Monday, July 11, 2011

On the Road Again

I leave tomorrow for orientation with a major trucking company. Once I pass a series of tests (physical, driving test, background check, drug screen, etc.), I will go on the road for three weeks with a trainer. And once training is finished, I will be given my own company truck.

This entire process began months ago, as I faced the dreaded prospect of a very poor job market for public school teachers. I mulled getting a job as an adjunct professor at a community college, but that is often part-time work with no benefits. In January, I drove my parents to Houston to see my sister's family. I enjoyed driving so much that truck driving became a feasible idea to me. It took awhile, though, to give up on the dream of being a teacher. I sank $40K in student loans and three years of my life to earn my master's degree. And while my first teaching assignment was at times a horrible experience, I persevered and did a good enough job that I still wanted to do it. And still do.

But I have to face reality. Nearly two years of unemployment have sapped my finances to the breaking point. While I have not dug deeper in debt, I am constantly living paycheck to paycheck, frequently, in the past few months, down to my last dime. Call me crazy, but I've found it exhilarating at times to be so destitute. Because it is then that I am reminded of a lesson I've learned from years of backpacking: All this stuff, all this worry about money and prestige and place is for naught. I've been down to nothing, and been there with a smile on my face.

Why? Because I have a woman and son, parents and siblings, and friends who love and care for me. I am healthy, sane, intelligent and willful. I have never known hunger. I've never been desperate. Desperation is a state of mind. This is the United States of America, not Uganda. There is a safety net of social services available to the downtrodden. I laugh at those who fret over their stock portfolios or worry that they're IRA is not up to where it should be for their age. Financial security is false security. All the planning and forethought in the world isn't going to save the average middle class citizen in the face of a long-term disability or major catastrophe. Crickets and ants are all in the same boat.

But this doesn't mean I condone foolishness or dependence on the system. Rather, I believe in putting my best foot forward, planning for emergencies as best I can, and doing everything and anything I can to get by and provide for my family. But I'm not going to sacrifice 1/3 of my life in a career I hate just so I can collect enough tokens to be called a "winner" in the false game of acquisition. That's not how I'm wired. But I am gun shy after this most recent destitution. I will never quit a job without another one lined up. No thru hikes are planned for the near future.

Back in May I stayed at my brother's place in Chicago. He's done well for himself as an architect and owns three properties, including an apartment in Paris. But for all of his success and wealth, he has very few possessions to show for it. He shares an apartment with a roommate, drives a used car, owns very little furniture, has no stereo system or nice bicycle. But he's seen a lot more of the world than I have. We both have the same wanderlust. We don't shun possessions as an act of discipline. The American Dream is just not something we've pursued. We don't want things. Things get old quick. They break down. Memories last forever. Experience trumps acquisition every time.

So, yeah, I leave tomorrow for another adventure. And I hope this leads to steady employment, interesting experiences, financial stability, and a rebuilding of my portfolio. I still have dreams of being a teacher, writing a novel and screenplay, publishing a chapbook of poetry, hiking the Continental Divide Trail, going on tour and performing with a band. All in good time. Right now it's time to work.

Keep on Truckin'!

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