I graduated from Rutgers College in 1976 and was already working for the Tennessee Supreme Court’s office of administration. They had started a judicial planning office, and since I had a degree in Urban Planning, it made sense to them. I was happy for the job, and my kids are now amused that my starting salary was $6,000. That’s a year, not a month.
I enjoyed the work for the Supreme Court. I did lots of tasks that often fall to the newest/youngest on staff but finally one piece of my education was useful and I got to be in charge of a project! I had taken a year of computer programming in high school. I had managed to talk my dad out of the more typical college prep physics class for this newfangled concept. We learned a Fortran language and used the computer across town at the university since the high school only had a card sorter. This fantastic skill was useful to the Supreme Court because it was miles ahead of everyone else on staff and we were implementing a new court information system that was going to use key punch cards. It is pretty funny now. But I loved it, other than not fully knowing all the court related vocabulary I needed, because I got to travel to all 95 counties in Tennessee and let me tell you, that is one beautiful state.
But a few years into that work experience I realized I was getting further and further from my education and applied for and won a job at an engineering and planning consulting firm. That one also included travel. Some to places like Little Rock, Arkansas and Bossier City, Louisiana, but I also got to spend a winter in Miami and then six months in Europe. Not bad. However, I got laid off when Reagan because President and cut funding for environmental issues as part of his economic program. I will not make a political statement here but it is tempting.
The next few years during that recession were difficult. Planners with a masters degree could not get work so I switched gears and started in real estate. I sold houses for a few months and did okay but I never loved it. My broker suggested I start an appraisal division for him, and within two years I bought out his interest and had 12 people working for me in the booming real estate market of the 1980s.
I loved that job..half in the office writing the reports and half out and about in the beautiful northern part of Connecticut. I learned quickly that the emotional appeal many people feel about their house could be achieved in many properties for me. I also learned that many people react to the way things LOOK, not the way things ARE and pretty finishing hides a lot of shoddy workmanship. Loved what I did. And it was in the mid 1980s that I deeply learned that THAT was NOT my true job.
My REAL job was to raise my tiny children to be healthy functioning adults. At that time it was a challenge because my husband was a troubled person. I’ll keep it simple and just say he blamed me for red lights and the rain. I did not buy it, and the time came when I told him, for the sake of the kids, we MUST live apart. He filed for a divorce soon after. Fine.
I have always been a nice person. (There are a few that would argue about that, including him, but all those people have, like he does, a perverted view of reality and the responsibility they have for their life choices.) I listened to the question one counselor posed, “Is it important for your children to know their father?” and decided it was. And that, my friends, was probably where I should not have been so nice. But I am who I am. So we had numerous wrestling matches over the years and now, we have some major fallout.
I wrote a blog a couple of months ago when I found out my ex had made a choice that is socially reprehensible. He is ostracized and yet, our children are torn. They do not approve of his behavior, but he is their father. And so, they feel a need to be there for him.
Yes, they had good times with him. And he helped them with challenges. But that is nothing above and beyond the scope of normal parenting. We can and should celebrate he had some normal motivations and abilities. But we need not exaggerate it.
I see the homeless here in our town and have gotten to know many as they hang out on the church grounds where my commercial kitchen is located. Without knowing any of their stories, I recognize that they have made life choices that have left them estranged from their families. And so, I understand that we have many people, operating at all levels of functionality in society, who are isolated and confused why. Few recognize that the choices made in their own behavior and the ways they treated people who once loved them and trusted them caused alienation. Many blame it on others; it is easier to do that than recognize one’s own place in the divergent pathway.
So, I recognized, over 30 years ago that my REAL job was not what paid for the bacon, but to nurture and continue to help feed the lives of my three children. All adults now, they are amazing young people and I am super proud of them. They have not been fault-free; that is some fairy tale not based in reality. But they are thinking and caring people who are facing their responsibilities and enjoying their pathways with close and dear friends.
I am not ready to retire, but I love basking in the glow.