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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Links you might be interested in:

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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Looking Back: Mr. Matney

I participate in an online program called the Daily Challenge. It presents something for its members to do of a health-promoting nature–often physical, but sometimes mental and emotional. Participants receive points and work their way up the ladder to higher and higher rungs. I can’t say that I always find DC to be beneficial, but I’ve made friends with some of the people who exchange comments with me.

Today’s Challenge–I’m writing this three days before you see it–was special. To share one’s favorite class or school subject from way back whenever and list three reasons it was so special.

At first I was stymied, as I often am by that type of Daily Challenge, but once I thought about it, I had to mention two classes rather than one.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Government class in high school; I guess they call that Civics now. My teacher was a wiry little fellow named Keith Matney. (It seems strange that I would have even known his first name.) That man was energetic, and that was good. He could keep me awake even while other kids were dozing. I’ll never forget an impromptu speech he gave about the fact that nobody is free unless everyone is.

I don’t recall the details, but that made me want to become a teacher. A teacher of Government at that.

When I transferred from junior college to senior college, still firm in my conviction that I wanted to follow in Mr. Matney’s footsteps, I took a class called The American Political Party System. We were required to attend a particular political rally–1966 was an election year–and that was my initial introduction to the realities of American politics.

Forget teaching Government. Especially if it meant taking more classes like that one. I’d been naive enough to think that majoring in Political Science was all about the kinds of things I’d studied in Mr. Matney’s class.

Nonetheless, I didn’t lose my desire to teach. Since I’d accumulated more English credits than anything else in junior college, I changed my major to English.

Once I started teaching, I learned that the one thing my education classes had failed to to teach me was how to teach. I’m greatly relieved to hear periodically from former students on Facebook who remember my classes as beneficial.

But I was no Keith Matney, and I changed careers shortly after the beginning of my seventh year.

I have to admit I never totally lost my interest in teaching, though. I taught a computer programming class once at a Black and Decker plant in Easton, MD. I taught guitar off and on part-time for a number of years. I did a little bit of Sunday School teaching. I gave technical presentations at nationwide computer user conferences and even taught a full-day class once in Australia.

Even now I’m tutoring/mentoring a writer friend on a regular basis.

Maybe I do have at least a little of Keith Matney in me after all.

What about you? What was your favorite subject in school? How about leaving a comment?

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday with a post about my other favorite high school teacher. 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 out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.
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Best regards,
Roger

 

The Facebook in the Mirror (Part Two)

Jenny     Southern Fried Sushi book cover           

If you missed my previous post, The Facebook in the Mirror, you might want to read it before you read this post. I gave several examples of how Facebook has helped me to reconnect with my past, and this one will give several additional examples.

After graduating from college in 1968, I taught junior high English for six-plus years. I thought the kids were great, but the demands on my free time were a real drag. And—years later when I took the Myers-Briggs Inventory—I learned that I am a confirmed introvert.

Not “introvert” as in “very shy person.” But as in “energized by being by myself or among a VERY small group of close friends and totally worn out by being around people in general.” Hmm. Not good for a teacher.

When I discovered Facebook, I couldn’t keep from wondering what had become of my former students. I’m not pretending I could remember all of them—I had trouble remembering some names from the current school year. But I tried one name—I don’t remember who was first—and hit pay dirt.

And—lo and behold—he or she accepted my friend request and seemed genuinely happy to hear from me.

I tried more and more. When I couldn’t remember more names, I checked the friends list of the ones I’d been able to friend and sent many of them friend requests. I’ve ended up with quite a list, and I’m thrilled to report that at least one of them became a teacher. But even more amazing, some of my former students actually credited me with having taught them something.

Truly amazing. I didn’t feel that great about my teaching.

One of my former students is Tom. The top right pictures are Tom then and now. He’s lived and worked in Colombia (yes, the country in South America) for a number of years. He writes poetry and is a chef at his own restaurant. And—doggone it!—he beats the pants off me in Words with Friends. I learned recently that he was responsible for getting a poem of mine published in a free local magazine during the mid-seventies.

Tom is  a reconnect I highly value.

The other Facebook reconnect I want to mention today was a young lady (I call her my sister) who went on the same mission trip I did in 2000 to the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Jenny and I both worked at the same place and were sitting beside one another when we heard about the mission trip to Oz. I still have a picture of us returning on the train from a day trip to Sydney, both of us snoozing, her head innocently on my shoulder.

We lost track of one another when she went to Japan as a Journeyman missionary (two-year program for recent college graduates). A few years later, one of her former co-workers told me Jenny had married a Brazilian and moved to Brazil.

How does a guy track down his missing “sister” when she’s that far away and he doesn’t even know her married name?

Facebook, of course. When we reconnected, it was like we’d never been apart.

But what makes our story special is Jenny had spent some of her free time in Brazil writing her first novel. I asked her to email it to me, and my wife and I had a great time reading it.

In fact, it was so good I had her write a proposal for me to forward to my publisher. That resulted in a three-book contract for Jenny’s Southern Fried Sushi series. If you don’t know much about writing and publishing, let me share this: practically nobody gets a contract for a first novel from the first publisher she submits a proposal to.

You’ll see Jenny with a toothbrush in her mouth on the train ride to Sydney and the cover of her first novel to Tom’s left at the top of the page.

Facebook has helped me to look into the mirror and see some wonderful parts of my past, along with the chance to bring certain aspects of the past up to date.

If you have any special Facebook or Twitter tales to share, I’d love to hear them. Just leave a comment.

Best regards,
Roger