Everything seemed to fall into place to get us down here. Sure, our home church at the time was pretty tepid in their response to me letting them know I was going to seminary. Actually, the pastor strongly encouraged me not to come under care there.
When we got down here, it seemed like all manner of signs pointing to something else appeared–our previous home church not wanting me to come under care there, either–they seemed somehow colder toward me than even your usual frozen chosen behavior around totally new members. My son’s trip to the hospital and way too many nights of being at my wit’s end with tantrums and crying throughout the night. My wife taking a job that was outside of her desired career path, and not saying anything one way or the other about it–but I don’t think she’s doing exactly what she wants to do. So many signs from other students and teachers that I am simply not cut out to be a pastor, chaplain or an academic. The last straw this evening–more of my papers and work that I was rather proud of getting ripped apart.
I am remembering the old days when I was the subject matter expert in the room on all things marketing automation and email marketing–I was helping people solve their problems even if they weren’t especially profound problems and the people were generally difficult and argumentative and ungrateful for the solutions I provided. Lord knows those weren’t the good old days by any stretch of the imagination–I don’t think I’ve ever had any good old days, to be truthful. I mean, I’ve had good moments and good times and happy stuff happen throughout my life, but there isn’t really a period of life that I look back on and wish to pretty much relive as is with the possible exception of the first summer of dating my wife and the moments I spend with my son now that he’s mostly happy and cheerful–all of those bundled together minus the work and school part, I think, could become the good old days.
I look back on the professional time of my life with a certain kind of longing to be able to solve someone’s problems, to be considered integral to whatever the team is doing, to have the ego gratification of being thought of as someone who knows a lot more about this or that than everyone else. I’ve been getting humbled repeatedly since I quit my last full-time professional job, and I think some of the originally healthy humility is starting to become unhealthy and unproductive. I am not really helping my family get to a place where we can have some degree of comfort and stability by being here in seminary, and I don’t think I will be in a place to get us there for some time to come if I decide to stay here.
Of course, it’s getting harder and harder to find the old work the longer I stay out of it. The gap in my resume that says I’m freelance, which most people can read between the lines on, is getting larger and larger.
I don’t hold any illusions about what going back to work would mean. If I can’t get on good with any particular company, it means that I would be scrambling to find the kind of work I was doing as I enter middle age. If I get on with some kind of company and just play by the rules and not rock the boat too much, I just might end up being able to ride out a desk until retirement and sock away enough money to live with modest comfort.
I am aware of all of the types of people I will encounter when I get out into the workforce–the young, hip thirtysomething who thinks he’s still a twentysomething but also wants to be taken seriously as a sixtysomething; the moody, aloof boss of the boss who does nothing but sit in meetings, doze and strategize; the cool people in sales who just want you to shut up and send them leads; the little clicques of popular people–young, old, male, female–but not all four at the same time. I can’t leave out the constant oppression of busywork, work that can’t get done without a million meetings, the jargon of the company and the jargon of the industry the company’s in, and the jargon of marketing.
But, the cool part about an office schmuck kind of job is that at the end of the day, you can shut it off, and unless you are just starting out or schmoozing at a conference or you are someone who still thinks they can get ahead if they go home and study up on the industry–unless you really are a masochist you can shut it off, come home and read whatever you damn well please and play with your son and talk to your wife about vacation plans and watch mindless online subscription television.
If you want to pursue this or that intellectual subject, you can, but then you can put it down and walk away from it and never come back to it again if you don’t want to.
The unfortunate thing if I decide to go back to work is that I will probably never have the chance in this life to try anything else schoolwise. I won’t ever go back to school again unless my employer says I have to and they pay me to. I am getting to a place where I am very okay with this. I have seen what I needed to see about the academic world and I don’t think that my original decision to not pursue anything above a bachelor’s degree was such a bad idea. I may have made a lot of stupid decisions about the kinds of people to let into my life and places to work during many of those years, but I am pretty nigh close to seeing myself as nothing but an 8-5 office schmo–no academic or pastoral life for me.