My Next-to-the-Most Favorite Career

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I’ve had four careers. Although writing novels is by no means an income-producing career, it’s certainly my favorite one. It uses a wonderful combination of creativity and writing skills, two things I thank God daily for blessing me with. And I have no one looking over my shoulder but Him. And I view Him as my Helper, not my critic.

But authoring novels has actually been my retirement career. A fact that seems like an oxymoron–the joining of contradictory words or ideas. Like the idea of retirement involving a career rather than sitting around being unproductive.

So, what was my favorite career prior to retirement?

From high school days, I wanted to become a teacher. Of course, I was naive enough to think secondary school students would all be like me. (I was a mediocre student in high school, but an extremely good one in college.) And to think that teaching wouldn’t cut into my free time very much. (That was something I was very protective of.) And that being an education student in college would actually teach me to teach. (Dare I share that the head of my college’s English Department had NEVER taught in secondary schools?)

I liked the kids–for the greater part. But not the teaching. Not as much as I’d expected to, anyhow. And definitely not the preparation and the follow up.

So, what does an unhappy English teacher do next? He goes to work for the state. As an employment counselor/interviewer for a Federal jobs program.

Much different from teaching–for sure. At least I could leave work behind when I went home each day. And occasionally I could look at a successful client and feel good about having been part of his or her success. But I hate to think about all of those clients who had become experts at playing the system.

That job was anything but creative. At least teaching had used a little of my creativity. But the paperwork required by the state job–we weren’t quite to the point of filling out forms on the computer–was a headache. Especially at the beginning and end of each summer with hundreds of kids enrolled in the summer work program.

My parents were a lot smarter than I’d realized.  They realized that their mid-thirties-ish son wasn’t really happy in his job, even though he was approaching the ten year mark in that role. Something started them wondering whether I might enjoy computer programming. And they offered to pay for me to take programming classes at Chesapeake College, which was just a few miles up the road from where I lived.

Were they ever right about programming! Not only did it make use of my creativity, but my logic. Even before starting my studies, I bought one of those Texas Instrument computers–you remember those? they had 64k of memory–and did quite a bit on my own. I proudly remember the Yahtze game I programmed. And saving the code on my reel-to-reel recorder because the TI didn’t have its own data storage facility.

Just as I’d taken my previous college studies seriously, I really ate up my computer classes at Chesapeake College. Twenty-four credits resulted in two certificates–with a 4.0 GPA. I was all set to make a career change. Or so I thought.

Especially when the college hired me as an adjunct instructor to teach programming at a local Black and Decker plant one semester. Now, that kind of teaching was fun–and it made the down payment on our first second car. But it wasn’t programming.

Hmm. Ever hear that “How do you get a job without experience and how do you get experience without a job” question? It proved to be a reality.

Nonetheless, I ended up a junior programmer at what was then still called the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ll save the story of how I got there for a later post, but that got me started on my most exciting and rewarding pre-retirement career. One that lasted almost eighteen years.

I became an expert programming with All-In-1, the code that DEC’s [Digital Equipment Corp.] All-In-1 office automation software was written with. I wrote major applications that we gladly shared with other companies, including a Conference Room Scheduler that I used vacation time to install (for money!) at a site in Oklahoma. Or was it South Carolina? Or both? Too long ago…

I edited the Office Automation section of a national newsletter and wrote numerous technical articles. I won at least one award for my editing (see pictures above) and another for one of the ideas I presented in an article.

I presented sessions at DECUS [DEC User Society] and was invited to give an all day All-In-1 class at Australia DECUS in Melbourne, Australia–all expenses paid. During those years I could’ve found a job anywhere in the world, but I wanted to stay where I was.

But the world of mainframes and minicomputers eventually gave way to personal computers and my expertise was no longer as valuable as it had been. I made an effort to adjust and thought I was doing fine when I transferred to the web team. But there were problems I didn’t know about and I ended up on a team I never succeeded at doing well with.

I won’t go into detail except to say that when I was downsized after a year on that team, it was more of a relief than a shock. And I soon realized that I was too old and too tired to catch up and stay up with the changes in information technology. They came too quickly and too frequently, and they were too severe.

While working at a Target store to supplement the family income, I had time (for the first time ever) to start writing my first novel. The rest is history. With a lot of help from God.

Have you had multiple careers? What was your favorite? How about sharing a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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An Unsolved Mystery

During the few years I taught junior high school English, I became friends with a fellow teacher I’ll refer to as JM just in case anyone knowing her should see this. She had a boyfriend back home–wherever “home” was–and we had no romantic interest in one another.

But we enjoyed talking, and I frequently visited her and her roommates. We shared a pleasant relationship.

At some point during the school year I learned that JM had resigned unexpectedly and returned home. No other explanation was given, and I soon quit visiting her former roommates.

One Friday night months later, my telephone rang. Although I’d been snoozing, I was completely awake when I answered and heard JM on the line. She told me she’d come back to the area to visit her roommates and wanted to say hi to me. She gave a reason for her sudden departure from the area, but I’ll refrain from mentioning it here except to say that it made sense. We probably talked for half an hour. Maybe longer.

I ran into one of her former roommates a short time later and asked how their visit with JM had gone. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “What visit?”

I told her about the call. Together we tried to figure it out. I was still positive that I hadn’t been dreaming. I KNOW when I’m dreaming and when I’m not. And it wasn’t a student playing a clever prank. JM had talked about things no student could possibly have known about.

To this day, I can’t be sure what happened, but I’ve made an assumption I can neither prove or disprove. JM felt like talking to me for whatever reason–we had been friends, after all–and called from “home,” claiming to be visiting her roommates to avoid making me suspicious about calling.

I still puzzle over this whole thing.

JM, if you happen to see this, please contact me via my website. And if any of my other readers have any thoughts about this unsolved mystery, please leave a comment. Or if you have an unsolved mystery of your own.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Best regards,
Roger