1993 – 1995 Winding Things up in NY

I was about forty-two when a veteran’s employment counselor who worked at the New York State Labor Dept. named Fred Merika became interested in my chronic underemployment and put me through a week long battery of aptitude and interest tests.  Going over the results his remark was, “There you have it, Larry. You’ve spent your life working at the jobs for which you have the least aptitude and no interest.” Then he added, “Not only that, but people who normally work in these areas usually have nothing in common with [meaning, “don’t like”] people like you.” In truth I’d worked itinerate menial jobs in order to have the flexibility in my life to play music.  Maybe sometime I’ll write more about that but for now let’s say there was more to Fred’s observation that I’d made a surprisingly consistent series of surprisingly poor career choices for a surprisingly significant portion of my adult life. Now that I’m older and it’s too late to do anything about it I suspect that there was also some combination of ADD and PTSD involved in much of how my career path didn’t unfold or unfolded erratically at best. Fred helped me understand that it was possible, even advisable, for me to go to college and get credentials that would allow me to do work for which I was better suited. The two fields that showed the most promise in this regard were music and teaching, specifically teaching English.

I, of course,  knew very well about the music, but I needed someone to tell me about the teaching aptitude. To my knowledge, there were no teachers of any stripe in my immediate family.  In fact, on the paternal side a kind of scorn for college-educated people prevailed. They didn’t like the know-it-all attitude of kids who came back from college challenging long-held provincial attitudes and beliefs.  To them, “Joe College” was an aspiring company lackey with no common sense and too much book learning. I’d grown up around adults who had a fair amount of contempt for education beyond high school, though my dad would say, “a man can use his back or use his brain” and assume that I understood what he meant (as a boy, I wasn’t aware of any male role model choosing to “use his brain.” At least, not on my father’s side of the family. There was valid training and school, but only in the trades. The stories I heard about engineers were ones of overhead cranes built too high or too low for the buildings that was supposed to occupy them. My mother’s family was a very different sort.

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