go to work. I took a shower and got dressed anyway. I still knew I didn’t feel good enough to go to work. I drove to work anyway. Once at work I realized I really shouldn’t be there. My boss took one look at me and agreed. I am now back home and under a blanket on the couch. I will try to nap today in hopes of feeling better. I don’t have one defining symptom. Just an overall feeling of blah. So, why do I try to convince myself to go to work when I’m sick? Let’s make a list.
- Guilt – I think about the fact that other people will have to work extra hours on the desk if I’m not at work. I think about stuff I need to get done that will now be one day behind. I think about meetings I might miss. I feel guilty about all of this and convince myself that I should do to work.
- Mild illness – I never get really sick. If others in my family get a stomach bug and can’t keep anything down for days I will feel a little queasy for a day or so. I get mild versions of everything so I never really feel so sick that I know for sure I should stay home.
- Judgment – People can say they don’t judge you for calling out sick, but I know that isn’t always true. I’ve had enough people make comments or bring up the fact that I called out sick to know that there are people who look down on people who call out sick. I just need to stop caring about people like that.
OK, so it’s only a list of three, but that still counts as a list. I need to learn to stop worrying about it and start making sure I stay home to get better.
I will end with a quote that has been in my head as I wrote this
Don’t kill yourself for a job that would replace you within a week if you dropped dead
It would take a little longer than a week, but the sentiment is true.
I know that might sound weird, especially for those who don’t know I worked in a jail library for 19 years. Jail was not always an easy place to work. Many days could be very stressful. I spent a lot of time trying to get out and was relieved when I was finally transferred. There are things I miss about it, though.
I worked Monday through Friday and 8-4 when I was at the jail. No weekend work.
I worked alone. I could do things my way and not deal with anyone else doing it wrong.
I worked alone so my day didn’t depend upon others actually showing up for work.
I worked alone so there was no one around to micromanage me.
I worked alone so I could go on vacation or call out sick without worrying about my absence creating work for others.
I could have problem customers removed from the library.
Customers were only allowed in the library for an hour and then they had to leave.
I worked alone. Have I mentioned that? I love some of my coworkers, but working alone can be very nice.
I was invisible. I mean, I am still basically invisible, but I suddenly become visible when someone wants me to do something they don’t want to do. I was always invisible in jail.
Maybe I can get them to transfer me back to jail…
A friend sent me a Creativity Jumpstart notebook a while back. I have not used it as much as I should. I get stuck a lot and it is very useful in helping me find something to write. Today’s post is brought to you by life lately and the following tweet she included in the notebook:
I can relate to that tweet completely, but, unfortunately, for a good portion of my achieving things, I didn’t have Netflix to get me through. I survived and even before Netflix TV was a big part of my life.
Mine has been a life of thinking that I would be happier if I could just achieve a certain thing.
Going to college was going to make me happier. I was still an awkward social outcast in college.
Graduating and getting a job was going to make me happier. My first job out of grad school was a contract job with no benefits and a terrible boss.
Getting a real job away from that boss was going to make me happier. I ended up back in jail.
Getting out of jail was going to make me happier It took 19 years, but I got out of jail. I was then in a weird, invisible position where no one respected me and I was still the jail guy.
Getting a transfer or a promotion to get an actual title was going to make me happier. What I got was that a title means nothing and I might be more invisible and less respected than I was when I was the jail guy.
I’ve spent years working toward some mythical place that was going to make me happy. I’m still not happy. I’m not happy because my focus on being happy was too career focused. My career was never going to be the source of my happiness. I’ve been reaching for happiness where happiness was not to be found. I will never move up in my career if I stay who I am and I refuse to be someone else. At least that is what people tell me.
So, if you need me, I will be in front of my TV watching Netflix and dreading leaving the house in the morning.
I had decided to write something this morning about the reaction to Andrew Luck’s retirement. I have thoughts about that. I just can’t get motivated to actually put them into a coherent post.
I have some thoughts about the reaction to Joe Walsh entering the Republican primary. Again, no motivation to put them into a coherent post.
I have to go to work this morning. I have no motivation to get off the couch and do that either, but mot going to work is not an option, so I will have to get over that.
I’ve been up since 5:30am. I read the paper. I watched two half-hour TV shows. I ate breakfast. I did a little bit of exercise. I took a shower. I should be ready to go. I’m not.
I think it is just a reaction to the time of the year. My daughter is back in school. Days are getting shorter. Summer is basically over. I think no matter how old I get and how little summer ending really changes my life it will still be a down time for me. I think after years of being on school and then having kids in school that end of summer feeling is just ingrained in you and will never go away.
It also doesn’t help that I’m aware of the fact that no one cares if I post or not. It’s not like more than 20 people will read what I write. It’s hard to get motivated to do something that no one cares about. Same goes for work. I could quit today and it wouldn’t matter to anyone. It would probably make a lot of people happy. I’m just a replaceable cog in a machine. I’m not sure cogs are every really motivated. They just work until they wear down and then they are replaced and thrown away.
Maybe tomorrow will be a better morning.
A post came up in my memories today where I talked about how to define myself now that my role as a dad has changed. I wrote that post when my son was heading to college and my daughter was starting high school. A lot has happened over those four years.
My son has now graduated from college and is starting his first real job this week.
My daughter leaves for her second year of college on Friday.
I accepted a new position at my place of work and moved to a new branch.
My mom died(and thus my role as son has ended)
That’s a lot in four years. The job and mom thing were just a month or so apart.
I still struggle with the thought of what defines me. I’m still dad, but I go weeks without seeing my kids. I go to work, I go home, I read or watch TV and then I start all over again. I still don’t want to be a person who is defined by my job, especially since I’m not sure anyone respects my job or my ability to do it. Also, I will no longer be doing this job in six years or so. I don’t want to be that person who struggles with retirement because my life has been defined by the work I do. So, the question is where do I go from here?
I’m not sure I can answer that. After all, the original post is from four years ago. I’ve had four years to consider this and I’ve done nothing. Maybe the “defining” thing is the problem. Do I really need to worry about that? Maybe it’s time to just think about doing more fun things after work. I already plan to see a movie on my Fridays off at least once a month for the next couple of months. I need to go ahead and buy that ticket to the concert in DC next month even though my wife won’t go with me. I need to get out and go to DC, Baltimore, and Annapolis. I need to take day trips to other places further away. There’s no reason to wait for retirement to start doing these things.
I guess it’s time to stop worrying about how present me is defined and start working on becoming the future, man of leisure, me.