Welcome back! I’ve taken an extended hiatus from the blog due to a chronic condition (unemployment) that I developed back in January. Not to jinx myself, but things might be looking up for me in that department, and I thought I’d celebrate by engaging in an activity that I thoroughly enjoy: spouting off to you, loyal readers.
This three-and-a-half-month period has not just been about me frantically looking for a job. It’s been a soul-searching journey as well. I have a wonderful opportunity to remake myself professionally. In some cases, I’ve taken some chances. The best job I’ve applied for thus far would have taken me to the Middle East for eighteen months covering front line military units for Stars and Stripes newspaper. My wife was surprisingly supportive. As long as I sent the checks home, I could do it. Unfortunately, it did not come to that. They gave the job to someone else. But I feel I grew somewhat as I redefined what I could do professionally. It would have been a tremendous opportunity, but I think there’s a victory in just putting one’s name on the line for a position like that. It’s something I never would have done before.
I continue to apply for mainstream journalism jobs, but I have come to the somewhat painful conclusion that I must, at least for the time being, divorce myself from the idea of working in a conventional newsroom. Most of the jobs I’ve applied for have been public affairs or communications specialist positions with state and federal governments and colleges and universities. What I lack in a public relations background I make up for in twelve years of being a spin recipient. I feel pretty confident I can write press release or broadcast copy that’s not going to end up in the circular file because I’ve spent twelve years of my professional life making that determination myself, from the standpoint of a news writer and editor. And I do admit, the prospect of being on the inside and looking out is quite enticing. I’ve never wanted to be Governor or Mayor of anything. I’ve always been the kind of guy who just wants to serve at someone’s pleasure, whether that person is the President of the United States or the Utah Railroad Commissioner. To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, I’m comfortable being the guy behind the guy behind the guy.
David and Cyndi, another good friend and a helluva performer. This photo was taken on the Beach Trip of 2002 (near Charleston, South Carolina). Good times.
In any time of crisis, there are often more tragic events that help you put your own life into perspective. In late March we lost a dear friend, David. I say “we” because his was the kind of spirit the world needs so much, and because I honestly think that the world is diminished by the loss of such a powerful force of generosity and humor. It was impossible to be in a bad mood when you were around David. Where some people might be accused of sucking the life out of a room, David was the kind of person who radiated positive feelings. I had known David since high school and had the pleasure of getting reacquainted with him years later in Lexington Singers. He was blessed to have a loving partner, Jeff, and scads of friends who will miss the energy he always carried with him wherever he went. My thoughts continue to go out to Jeff and to David’s mom, dad, and sister.
Friends have been an important support system in the last few months, and I’ve been lucky enough to reconnect with several, one of whom I have been out of contact for far too long (I’m not going to tell. I’m mysterious. Live with it). Reuniting as we all have, whether in person or via the magic of the Internets, has been enough to stimulate my creativity and force me to unload some of the things that have burdened me and perhaps held me back from the human race. In spite of my unemployment situation, I feel such a burst of personal power. I think I know where it comes from, and I’ll be damned if I let go of it again.
Wailin' on my horn at MSU homecoming 2008.
There are other elements (the “little things”) that have helped me cope during this personal crisis. Music has always been a big part of my life, and although I have never achieved any great level of talent at it (other than being featured in a duet on the Lexington Singers Pops Concert Greatest Hits CD…if you were me, you’d probably brag about it too), it is as necessary to my existence as water. And I do love my water. I can’t pin down anything in particular I’ve been listening to in order to pass the time during my exile, otherwise I might have written a “Listener’s Guide for the Unemployed.” Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad idea. Alas, what I find enjoyable is good for me, not for everybody. I will say that there are two pieces of music I’ve listened to in the last three months that never fail to put me in a good mood. The first is “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin. The other is a 1976 live recording of “Four Brothers” by Woody Herman and His New Thundering Herd. Listening to that one makes me wish I’d been a more diligent study on the saxophone. I wasn’t bad for being self-taught, but no one is ever going to throw undergarments on the stage if I start playing again. Not female undergarments anyway.
I also have been reading more books. I’ve read some real crap and I’ve read some decent stuff. It’s a blessing just to be able to make the distinction. Ordinarily, I’m not much of a reader, but I’m trying to follow the admonition that “writers read,” and it’s helped me immensely. I’m no closer today to finishing the next bestseller than I was three months ago, but I think I’m putting together a great bag of tricks concerning what works and what doesn’t. In my writing exercises, I’ve taken some chances, developed some bravery, “written naked” in a manner of speaking (try to erase that mental image quickly, would you?) and come up with some surprising results. Will those exercises ever see the light of day? No. They’re only the result of a game of solitaire “Truth or Dare” designed to answer the question “Can I?”.
So, that’s my exile in a rather large nutshell. I hope this heralds a new chapter in my life and that I’m able to put the bad stuff behind me. There’s a song that poses the question: “Is the way to get over someone just to get under someone else?”
In the context of my job, I hope that it is.