So, here I am, looking for a new start and wondering just what the hell I'm going to do with whatever time I have left before cancer, or some Islamic Nutjob with an Explosives Fetish, finally finishes me off for good.
Prospects have been, for a very long time, bleak. I mean, I spent my early working years doing "Brain Work" -- I was Computer Operator for a decade, and then a Data Center Manager for five years, and then a System's Automation programmer for five years after that. I'm not exactly the kind of guy who knows one end of a hammer from another, and when someone asks me to pass a screwdriver, I start looking for the Absolut bottle. In fact, asking me to work with my hands (unless you're a Lady, wink-wink) is a dangerous thing; I haven't fixed anything of value since I did that nasty thing to my dog with a fork (just kidding). There's not much Brain Work to be done, nowadays,and when there is it usually requires ridiculous qualifications (this is done purposely to discourage "Cattle Call" interviews of potential candidates....and discrimination lawsuits).
I've tried finding more "White Collar" work since my illness, and the subsequent destruction of my chosen profession in recent years; I have done some "Contract" work (only to find I'm not Asian, or cheap, enough to get steady work, even when I drop my price).There have been a few technology "side jobs" here and there, and once, I even tried to sell Green Energy (door-to-door) to sanctimonious assholes who simply loved the idea of the Green Economy...until they find out what it costs.
I've tried to apply for government jobs, only to find that I'm a) Too White, b) Too Male, and c) Too Smart, which puts me at the bottom of any hiring list for those plum Municipal and Federal jobs that require little thought, no sense of responsibility, and the ability to simply occupy a desk for 20 years until the prospect of "Early Retirement" with a generous pension kicks in. At this point, my only viable career options were beginning to look like "Pimp" or "Mafioso".
Ah, but then came all those internet thingies that say "Qualify for Job Training Funds in Your Area!", that I usually delete as spam before they even get comfortable in the inbox. But then one day, I figured "Why the fuck not?" and clicked away, and was actually surprised when one of them actually turned out to be legitimate. Wouldn't you know it; there really are a few (very few) "programs" that Straight White Guys might (key word) actually qualify for!
Serendipity having called, I responded, and found that there were a wide array of careers open to me, but that they don't fall under the categories that one might consider "careers", as much as they are "trades". Certainly, there must be a trade for me, right? Well, I considered culinary arts at first, specifically, baker or pastry chef. I could get the money for that, and even if the hours suck and the job can be messy, it's at least better than digging trenches or pumping gas, right?
But the pay sucks, and the one thing I'm not willing to do is take low pay -- I once had a six-figure income, and dammit, I'm going to have one again. So, I did some thinking (a dangerous thing), and my train of thought led me here:
We live in a world of shit. It's full of people who are full of shit, obsessed with their own shit, and enamoured of the smell of their own shit. I'm surrounded by assholes who pour forth the most inane an uninteresting --and often, frightening -- shit you can imagine, and just when you thought things couldn't get worse, scatalogically-speaking, the whole thing is run by politicians and businessmen who are experts at flinging bullshit with both hands. And when they're not trying to sell you a load of crap, they're all in the commode grunting and pinching some off. There's money to be made in Shit, if you're willing to be an unabashed opportunist (just ask lawyers, psychotherapists, political consultants, and Used Car Salesmen).
So, I've decided that I'm gonna take that grant money -- and go to plumbing school -- where, hopefully, they finally teach me that a wrench is not something you monkey with, or throw into the works, and that when you screw or nail something, it had better not have breasts and a heartbeat, or an irate boyfriend.
When Life hands you Shit...Learn to become a Horsefly. The Path to Being Waist-Deep in Cash is to be Knee-Deep in Shit, First.
In addition to the plumbing training I'll be receiving, this school will also teach me the finer points of tile work, a bonus when you stop to consider that there's more to the Plumber's Life than clogged toilets and leaky faucets -- there's also kitchen and bathroom renovations to be had (as well as heating systems, septic, pool and solar-heating systems). I expect to be "apprenticing" after training for a couple of years, but at least I'll have a license that says "This Guy Knows His Shit". I expect that the average workday will leave me...ahem...pooped (groan!)... but let's face it -- if there's any sort of work that people will pay top dollar for, in any economy, it'll be of the "Keep that Shit Away from Me!" sort.
Wish me Luck with this Shit.
P.S. - Imagine my surprise when I went to the "Retraining Center" and ran into not one, but THREE guys that I used to work with back "In the Day" -- a "real" programmer (master's degree, and former teacher!), an Electronics Engineer (former IBM Field Engineer), and another man with both a CNE and MCSE -- a veritable Networking Guru of Newtonian ability -- all with more than 20 years of experience "in the field".
The sad truth is that unless you're willing to relocate to some godawful place like North Dakota, or worse, Punjab, Magnitogorsk or Jakarta, and work for less money than the typical Dental Hygienist makes, you ain't finding high-tech work. Even the sort they advertise for in North Carolina and Texas are less "Tech" and more "after-sale-support". Unless you want to work 93 hours a week on contract for a major software developer who can break the contract just because it's partly-cloudy-with-a-chance-of-showers, you're not going to work in the sharp-end of the technology field at all... especially if you're 40+ and don't have a degree.
The scuttlebutt amongst my three former colleagues is that many people they've known "in the business" , have either picked up a trade (carpentry, painting, electrical work, roofing), or taken jobs driving buses, joining Law Enforcement, or had become the subject of a "Deadliest Catch" or "Dirty Jobs" episode or two. A few were lucky -- relatively speaking -- and died young (all seem to have died from problems usually associated with overwork and stress, like sudden heart attacks and strokes), with not a few suicides. The time was when the field was an "interior" one, restricted to those who did it, and those who knew about it, and the "community" here in New York was rather small. It was not unusual to work with someone for a couple of years, part ways and not see or speak to each other again, only to wind up working in the same joint a decade later -- where everyone knew the same people and told the same stories.
It seems the "community" is getting smaller, and less-personal, and the "Old Breed" is rapidly disappearing.