Note: This started as a response to an old friend who poked me with a pointy stick in response to last night’s post. Because I often can’t resist poking back, you get what we have here, which is a far longer response than is strictly necessary, but one that I think was worth the effort to write down all in one place.
Two years ago I decided a change was in order. To make the change a reality, I papered the countryside from southern New Jersey to the Carolinas with just shy of 600 resumes. So when someone tells me that I don’t know what the job market is like out there, I’m not quite sure how to respond. Out of that pool of 600 jobs, I got maybe 12 interviews, six follow-up interviews, and one firm offer of employment. It took the better part of a year, but I was still able to get from Point A to Point B. Trust me, I know the job market ain’t what it used to be.
Given the impending draconian cuts in defense spending that will be enacted in January if Congress fails (once again) to do its job, there’s the outside chance that my gig will be on the chopping block just like everyone else’s. Yep, that sucks, but it’s reality. Uncle Sam promised the opportunity to work. He didn’t make any promises of a job for life. If the budget ax falls and I’m on the wrong side of it, well, that means I’ll be looking for work (again, just like everyone else). I like to think that my unique set of knowledge, skills, abilities, education, and training make me marketable across a respectably wide swath of potential employers… but I don’t think any combination of those things is a guarantee that I’ll be able to land exactly the job I want, when I want it, with the pay that I’d like to earn. That, of course leads to the inevitable question, “What happens if you don’t get anything close to the job you want or are qualified for?”
The best answer is I’d do whatever I needed to do to make ends meet. First the non-essential spending goes away – cable TV, booze, eating out, movies, horse racing, the things that are fun, but don’t do anything other than take money away from the bottom line. In a pinch, I sell the truck in favor of something more fuel efficient, take on a roommate to help balance the cost of rent and utilities. None of these are things I want to do, but they’re the things that need done when funds have to be prioritized.
I spent five years flipping burgers at a time when minimum wage was a hellofa lot less than it is now. I did it before and I’m not too proud to do it again if needs be. When the chips are really down common sense tells me that having some money coming in is better than no money coming in at all. When I wasn’t asking if someone wanted fries with that I worked sporadically as a valet. That job paid tips and a hot meal at the end of the night. In the summer I baled hay on a local farm and shoveled shit when it needed shoveling. Lord knows that wasn’t glamorous or high paying. For a while I was even directed traffic and took admission tickets at the county fairgrounds. I spent days most summers cutting grass for anyone who would throw a $20 my way. More often than not, I was working one or more of those jobs on the same day. And if all of those things weren’t a sufficient lesson in thrift and humility, I taught civics to high school freshmen. Anyone who does that job deserves some kind of medal.
I’m not here to tell anyone they suck or that they’re not working hard enough and I rarely espouse any political belief other than my own. Lord knows there’s no major (or minor) party that’s perfectly aligned with my way of thinking. I make observations based on my own experience and adjust my thoughts accordingly. I see plenty of problems with the world and how it’s operating, but I still don’t see a system that’s hopelessly broken. No one promises that life is going to be fair. The Declaration itself calls for the pursuit of happiness, not the guarantee of happiness. Life isn’t fair and sometimes that just sucks. I’d love to have the body of a young Brad Pitt and the voice of a Pavarotti, but those weren’t the gifts I got… yet I still go to the movies and enjoy listening to a tenor sing. Somehow I don’t see any benefit of shuttering the theaters and concert halls just because I can’t have what they have.
Come at me with concrete, realistic ideas about what can be better and how to achieve it and I’m all ears, but don’t expect me to join a crusade just to burn down what we have now. For all its warts, I dare say our system is still a far better operation than what our friends in Syria, Iran, Egypt, and dozens of other countries enjoy at the moment. I’m not willing to throw it over because hey maybe the next thing we try will be better.