Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Breaking The Silence: Part II

When last we left our intrepid wanderer, he was beginning to settle into his new digs. One inquiring mind was curious:
So, tell us what you are doing in Utah...sounds like a big move for something.
As ABC radio personality Paul Harvey would say, "And now...the rest of the story."

Cha, Cha, Cha, Cha, Changes 

While I had mentioned I spent a fortnight here already, three questions were immediately begging to be answered:
  1. Where's the cooler temperatures? (It's been about ten degrees warmer on average here than in Mankato.)
  2. Where's the humidity? (The Metro Salt Lake City area is in a desert.)
  3. Where's the oxygen? (At 4,226 feet above sea level, I had experienced about a 3,200 foot raise in elevation, thus the thinner air.)
I have adjusted to these new demands on my physical being. The next adjustment was my living arrangements. For the first time in almost a quarter century, I was living with other human beings under the same roof. When your only roommates for so long other than myself was me and I, remembering your P's and Q's becomes a priority. I am making sure I contribute to my upkeep by helping about the household in whatever manner I can. In fact, there is a list of household projects which are being tackled. There is no timetable for their completion; just working on them little by little is the goal.

The biggest change was to my community. This is the first time I have lived outside the states of Iowa and Minnesota. I knew I had a long way to go when I asked after a few days why there were so many ward houses around.

I don't think you are in the Midwest anymore, Ron.

The More Things Change...

The first order of business was to get connected to the high school officiating scene. While I was looking for permanent employment, I was hoping for some cash flow. Luckily for me, rules meetings for football, soccer, and volleyball were held a week after my arrival. I made connections with various officiating association and waited to see what would happen. A week after those meetings, I did my first contests--two girls' soccer matches. (Can you say "lack of conditioning"? I can.) Since then, while I am not as connected as I would like to be, I have had all the games I have wanted and have been able to continue all my registrations.

While I have been welcomed into the officiating community here, I had to conform to their system. First of all, as opposed to getting my own games for the most part, all scheduling is centrally controlled by the local officials' organizations. While they also battle with shortages, their system of rating officials insures the best qualified get placed on the proper games. They also insure training so one can move up the ladder. Secondly, contests, whether varsity or sub-varsity, start at 3:30 PM. It makes it very tough for officials to get there on time, especially those dealing with the traffic nearer to Salt Lake City. Finally, officials are paid using a voucher system or through an electronic payment system, a dramatic departure for someone who was used to being paid at the contest site. Oh, well; just another challenge to my money management skills.

The other connection I made was to the music ministry at my new parish. The first Sunday after my arrival I introduced myself to the Director of Music, who informed me of the first rehearsal of the choir. It is so nice to be able to sing with a formal choir in my own house of worship. I was quickly worked into the rotation of cantors. And what mixed choir doesn't need a good tenor?

Those two constants were welcome. Another wasn't.

...The More They Stay The Same 

A Bedouin proverb says, "Change your location; change your luck."


There is another saying, "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

I don't even have bad luck anymore. While there have been more opportunities here, the results have been the same. Again, I have been looking at entry-level positions, hoping that my being in the workforce would be to my advantage. Again, nobody seems to be buying what I am selling--me. And I continued to wonder if I was doing the best job promoting me.

I can't say I have been totally unsuccessful. Late in October, 2007 I did accept a position to manage a "payday loan" store, a rather common sight in Utah. Three things, however, worked against me:
  1. This store required two people for it to run smoothly. I was alone.
  2. The administrative end of things--filing, organizing, paperwork--was well behind. While I enjoy doing that kind of work, it didn't seem I was making progress.
  3. It was a business which went against my principles. To me, people who utilize this show a sign of financial desperation. For me, one who has made due with very little income, I have learned to do without; it seems these people don't understand the gravity of their situation. While I understand why they exist, I was having a difficult time setting aside my personal integrity to do the job.
After almost a month of those things, I was literally starting to sour from the inside out. One could smell a vinegary odor from my body. The Monday before Thanksgiving, knowing someone was finally hired as the assistant, I returned to the district manager the key to the store. Another victim of an industry with a high rate of turnover.

Carrying On

While relieved to have left, I wonder what being there did for my self-confidence. Was it a case of learning to do what you love so the money would follow? Would I be ever be able to "just do anything" for a paycheck? It is not willing to compromise, or pride? (Are they one in the same?) I was so shaken by this, it took a while for me to resume any kind of serious job hunt. Now, with the downturn in the economy and more people seeking fewer open positions, I am doubting even more my ability to market myself. It has always been a struggle for me to give a prospective employer what they want; I'm not so sure I have anything they need.

So, here I am. A week into the nineteenth month of my move here. Grateful to be alive. Very appreciative to have a roof over my head and meals on a consistent basis, thanks to my very gracious hostess. Managing my limited finances as well as ever. Settled, but not rooted. How ironic I am living in a desert valley. It truly is a time of purification for me. The words of the prophet Jeremiah, spoken to me by a priest during a confession, come to mind:
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the LORD, and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you, says the LORD, and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.
Jeremiah 29:11-14
The status quo is status quo.

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