I did something today that I haven’t done in years and, honestly, thought I would never do again.
I applied for a real job.
Don’t get me wrong—that doesn’t mean that I’m going to TAKE the real job, or even be offered an interview for it. But applying was a big step for me. It’s been years since I had a real job. Heck, it’s been years since I donated all my real-job suits to Goodwill.
It turns out my real-job days may not be behind me, as I’d thought. Since walking out on my job as bank executive and ending my previous life, I’ve paid the bills by writing and teaching.
That’s not a slight against teachers, who perform a noble and important duty and aren’t paid anywhere near enough. But it wasn’t a real job in the “nine-to-five every day” sort of way. I had summers off and complained when Academic Senate meetings kept me on campus until 2. If I wanted to wear an Eagles sweatshirt and jeans to work, I could, although I’d probably have to make sure to avoid walking past the dean’s office.
I was going to say, “I was usually home when the girls got home from school,” when it occurred to me: My daughters have literally never known what it was like to have a dad with a real job.
They know what it’s like to have a dad that complains about having to get up so early when it’s my turn to drop them off to school, and that his notes to the teacher will probably be written on the back of an end-of-quarter box score.
They know that the dinner plan for the week includes notations for “press box meal” and that that sometimes means frozen pizza at midnight. They ask “how long was it” before the score when someone tells them they went to the game last night.
They used to have to tell friends to be quiet when they come home from school with them, because, “Dad’s on the radio talking about sex.” (It was actually the Stupid News conference call for the next morning’s prep, but they never grasped that.) And now they know that Wednesday nights after 9:00, they can’t walk to the kitchen to get a snack, because “dad’s on the Chicken Show.”
When a friend gives them their parents’ number, so we can arrange a play date, they explain that the best way for them to reach me is with a private message on Twitter, and that “they punted to Gio” is a perfectly acceptable excuse for picking them up late from a friend’s house. So is, “I’m courtside at Cameron and can’t get out until the half.”
They watch the local news to see if they can find me in the background of B roll and read game programs before bed, because dad wrote the cover story.
When they listen to music, they know I’ll probably recognize more songs than their friends’ dads, even if I call fun. “Brandon Guyer’s walk-up music” and the will.i.am/Britney Spears collaboration, “The Club Cameron song.”
They know there’s a good chance I’ll show up for their teacher conference with a lanyard & credential around my neck, and I may transcribe audio while watching their gymnastics class. I may use a quote from Coach K when I run their Odyssey of the Mind team meetings, but they also know I’ll be there for all of those activities. Not all dads with real jobs can do the same.
They also know that Monday nights are for us to watch The Bachelor together, not another football game. They know that when I’m done with my sports work for the day, I belong to them. They know I still can’t fully stifle the giggle when I say I’m leaving for “work”.
They know it’s important to love what you do, and to remember that people win contests and bid high in auctions to get the chance to go to work with me. They know that not every kid gets a note saying “you’re going to meet Kobe and Phil Jackson” for their birthday, like their older sister did.
They’ve also always known not to worry too much about money. A check for work you did months ago always seems to arrive in the mail, just when there’s a big bill coming due. And occasionally, you find a check you were sent weeks ago when you reach into the pocket of your winter coat or move books on the coffee table.
But grown-ups know that faith in the check’s arrival is fleeting, and while media guides and game notes are usually an acceptable trade for a night in the guest room of a friend who lives close to an out-of-town arena, they don’t work as well with the cell phone and cable companies.
I think they know that writing isn’t a job, it’s a compulsion. If not, they’re learning quickly, because I’ve seen them with their journals.
I don’t know how they’ll react to having a Real-Job dad. Their schedule would be more dependable, their childhood a little more normal. And maybe that’s a good thing—I’m not entirely convinced.
I applied for a real job today. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I guess I’ll find out when the phone rings.