Thinking of The Who’s “Who Are You” song this evening, which I mostly know as the theme song to CSI, even though I haven’t watched that in eons. Never was a big fan of the Who – nothing against their music, I think it’s just a generational thing and I just missed it by about 7 years or so. Well, that and my Mom took me to see Tommy when I was a kid and I think I was a little too young for it and parts of it just creeped me out (Uncle Ernie and Cousin Kevin), so I guess it stayed with me in a bad way in terms of their music. But let’s move on, shall we?
I would like a normal life. That being said, I don’t exactly know what a “normal” life is. I think there are points where I had one and might not have realized it. Or maybe I had one and was bored to tears and wanted something different. Obviously, given the subtitle of my blog, I don’t know what the fuck I want, if I’m looking for a “life less ordinary”. Maybe I’m not destined to have a dull existence somehow. This evening I find myself contemplating my next career change. Mind you, it doesn’t have to be a career change – it could just be “a job”. I filled out a boatload of paperwork on Friday for a security clearance, I haven’t had one since 1996. Still have some more stuff to turn in next week, and got my fingerprints taken on Friday as well. Messy. They don’t use that cool ink that the notaries do these days when you sign loan papers that doesn’t leave black stuff everywhere. A friend got me a shot at a contract position with the government (on a Navy base), doing something that I will probably be quite capable of but also that is quite a departure from the biotech/pharma regulatory submissions and/or tech editor path I’ve been following for the last few years. Assuming I pass the security clearance (not always a given, I know), the job should be mine. It pays roughly 42% less than what I was making back in March before I got hit with a pay cut (and then 60 days later, a layoff). Kind of a big difference. But it does pay more than unemployment does. And as the first real potential job to come along in five months … would I take it, if offered? Damn right I would. This economy sucks and I’ve had too many positions where I’ve sent in my resume, talked to someone I knew at the company who assured me that my resume wouldn’t get “lost in the pile” and then poof! Nothing. Not being able to pay your mortgage gets a little scary.
Maybe I’m giving up too easily and not sticking to my goals, my values, my whatevers. I don’t know. The truth of the matter is that I’ve had a hard time believing in myself career-wise from Day One. I got my first job out of college because I knew how to type. I got my next job because I knew how to use a Macintosh and the department I was going into was switching to those and nobody was comfortable with the idea. That was 1986. I have two Bachelor of Arts degrees from UC Berkeley, one in Psychology, the other in Anthropology. Both kinda useless unless you become a counselor or a PhD. Not to say that learning how crazy people can be hasn’t served me well in life, although I never did figure out my Mom. But that’s another blog post in itself. But basically I’ve really kind of fumbled my way along for the last 20+ years by virtue of my typing and my computer skills and some common sense and smarts. Is that a career? Is it something I love with a passion? No. I got into biotech as a glorified secretary – more of a word processor/desktop publisher, and again it was because I was really the only person in the department who knew how to use a Mac and wasn’t afraid to push a button when something didn’t seem to be working right on the computer. I’ve switched over to PCs and back again since then and honestly don’t have a particular loyalty to one or the other. I like the Mac for a lot of graphics capabilities but in truth I haven’t yet worked in a graphics-intensive job so it’s not so critical. I like the PC for the fact that I can share documents more easily with other people because most of them have PCs and I don’t have to worry about saving to a different format. I hate MS Word 2007 though. Actually the whole Office suite, but I’ve used Word the most, and where the fuck did they put everything? Christ on a shoestring. If it weren’t for the keyboard commands I have memorized over the years, I’d be totally lost. As it is, I’m still about 50% lost.
Since I got into biotech in ’96, I moved up in the world by basically doing the stuff nobody else wanted to do or seemed to know how to do. I don’t call it rocket science and I wouldn’t say it’s really me. Okay, so I can fix all the fuck-ups in the formatting of your Word document. Whoop-de-do. I can put together a 60-volume submission to the FDA and not miss a single page number, fix every skewed PDF, and redact the whole thing for chemical structures and formulas if you need me to. Again, I don’t consider that to be what defines “me”. So here I am on the brink of taking a job that would have me becoming a contract Supply Technician for the US Navy (a civilian, don’t worry, I’m not planning to enlist or anything) – quite the departure for me. Can I do the job? Probably. Do it well? Most likely, as long as it doesn’t involve heavy lifting. But what will it mean for my career?
And therein lies the issue. What exactly is my “career”? I liked to think a few years ago that I was going to pursue the route of regulatory affairs, get a certificate in it and a master’s degree, pass my RAC certification test, yadda yadda yadda. But then the job I was at that paid my tuition fees to SDSU went away, the new job didn’t pay for them, my focus changed to veterinary medicine, which wasn’t really covered by the curriculum, and then that company went belly-up and I was out of a job. So how bound and determined am I to pursue that course of education?
The answer? Not very. Sure, it’s a good living if one makes a success out of it. Is it “me”? No. Have any of my last several jobs really been “me”? Oy vey – now that’s a loaded question. Asking myself this question now, I honestly have to answer the same. No. Maybe, just maybe, at 46 years of age, I’m finally coming to the realization that I cannot define myself by what I do for a living. I do need to make a living, however – that much is critical. It matters to me to support myself and my kids and have a future for all of us, and keep my house and my car, and my cats (although I sometimes wonder why on that last aspect, lousy furballs that they are). But how I do that? Not so critical. I’ve often said that the environment mattered far more to me than the work itself. And that is true, as long as I’m not the zookeeper who has to give the constipated elephant an enema. But put me in a group of decent, normal people who seem to enjoy my company and who don’t get on my nerves, who respect my contribution and occasionally find my jokes funny, and that’s about all I need. That and a paycheck. If Chase Mortgage ever gets off their sorry asses and refinances my loan under their “Borrower’s Assistance Program” that I filed for back in MARCH, I might have a shot at keeping my house even with a lower paycheck. We shall see. That would be nice, because I do love my house. Although at the end of the day, it really is just stuff. And a place to keep stuff.
So back to the question – who am I? If you asked me what I wanted to do for a living more than anything, the answer I always come back to is: be a writer. But maybe I suck as a writer or don’t have the persistence or wherewithall to stick with it to the point of being successful, so maybe it’s not exactly what I’m designed to do to actually earn a paycheck. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be who I am. A modern-day, 21st century Erma Bombeck meets Bridget Jones – the wild adventures of a swinging single and a struggling mom. Okay, I don’t do the swinging part anymore but I did for a couple of years, and you’d be amazed how much people are curious about that whole lifestyle. And maybe only three people out in the world ever will read my blog on a consistent basis. Or maybe 300 will. There’s no telling. But I guess I never know if I don’t try, do I? And maybe years and years from now after I’m long dead and gone, my two sons will finally discover that their Mom had an online blog (or maybe even published a book) and they’ll get on here and read all these age-old posts, look at each other and say, “You know what? Mom was cool.”
I don’t think I could ask for much more in terms of success than that.