Before I met Eva, and I mean the week before, I wrote up a questionnaire to present to a potential partner. On the surface, there's no reason I should have even considered doing such a thing. I'd been celibate for over two years at the time. There were no sexual/romantic prospects anywhere on my horizon.
But for the first time ever, that didn't bother me in the slightest. I felt truly comfortable being by myself. That doesn't mean I had grown up...far from it...the previous blog should make that clear. But I knew, for the first time, that I had all the ingredients necessary to do it. I wasn't looking for someone to complete me. I was looking for someone to help me 'complete' myself. And along came Eva. Almost as if she had been summoned.
That questionnaire is a little embarrassing to look at. (Of course it's in here...the blog entry that contains that is worth reading at if anyone needs a reminder of just why we married: it all holds true today).
A couple of questions I'd still say were pretty perceptive, though. I particularly like "name three things you admire(d) about your mother"--with the intent that her answer would age her thirty years. Eva's mom is, of course, a wonderful person, a woman who balances enormous strength, intelligence and compassion. All three qualities she passed on to her daughter. Of course.
I did a lot of writing that winter. A lot of soul searching, over a period of a couple of months. I had time to do it because that was--not coincidentally--the last time I was unemployed. After that spate of introspection, money running out. feeling the strangest mix of damnit I need a job and serenity that whatever will be, will be, I walked into a job interview and met my wife.
That job lasted just long enough to cement Eva and I together. She was, in fact, both reasons I quit. (Reason 1: I couldn't date the boss. Reason 2: I couldn't do the job). I went directly from that market research company into a variety store job, which led to another, which led to Price Chopper in an inexorable procession that, looking back, seems preordained. Price Chopper was a long stint, over a decade, that netted me one very important friend and a wealth of experience.
There came a point when it was no longer good enough for me. I needed benefits, which were three times denied me, and I was beginning to be treated like a doormat. But because of my time there, I was able to do two things I'd never done. First, I was able to network for a new job. When I learned of an opportunity, I was able to summon the professional self-confidence to walk into an interview and essentially demand to be hired...and it worked.
Now I'm unemployed again. That's the least of the changes that this year has thrown at me. Actually, chuck that construction. I have created the conditions for change, both personal and professional, and they have profound implications for my life moving forward.
You won't believe this, but it's true (ask Eva): the day before I was laid off, I had one of those days we all get from time to time, the kind of work day that makes you wish you could just quit. (I won't give specifics because (a) they're not important and (b) I'm technically still on payroll there and thus bound by extremely strict disclosure rules.) Suffice it to say I came home and asked Eva if she could look into whether I might be able to work with her. (Her company is awesome: just the kind of family culture that makes you feel like you belong). "I have an odd feeling something's coming down", I said.
It came down, all right. The next day.
I have spent the last couple of months coming to terms with myself again, taking a huge personal leap forward, assessing and addressing. That's ongoing, There have been little steps (baking things for the first time ever, all of which have turned out wonderfully) and big steps (fixing my smile, getting tattoos and a piercing), The last two months have demanded a stem-to-stern emotional inventory and a totally honest life review I'm most of the way through. These two most recent blog entries are just another step in that process.
Basically, what I've determined probably should have been obvious, considering how similar it is to what I determined fifteen years ago. I'm a complete person. I have all the skills I need to move on, to leave the "accidental career" in retail behind. That's not to say I won't learn new skills, or refine the skills I have: of course I will, that's what life is. But I'm more than a retail drone.
Working retail has a way of convincing you otherwise. It's a career in which your essential worthlessness is drilled into you on a daily basis, by customers and management alike. It's the kind of job in which nothing is ever done, nothing can ever be done to a high enough standard, and you are ultimately completely interchangeable and unnecessary no matter how long you've been doing the job or how well you do it. The purpose of retail--customer service--is something I excel at, because my life's philosophy is to leave every person who meets me a little better off for having met me. But that's a life purpose, applicable in any career and everywhere else in life as well, and I've had that philosophy roughly forever. In other words, while retail has taught me a lot, and will help in untold ways in my next career, it is also part of what has been holding me back, psychologically, in ways that are impossible to fully articulate or understand unless you've worked it. It's soul-crushing. Factory work is probably preferable: at least in a factory you have something tangible at the end of a shift, something you create that goes out into the world with the purpose you give it.
I could get a job relatively easily with the competition. Their warehouse is hiring, night shifts--granted it's in south Cambridge, but I'm sure I could get in there if I wanted to. The Walton empire is always hiring. There are doubtless other jobs out there.
I'm done with retail. I'm on to bigger and better things.
What things? Not sure yet. But before I met Eva, I wasn't sure either.
I'll say this: I've been taking French for reasons that have nothing to do with the job I just lost. There are two very intensive courses left for a certificate of fluency, plus a Business French course I'd like to take. But even after the next course I should be able to pass a basic fluency test.
I have heard from many of my readers that I should consider a career in writing. This is very flattering and I thank each and every one of you who say that. I have exactly one friend who may have inside information on how to turn this love of mine into money: otherwise I'm clueless, and worse, have no idea where to find reliable clues. You should know that the number of people making a living off their own words is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percentage of the number of people who consider themselves writers. I'm not among that elite. That's not me putting myself down. It's just a fact. Confidence will only get you so far.
However...I have no intention of shutting this Breadbin down any time soon, and I have other writing on the side, intensely personal, that might coalesce into something. I'm not going to put demands on myself because I've tried that before, and it doesn't work. The personal stuff seems to draw the most interest, but I can't figure out if that's just because my readers are my friends, or I'm just that weird. (Good weird, good weird...) I'm working on it, okay?
What I really deserve is a job where I feel like I'm making a difference. Eva has a job like that now for maybe the first time in her life and it has energized her and lightened her heart. I don't mind so-called drudgery if it accomplishes something, if it improves lives in some measurable way.
Does my writing do that? I'd love to think so, but I don't think I've accumulated enough wisdom yet to make such a claim.
At any rate, I sensed very strongly at the beginning of this year that it would be a pivot point for me. So it has proven to be. I'm looking to come out of the pivot on my feet and moving in a brand new direction. I want to thank my amazing support network, headed of course by my amazing wife, for being there to help me through this upheaval, more often that not with a smile on my face (especially now that I'm not ashamed of my smile.) Speaking of which, there will be a new picture heading this Breadbin by the end of the week.)