WHAT HAVE I BEEN DOING?
I’ve been gone for quite a while but now am back, I think. My blog name is not so accurate anymore. I’ve been working at the local community college for several years part-time.
I’ve enjoyed the mission of the college: serve a traditionally under-served urban population that is primarily African-American and immigrants. I’ve helped hundreds of immigrants with choosing English language classes that meet their skill level, talked to them about their trip to America, suggested paths to the education they need to succeed in the United States. I’ve tested hundreds upon hundreds of students trying to get into academic programs to get their GEDs, high school diplomas, vocational certificates, college degrees.
I’ve been happy to do that at FSCJ. My fellow workmates often are a challenge, as they are anywhere. I will miss some but many others I will soon happily forget. The scope of the job is fairly small — administer tests, advise students of test results and where to go for additional information and training, administer GED, CLEP, ACT/SAT exams, and Florida Teacher Certification Exams. Perfect for a retired, part-time worker looking to stay connected to the outside world and make a little money to do things like put a roof on our house, remodel bathrooms and kitchens, put Hardieplank siding up.
You can see how nice it looks now. Doesn’t even look like siding.
I’ve tried to spend more time in the North Carolina mountains. Lovely during the summer — highs in the 60’s and 70’s, lows in the 50’s and 60’s. But the winter and spring is something else: high winds, fog, cold temps. Just generally unhospitable.
Here’s an example:
The wind was out of the north at 30 mph and the temperature was around 40. Just your average spring day at 5,000 feet elevation!!
NOW SOMETHING NEW
During my time at FSCJ I’ve cast around for other things to do as well. Once I started working again after being retired for 9 months I realized I wouldn’t mind working full-time again. I put in a number of applications.
Mostly they were ignored, thrown in the trash, left in computer queues, crumpled up, X’ed out, tossed in fireplace, recycled, used underneath bird cages, pointed at as objects of derision.
Occasionally I would get an interview which were polite and satisfyingly engaging but rarely turned into anything beyond a discussion between strangers. But several went better than that.
I was offered a curriculum job at the FAA Training Academy in Oklahoma City which didn’t work out at all. While I like Oklahoma City just fine, having spent a lot of time in software classes there, I didn’t want to make it my permanent home. I was also offered a database manager job with a school system nearby but the IT manager was a little too much like my old FAA manager. I said “No thanks”.
But recently, as the economy took a nosedive, I’ve had two job offers.
The first one was with a big UK defense firm that has expanded to include government operations on both sides of the Atlantic. I was to work as a systems analyst in Washington DC. My wife and I discussed it and thought we could work it out especially since the job paid a salary well into the 6-figures. However, as it turned out, personal circumstances intervened and I was unable to take the job even though I had already gone to Arlington, VA to find a place to live. But some things are not meant to happen.
My wife explained it to me. You see, Rota Fortunae sometimes intervenes in the affairs of men and women, a point made vividly to Peter I of Cyprus in as described by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales:
- O noble Peter, Cyprus’ lord and king,
- Which Alexander won by mastery,
- To many a heathen ruin did’st thou bring;
- For this thy lords had so much jealousy,
- That, for no crime save thy high chivalry,
- All in thy bed they slew thee on a morrow.
- And thus does Fortune’s wheel turn treacherously
- And out of happiness bring men to sorrow.
And this from Boccaccio’s De Casibus Virorum Illustrium Paris: 1467
The illustration shows Boccaccio pointing to the goddess Fortune who stands beside a wheel upon which her victims rise and fall.
I’m happy to say that the wheel did not out of happiness bring me to sorrow.
And this victim, such as I may be, did not rise and fall but rather continued to rise, if I may say so without seeming impossibly egotistical.
Now I’ve been offered an even cooler job. The scope is much broader and I get to telecommute from Jacksonville. I have the informal job offer but will give more details when the formal job offer comes this week.
What Work Is
BY PHILIP LEVINE
We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is—if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.
“What Work Is” from What Work Is. 1992