Thursday, March 10, 2005

How close are you to achieving your career goal?

A recent exchange with Sarcasmo got me to thinking about the career paths I chose throughout my life, and how successful I had been at attaining them. I’m proud to report a 100% success rate, if you don’t count multiple attempts or the times I lost interest and quit. Also it helps to view the whole career thing as a journey instead of a destination. Bearing all that in mind, I have never failed. Otherwise…

First I wanted to be a cowboy. I loved the way that they rode horses, shot Indians, drank whiskey, and ate beans for dinner each night. One of my half siblings ruined this plan by informing me that a) in modern reality, they have to herd cows for a living, b) they rarely kill Indians in the line of duty, and c) I’m part Cherokee. Later, a trip to the rodeo taught me cows smell best between a bun, and the horses aren’t much better without mayo and pickles.

Racecar driver seemed to be the next logical step, but I abandoned that plan when I realized the accidents didn’t seem to be on purpose (in fact, I suspected some of the drivers were trying to avoid wrecking altogether). I wanted to slide my interest over to demolition derbies, but I don’t think they have those on a national level.

Astronaut was the next path for me, and I stuck to a grueling training regimen in my back yard until I discovered that NASA does not, in fact, have any light sabers. Seriously, I do remember having my dinner upside down whenever allowed to get used to eating in zero gravity.

Naturally, I moved on to Viking. Thoughts of pillage, plunder, rape, and horned helmets danced like sugar plums in my nine year old brain. All three of my half siblings tried to dissuade me from that path, but I remained dedicated to the cause until I got bored and wandered off.

Somewhere around age eleven, I decided to become a writer. I started a journal filled with poems, stories, and observations. By “filled” I mean I got about twenty pages in before it was discovered by my mom unit and taken away. She began giving me a daily dose of one of her greatest life lessons – Never Follow Your Dreams. I’m not kidding when I say she actually told me “Only fools follow their dreams. The sooner people realize that life is miserable and they can never accomplish anything, they happier they’ll be.” I tried to write in secret, which was like trying to surreptitiously eat a pizza in a fat farm. Somehow she always managed to find every scrap I wrote upon and demanded explanations between beatings.

By age fifteen, I decided to join the Army. Green is my favorite color and rumor had it they paid you to kill people. I had a lot of frustrations to exorcise, not being allowed to write or masturbate (one was deemed a bad idea and the other a sin against god, but I’m not entirely sure which was which). The mom unit hated this idea like every other, but it made the family’s life easier. Every future present I received was in woodland camouflage – clothes, accessories, school supplies, you name it. Side note: camouflage school supplies would probably get somebody expelled these days.

I joined the Army and, though they didn’t let me kill anyone, I did get to legally drink in foreign countries and play with high explosives, rockets, and guns. I had many great adventures buffered by periods of severe brain-numbing boredom, essentially several weeks of intense excitement spread out over four years. I got into some drunken fights with fellow soldiers, and lost most of a tooth in an Alien Sex Fiend concert in Germany, but ultimately I found it all unfulfilling.

I used the money I earned not killing anybody to go to college, deciding to become a writer once more, and made the mistake of proudly announcing this to the mom unit. I was too old to beat, but any age is good for nagging and head games. She liked to read my college papers and personal letters and then pretend that my writing was so poor that she couldn’t comprehend any of it. Thinking myself a no-talent hack, I became a psychology major because no heavy lifting was involved, and then switched to computer science because I wanted something that didn’t require a doctorate to get a job.

Growing tired of the collegiate life (especially since I had to work two to three part time hourly jobs at a time to be there), I quit college and joined Corporate America. By thirty I had attained a middle management position working for a small subsidiary of a larger problem, which I’ll only identify here by the workers’ term of endearment – MaNazi. I had a good paycheck, medical benefits, retirement plan, a forming ulcer, thinning hair, and no mobility. The powers-that-were decided that all members of management must have a college degree or member of upper management on their side to apply for any other position.

I returned to college and finished my computer degree, but lost the management job before graduation. In a typical Grantesque episode, upper management had me escorted out by security after “voluntarily resigning” under the rules of their zero tolerance for workplace violence policy (I said I hated my job, which implied strong emotion, which was a warning sign of potential violence, which was a firing offense). I took some severance pay and a little time off, re-growing my hair and stomach lining.

Before getting fired, I had already decided to return to writing. With my time off and the “help” of a writing group, I wrote a novel which was best chalked up to experience. Severance money running low, I returned to Corporate America in a non-management role to pay the bills. I broke free of the local writing community and began doing my own thing in my spare time.

That’s where I exist at the moment. I've written about forty short stories, seven of which have been published, the others just lying around on my hard drive. My second novel is almost complete (rough draft, anyway), and I’m ready to begin the third. So, how close am I to achieving my life’s goal?

So far so good. I sometimes regret not pursuing my dreams earlier, or becoming a bona fide serial killer, but thems the breaks. Halleluiah. Chunky peanut butter. All the stuff’s the same.

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