My Surprisingly Not So Dubious Work History

I’ve long held the apparently erroneous belief that aside from being a writer, I am otherwise unemployable, but when I take an objective look at my work history, that just isn’t the case. Now, given the fact that I quit my last job over six months ago and have developed an online presence as a lesbian, feminist, atheist author, I may in fact never get another job, but up until last August, I did a pretty fair job of bringing home the bacon. I guess my belief about my employability stems more from my longtime desire to be a writer than from my willingness to do whatever it took to stay afloat. I’ve even managed to put together a couple of careers amid what seems to be a mishmash of jobs.

I’ve been a college English instructor, a college Computer Information Systems instructor, the technology director for a Catholic elementary school, and a systems analyst for an oil refinery. I’ve owned my own bookstore and managed the bookstore at a technical college. I’ve worked at our local independent bookstore in town a few times over the years, as well as at a national bookstore chain (and for a while I worked both places at once). Not long after I graduated from college I managed to get a job at the local university as a Secretary 3 by lying about my knowledge of filing systems, but my shorthand skills were not what they should have been and I didn’t take orders very well.

During high school I worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken and while in college I dropped out for a quarter and took a gig at Arby’s, but I’ve never waited tables. During the summers while I was in college I worked as a forest fire fighter, first for the department of natural resources and then one summer for the National Park Service. I spent the summer between my junior and senior years of high school in the Youth Conservation Corps on the Olympic Peninsula. Once, I had a job in a television tower putting on local commercials in place of the national ads. I don’t remember much about that job except that I drove miles and miles up a gravel road to this boxlike structure where I climbed a ladder, locked myself in, and watched a lot of tv.  And I did a stint during high school at a print shop where I learned to make silk screens and plates for printing presses, skills I wish I still had today.

Currently I am not working. Ostensibly I quit my job last August in order to pursue my career as a writer, but that’s not really going very well. I’ve discovered something new about myself:  I don’t like to work in isolation. That thing that Robert DeNiro said at the Academy Awards the other night about writers—was so accurate. The mind of a writer IS a terrifying thing—the isolation, the neurosis, the procrastination, panic, self-loathing, it’s all true.  I couldn’t hack it. So, I decided to go back to school. To get my masters degree in mental health counseling. So I can help writers battle the isolation, neuroticism, self-loathing, panic, and procrastination. I mean who better than I to provide this service? I am not planning on giving up on being a writer, but I am going to add “therapist to the worried writer” to my resume. Naturally, I plan to write about this adventure as it unfolds.

Starting a new career at the age of 50 is frightening. Taking on student loans terrifies me (though I do my best not to let on to The Little Woman), but I look at it like this—I have one life, one shot to get it right, one chance to find out really what I was meant to do. I don’t think I’ve figured it out yet, and I’d really like to before all of this comes to an end.

16 thoughts on “My Surprisingly Not So Dubious Work History

  1. I’m a little younger at 33, but I too have decided to figure out a calling in life. I begin 5 years of school in September to hopefully become an English teacher. It’s terrifying.

  2. I hope there’s no conflict of interest / boundary shit re: counseling your writing buddies, because I’m ready to sign up as your first client. Proud of you, friend!

  3. Yes, you do have one life. One life to be proud of and have no/minimal regret. You and Nancy both have it all right. Proud of you, kiddo!

    • Well, that’s really what it comes down too, like we were discussing last night . . . this isn’t a dress rehearsal. It’s the real deal and if we don’t follow our dreams now, when will we? xo

  4. I’ve thought a lot about going back into counseling… and was recently offered a very interesting job, in the field, but I want to become a writer. At 51, it is truly daunting! If anyone can do it, you can P. Viva!

  5. Pingback: Shameless Self Promotion | Pamela Helberg

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