When I Grow Up

My family was able to attend some graduation-related activities over the weekend for my nephew. We are all very proud of him, so it was a joy to attend a breakfast and baccalaureate service for him. He will be attending a local university in the fall, and hopefully after that perhaps a pharmacy program. Our family has encouraged higher education for all of the children from an early age; it would be difficult to imagine them not going on to an institution of higher learning. Certainly I can picture him as a pharmacist, and I am confident he will make it.

“What do you want to do when you grow up?” is a question I still ask myself. I am currently an Information Systems manager in a large hospital in central Arkansas, and while I enjoy it I do not think it will be my last job, or even my last career. I’ve been there almost 17 years; I never imagined I would stay this long. Previously I worked as an IT guy for a large retailer based in Little Rock (yes, that is a short list!), and it helped me get the training and experience I needed in order to move over to the hospital. However, before that I worked as a salesman for a Memphis-based business form and printer supply company. It was not a good job or a good company, though I learned a lot from it. I learned that working on straight commission is a good way to develop ulcers and a weight problem, I learned that stress is inherent to commission-based sales jobs, but most importantly I learned that I can make a living selling if I have to. I also learned that contracts with sales people are generally written to benefit the employer, not the employee! I also learned some negotiation skills, and how to hang in there under pressure.

My college years included a number of interesting and, well, dull jobs along the way. I “did time” at K-Mart on the wharf in North Little Rock; aka K-Mart on Broadway. I was primarily a stock boy and checker, though there was one terrible episode of painting a fire lane on the front of the store during an extended period of 100 degree-plus weather. There was a five or six month stint at a popular Mexican restaurant in Little Rock, during which the smell of Mexican food ruined me for chips and salsa for a period of years. I had a recurring gig at Sears in the audit department and in customer service, leading me to build some seriously fast keyboarding abilities. There was another retail job at Osco Drug at the mall that lasted a year or so. There was a “freelance firewood” job with my best friend that was the hardest physical work I think I ever did. And there was a blessed two and a half year position with IBM as a college co-op student, probably the best college job I ever held. It was followed by the worst: a new and used car salesman at the old Cormier Chevrolet in Los Angeles. I’ll write the full story of that another time…

So that’s what I did, but what did I want to do when I grew up? That’s a little bit harder. Once I discovered music my big dream was to play professionally and hold a musician’s union card. I suppose I can claim being semi-professional, if you call playing weddings once or twice a year “being professional”, but the union thing never came up. I briefly considered going for a music degree in college, but my father informed me I would pay that bill without his help, so I never pursued it. To make that dream even more difficult, my primary instrument back then was trombone, and even though I was decent at it there was no way I was going to make a living playing a horn unless I planned to play bars and tours, and I was just a little too Baptist to go for it. Still, it’s a pleasant dream, and who knows? Maybe my sons will chase that dream and need a mediocre rhythm guitarist or an itinerant trombonist to fill out a horn section…and I could drive the tour bus!

A rediscovery of the joy of writing makes me wonder if i could make it as a copy writer. It is disturbingly easy at times for me to just sit and write; why not get paid for it? That sounds so simple until I actually sit down and begin writing, and then after a few hours I have a new respect for writers. However, I also have a healthy disrespect for anything marketing related, so the idea of writing copy to sell crap I don’t believe in holds little appeal for me. From time to time I write documentation at work, though rarely these days, and whenever I do I always enjoy it. Who know; maybe a larger role in writing at work could be in my future? Writing a blog the past few months has been fun, too; is there a way to make a living doing it?

Building guitar amps has been interesting. Over the past seven or eight years I have built nine or ten different amps, and some of them have sounded very good. I have repaired a number of others, and burning solder is always fun for me. The hard part is setting them free, putting them up for sale, and watching other people play them. I remember one particular guitar show where I brought a couple of my better builds, and found it be very frustrating, listening to people trying them out. I sold one at a show after getting lowballed on the sale price, and that did it for me. It took so much work to build it, and after I subtracted out the cost of parts and materials I figured I built that amp only to get paid about four dollars an hour for my labor. Frankly, I’m worth more than that!

So what am I going to do when I grow up? The jury is still out on that one. Writer, musician, salesman, manager, computer guy, there are some aspects to each of these jobs that I like, and others I hate. Maybe I should skip all of the dreary career moves and go straight to “retired”!


About johnmcgeeblog

Husband, father, IT manager, traveler, guitarist, hackintosher, writer...? Blogging can be a coping mechanism, a mentoring tool... what is it to you?
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