I haven’t had an 8-to-5 job since 2003. The intervening years have had me undertake a number of endeavors to make a living. What has made me most happy is I haven’t had to sit behind a desk for a decade and a half. I consider myself lucky to have a wife who makes most of the money. For that, I’ve worked part time and taken care of my son, who was just four and a half when he came to us.
After his arrival, he needed a great deal of attention. He came from a difficult situation. His mother went down the meth hole and he endured all the complications and neglect that come from the house of an addict. At the time he joined us, I was working on my Ph.D. and had a flexible schedule that put me at home when he came home from kindergarten and then elementary school.
After I finished my Ph.D. coursework, I labored as a union ironworker, work that suited me but was the most physically demanding in a life of hard labor. I was on the job at 7 a.m. and done at 3:30, enough time to get home in time for Nick coming home from his after-school art program. Ironwork was sporadic and I often had days off unexpectedly. We rained out occasionally. We’d finish a job before the end of the workday. Nothing about ironwork was routine. I could take care of my son and earned enough to make me feel useful. I loved it.
When construction slowed down in 2010, I called one of the local community colleges and talked to the head of the history department. The Recession had hundreds of people retraining, catching up on the education they’d missed when they undertook their careers, and pursuing new lines of work. The college and the department was overwhelmed. I rang up on a Thursday. The head of the department asked me what I was doing the following Monday. I showed up to class, having had to pull four syllabi from out of thin air. I made my classes up as I went along.
There were a couple of years in there when I taught during the school year and worked iron in the summer. It was the best of both worlds for me, real exercise for body and mind. I mixed
But being in a academic setting and around education brought my unfinished dissertation to mind. The project began to haunt me. Soon, and almost without my noticing, I was researching articles and reading books. For about a year and a half, I worked on the dissertation, taking two summers free to focus specifically on getting the book completed. Ironwork, for as much as I loved it, was one of the dissertation’s victims.
In between, I was rewriting my second book and readying it for publication. Only when I finished the dissertation and made it through the defense was I able to finish that project. I earned the doctorate in November 2013 and my second book was published in May 2015.
By that time, Nick was old enough to take care of himself. I continued writing and rewriting essays for my website. In August 2017, an editor of a literary magazine solicited one of my manuscripts for publication.This made me think: I have written over 400 pieces for my website. Certainly, some of them must be good enough for publication.
I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. I set about rewriting and submitting essays to publications all over the country. Between January 2018 and now, I landed twelve publications, about one a month. The last of that batch of essays will be published next week in the magazine of the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University, Traverse.
It was a tumultuous year. My wife lost her job in June. This made me think very seriously about our financial status and what we might do if she didn’t find work again. I was nervous. My meager professor salary would not support the house on a month-to-month basis. We had some money in the bank, but we could make short work of it if we lost Virginia’s salary.
Fortunately, Virginia found work almost immediately. It turns out nurses are in great demand and we are very lucky of it. The new job paid the same or a little more than the one previous, so we would not be out any. The new insurance, however, is far below par and very much more expensive.
I have looked for jobs on and off through the years, being very picky about what I would take. After Virginia lost her job, I started more seriously looking for work. I didn’t look forward to getting a real job. The fifteen years of school and teaching have spoiled me. I’ve become used to writing something every day. Poems. Essays. Long letters. I wrote another book in 2016 and rewrote it several times, each rewrite bringing the manuscript a little closer to what it should be. But even with the extra work, the need to put the household on surer footing has been on my mind.
In that spirit, I have kept my eye out for the right kind of work. I have thought of a million things that would bring us the extra $1,000 a month I think we need, particularly with the expense of our new insurance plan.
I’ve found there’re plenty of full-time jobs out there in the $15-$20 an hour range. That’s about what I make at the moment. Going from working part-time to full-time for the same money doesn’t make much sense. I would be better that I keep doing what I’m doing now and get a part-time job to make up what I consider the difference between what we have and what we need for security in our new financial situation.
Fortunately, I recently landed a phone interview for a job I think would be perfect. It keeps me in the teaching trade. The job changes all the time. I wouldn’t be stuck behind a desk but would, instead, be doing training at various locations for a large local government agency. I would have to develop the courses, create the content, and carry out the instruction. The work would include job certifications, technical training, managerial and supervisory training. The audiences would run from high-school grads and GED holders to people who have specific technical degrees.
I tried to convey during the phone interview that I could do this job and excel at it. Who knows how these things go. They may be looking for someone more adept at the pedagogy-speak. They may think I’m too overqualified for the position. What I do know is that I could command a decent beginning wage. I would know that the benefit package would benefit us immensely.
So, I think about having a real job again after all these years. My initial thought is, my god, another stab at what might be a dead-end job. But my attitude toward work has changed. I only have ten or fifteen good years ahead of me. I could make that position work for me, regardless the difficulties that come my way.
And I also think of the writing discipline. The way it works now, I get up, write in the morning, go to an AA meeting or out to coffee, and come home to write again in the afternoon. That will not be possible with a job. Instead, I think, I will work my 8-to-5, come home and lay down for a while,and, then, nightly sit down to write for two hours. After that, time will be for family, laundry, cleaning house, and so on.
It will be a new world. A friend of mine says that I’ll get a whole lot more written. More books, anyway. I hope so.