a real job

February 22, 2019

Yesterday I went to a job fair. Most of the vendors (that’s the word they used for it, though it strikes me as odd—incongruous?—somehow) were promoting entry-level positions. I would approach a table to be greeted with a cheery, “Hi! What are you looking for?” The first time I was asked this question, I was a bit stunned. “Um . . . well. I’m not sure.” “Ah—well, I’m sure we have just the thing for you. We have many exciting jobs just right for young people like you. And we offer on-site training. What are your interests?”
By this point I’d probably be smiling a bit as well—not quite so deer-in-the-headlights anymore. “Well, I’m a librarian. And I’ve been a French teacher for a few years as well. Most recently in West Africa. I’ve been in education for 15 years. But I’m open to new experiences at the moment . . . though I’m not sure I’m really all that well-suited for your server openings. I didn’t do so well as a waitress, as I recall—a lower point in my workforce career . . .”
“Oh! Uh-yeah. Ok. Well, have a good afternoon!” I got the hint that there wouldn’t be any arguments to my bowing out, and away, from the company in question.
There was also a booth for the Army. As I walked past, the two men in uniform greeted me. “Good afternoon, Ma’am. Do you know anyone who might be interested in a career with the U.S. Army? Do you have children who might be?” At this point, I wondered what had instantly aged me from being perceived as a recent high school graduate to a “Ma’am” … and a mother of said graduates! But starting to enjoy myself, I responded simply,
“No–I’m afraid I don’t have any children.”
Perhaps they didn’t want to appear to be making assumptions about my age, as the other one added, “Though maybe we have something you’d be interested in . . . may I ask what that might be?”
“Well,” I began. “I’ve been in international schools for about 10 years now. West Africa. China” I paused before adding my coup-de-force. “Afghanistan.”
Both young men grew wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Then one stammered a bit, collected himself, then smiled widely again. “Welcome home!” The other nodded. I laughed, thanked them, and moved on.
I came away from the job fair with one promise of a follow-up phone call, a handful of lemonheads, a stress ball, a water bottle, 2 pens . . . and, most importantly, an educator’s dream toy: a mini notebook of varied sizes of sticky notes.
That was yesterday. Peter was the driver on duty that day, allowing me the afternoon for that outing.
Today was my day to be on duty. Back in my currently familiar world of beds that have buttons, disposable linens, and beeping machines, it occurred to me that I feel the torn between the responsibility of finding a “grown-up” job that will provide income and insurance and the daily urgent—the ins & outs, and ups & downs involved in that common human experience of aging family members.
Is reality a 9-5 and a daily commute?
Or is reality watching your grandfather tested for mental acuity:
Questions such as, “What day is it today,?”
And tasks such as “Take this piece of paper, and fold it in half. Good. Now put it next to you on your right side. Good.”
The lady testing him today was really impressive, and I told her as much. As she walked out of his room, I called after her, “Thank you. You do a really great job with what you do. Really, thank you.” And I was being quite honest, in that I was impressed by the way she was able to balance a professional nature with gregarious conversation that put on-edge folks a bit more at ease. I was grateful to her.
I was also proud of my grandparents. Proud of my grandmother for her willingness to set things aside and commit to planting herself next to a hospital bed day after day, belying her 92 years as she waves to all her new friends in the facility and smiles widely to greet her “sweetheart.” Proud of my grandfather who, still fully capable in his mental functions, patiently answers each question and throws in a few jokes along the way. Most men in his position would not doubt be more inclined to resent these lines of questioning—by my PaCharley has never met a soul he didn’t like. So now, his lifelong habit of having all the time in the world for anyone who crosses his path is, I think, paying dividends. My grandpa—my “Dad 2”—is no angel. He’s hard-headed as ever, and we are all in the middle of what is proving to be a huge and arduous undertaking of family life.
There have been many moments in which I have wondered: Is this life too much? What is this version of “reality” I’ve entered?
But I have to believe that this is a greater reality than that 9-5. That this reality of the winter season of life is, indeed, a real job.

One Response to “a real job”

  1. Margie Gardner (I rarely use that email addy) said

    The parallels of your job fair and Charlies aptitude test seem more than interesting. You certainly could’ve felt incensed by those simple yet probing questions in the same way that maybe Charlie felt with some of his questions. Also in the same way that you know and understand the bigger picture in why Charlie must answer and muddle his way through his current situation….surely our Heavenly Father knows the bigger picture of your life and has allowed you this flustering existence for you now (and before too of course). There is a course and maybe it requires muddling through for a bit. Take on Charlie’s happy demeanor….leave a smile to all you confront through this dicey path you are on….you do have Charlie’s stubbornness (and I say that in kindness really…..for stubbornness is a two edged sword….it means strength, determination, and fortitude albeit coupled with being obstinate). Though you are rightfully looking for a meaningful “paid” job….this bystander feels that God has placed you here in this place that you are desperately needed at just the right time – a very meaningful job at that and paid with heavenly insurance to boot.

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