Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Workin' For a Living

Back when I finally graduated from college (I got to the end of my senior year, and wasn't ready to be done with school yet, so I stayed on for a Master's degree), I entertained a few good job offers, and I chose one in the same town where I'd gone to college, mainly so I could continue my involvement with the Christian community I'd become part of when I was in college. (I'm working on a post to 'flesh out' the life of our community more for you; as you can see, it has provided a major context for my life).

I enjoyed working for XYZ Corp., an automotive supplier company. My job was interesting and challenging, and I worked with good folks who became many of my friends. (Among my bosses were Alex and Ross, about whom I have blogged previously). I was an engineer, but of a particularly computer-geek variety (which is quite funny, because I'm no more than mildly 'tech-savvy').

I worked for XYZ for 17 years. While I worked there, I got married and begot (begat?) the first six of my children.

In the mid-90s, life for automotive suppliers became crushingly difficult, and in the fulness of time, XYZ ceased to exist. I was laid off (just before my 40th birthday) about a year before the final collapse, which actually worked in my favor, in terms of getting into the job market that much sooner.

With six kids, you can imagine that that was a pretty anxious time in Jones-world. But, within a couple weeks, I was already generating some good leads, and within six weeks, I had landed a new job with HugeMassive Company. I hoped to stay in the same town I was living in, and the guy that hired me at HMC promised me that, if I took a position at an office 45 minutes' drive from my home, that a position was about to open up back in OurTown. So I took the job, and started driving the 45 minutes.

And it was a darn good job. A company like HMC could offer me a much more interesting and challenging set of problems to work on than XYZ could. I had to learn some new methods, and use some different software than I'd had, but it didn't take long for me to come up to speed.

The 45 minute commute was kinda painful, after having been used to no more than a 10-minute drive to work, but I got used to it. I even managed to coach my sons' Little League team for two years, in spite of the commute. Besides, I was going to be moving back to OurTown in fairly short order, so I didn't mind.

Two years later, I finally got the call that the position in OurTown was opening up. On the same day, HMC announced that it was closing the OurTown engineering office in one year. So, I discussed the situation with my bosses, and arranged that I could work in OurTown for the one year, and then return to my current position. While I was in OurTown, HMC announced that the engineering office I was hoping to return to would also be closing, and my job would be moving to another office, over an hour's drive away. So, I had one peaceful year working in OurTown, and then I hit the road. Since 1999, I've been driving roughly 65 minutes one-way to work.

Molly and I seriously pondered the idea of moving closer to my job, but in the end I decided that, dug in as we were to relationships in our Christian community, parish, school, etc, that it was preferable for me to drive the miles rather than uproot our family from a stable and life-giving set of relationships.


And that's what our life has been like since 1999. I'd be lying if I told you I was real happy about it. It's workable, at best. But, I sorely feel the effect of having another 2+ hours taken out of my day just driving back and forth. I can 'make use' of the 'car time' - thank God for books on tape - but I'd much rather be home, and on hand for Molly and the kids.

I've tried many different avenues for getting my job at least closer to OurTown, but nothing has panned out. It seems that the Universe has created a black hole for jobs of my sort within an hour's radius of OurTown. (sigh)

And, the friendships that I had with my co-workers at XYZ - well, let's just say that HMC mainly doesn't swing that way. The culture is much more 'upwardly-mobile', more competitive, more fast-paced. Most people don't sit still in one place long enough to form friendships, and besides, co-workers tend to be viewed more as competitors for the next promotion than as potential friends. I don't mean to whine about it; it's just the way it is, and it's very different from what I had for 17 years.

I wonder sometimes what God is up to with me - right when my family needs me to be on hand the most - right when my sons are teenagers - my ability to be on hand for them gets seriously curtailed. You can believe that, when the stuff of the two previous posts was playing out, that I wondered many times why I couldn't manage to come up with a better situation.

And that's about all I have to say about that.


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