Last March, on the day that my father retired, I was laid off from what I thought was a secure job in the civil service. Picture the both of us in a little wooden boat pushing away from shore, except that I forgot to bring my oar. And I’m actually in the water, kicking in a panic to catch up.
Up until that day I’d never paid much attention to the future, except as an ill-defined blob of possible disaster. After all, the post-oil roasted planet zombiepocalypse doesn’t bear sustained thought. I’d put away some savings, showed up for work, and generally had some faith that, zombiepocalypse aside, the future would all work out. Just fine.
Getting laid off, especially from a job with great benefits and the protection of unions, changed my point of view. Suddenly my savings swung around from a growing pot of money to an evaporating beaker of dry ice. But even as my savings dwindled and my unemployment insurance claim slowly filtered its way through multiple layers of bureaucracy, I found myself able, for the first time in years, to ask myself what I really wanted to do. Because I was heartily sick of what I’d been doing: pushing policies and programs whose chief benefit felt more like government PR than serious cultural policy work.
Meanwhile, my father was leaving at the top of his field. I realized that I would one day be in mid-60s, ready to start a new part of my life – but where would I be when that happened? In a position like my father, with years of respect earned and years of opportunities left? Or would I be exiting another lousy job, wondering just what the hell I’d done with the one life that my parents had given me?
My dad has another job already. I have a contract for the summer doing writing and communications for a non-profit umbrella organization, which is the kind of thing I should have been doing all along. He and I are even collaborating on a chapter in an essay anthology, which is a scenario I never imagined.
One thing I’ve realized is that you never stop learning from your father. Even when you’re an adult, and your dad is like, so old.