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.