Back on the Chain Gang

12/18/2018 8 By BuddyCushman

I recently pulled my resume from the ‘Do Not Disturb’ pile where it has been collecting dust for some eight years or so. Reading through it I see how it must have been a nightmare for any perspective employer who had received it in the mail – good old snail mail – or later on via the silent swoosh off the internet.

So many jobs – so little longevity.

Looking at it now I count 12 different work experiences listed in order from most recent to longest ago. The historically first date of employment listed where you’d expect to find it, at the end, is 1983. But you know what? – and pssst, don’t tell – I have rather intentionally left off another handful off relevant work experiences proceeding that date, which include seven or eight more vocational stops along the way, dating back to ’73. Didn’t want to look even more nomadic. I mean, gosh, enough is enough already and I don’t want to appear so old, right? Isn’t the important thing to just get the interview? Yet even without the full disclosure of all relevant work experiences – in my “chosen” field of human services – the listing actually on the resume is long, brothers and sisters, real long, and in not one stop among one non-profit after another can you find any stay of four years. There’s one with barely three and a half – just one. Many fall within the one-to-two-year range, and the most recent work experience listed lasts just six months, coming to its “I’m out of here” conclusion in May of 2011. Which, thinking about it, reminds me of a story….

Sometime in March 2011 I received a phone call while sitting in my office at a long-term residential treatment program for severely and persistently mentally ill women, where I was the boss. The call was from my friend and spiritual adviser Keith in Provincetown, MA, some 3300 miles away, and I walked outside to take it. I remember the sun was shining, weird for Portland in March. I told Keith I was sick of my job, that in fact I was sick of it all – the system, the scene, the dickheads and airheads in positions of power – and sick of it big time. Told him I was sick of human services, feeling more every day, week, and year that there wasn’t enough “human” about it. He listened patiently to my ranting moan, including my acknowledgement of bills and other financial obligations, and when I was done Keith said one word and one word only to me – Abundance. Not only that I could pray for abundance, he said, no, but simply notice the abundance all around me, with the understanding, therefore, that I would be cared for. Taken care of. Be okay. Life was there to help me out.

A week later Susan and I went to a coffee shop on a Tuesday night and with a calculator, notebook and pen determined I would be able to barely hold up my end of the bargain in our life together on the small social security payments I’d receive every month, real small as I’d be dipping into my tax history at the earliest possible age of 62. Barely, but do-able. A week later I gave two months notice and left early in May of 2011, which is now nearly seven and a half years ago, and look here, a month back I hauled the resume from the dust, added the word “Sabbatical” at the top of all those work experiences – 2011 to present (making it the largest number, whoops) – and began preparations to re-enter the class of people affectionately known as “working stiffs”.

Why now? you ask. Seriously? you wonder aloud. Are you alright? concernedly emits from your compassion. So, here’s the thing. A couple of months back the Director of the program which my son Spenser attends three times a week emailed all parents an update about the comings and goings of the agency and stated the intent to hire a part-time vocational support person. As my son had had a negative experience with a former vocational support person there, and feeling clear that I could, on the other hand, provide dramatically effective support and actually “make things happen”, I engaged in a couple of conversations with the Director and eventually formally applied for the 10-12 hour a week position. Well, it turns out things changed and that position basically fizzled out. In the meantime – and you know if you are a regular reader of ‘Couch Surfing at 70’ –  my amazingly faithful Ford Taurus took a sudden nosedive in performance after 15 years of serving me so well, in fact the mechanic said it might be close to last rites, and when I began searching on-line for a new used car realized that my abbreviated savings weren’t going to buy me much more than someone else’s troubles. The obvious fix – get a job.

And another weird thing happened. I found myself feeling some excitement at the prospect of the people work of human services and bringing a lot more “human” into it, because now I’d be returning with not only all the years of experience (and veritable plethora of “service” settings) but I would be enhanced in my ability to be of actual help, as an agent of change….good change, because I’d return as an artist: a poet – an author – a blogger – a creator of Zines, and all the electric energy and sparkle of someone who creates. Yeah, I started feeling excited at the possibility, putting on hold any concerns about collapsing on the floor after four hours of actual work. We’ll just have to see about that.

And so, as what goes around comes around, therefore beginning where we began, will anyone actually hire me? What with the seven-plus-year “sabbatical”? What with the incredibly sketchy work history, a coast-to-coast tour of sorts – outreach on the (FL) Daytona Beach boardwalk; respite foster care coordinator in (OR) Portland; adolescent services director in (CA) San Francisco, summer camp counselor for the House of Seven Gables in (MA) Salem; all those non-profit paychecks collected from local banks in Salem, East Boston, Quincy, Middleton, Lawrence, Provincetown, Plymouth, Yarmouth, Topsfield, Saugus, Watertown, Stoneham, North Reading, Framingham, and Arlington in Massachusetts alone? Well, will they?

Somewhere in the movie “Annie Hall” Woody Allen notes that he “would never want to belong to a club that would have anyone like him as a member.” He took that line, I’m pretty sure, from Groucho Marx. Who himself took it from someone else – Socrates I think. And it rings true with me today, in slight amendment.

I will never want to work for any agency that doesn’t want to hire me. Ha! Why would I?

But I do have an interview this afternoon.

News at 11.