Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Life without unbrella drinks

Yesterday was the first day in my life of totally not being a health-insurance saleswoman. It felt great. It was a difficult admission to declare that I'm just not cut out for that work. I didn't want to let my dad down. He had such sweet dreams of me receiving huge residual income and stock benefits checks years from now when he is dead and gone and no longer able to write me checks from the money he receives with his General Motors pension. My sweet old dad had big dreams of me riding around on a golf cart with umbrella drinks, not having to work very hard. But the truth is, I'm not a huge fan of golf or umbrella drinks. Oh, I like the little pink and yellow umbrellas well enough. It's just that they don't usually come with sparkling water or Diet Coke, and that's pretty much all I ever order from the bar.

So here I am on day two of my future without umbrella drinks -- and it feels just fine. I'm still in my bathrobe because I don't work until 1:30 p.m. My pink pedicure is a bit sloppy. I did it myself for my flopped Internet date with a 30-something Catholic philosopher on Saturday. He doesn't like me. In fact he's sort of an ass. But I did get out of the house for a few hours to soak my flea-bitten ankles in Cooley Fountain by the Michigan League and listen to someones philosophy of love. And last night I got to sit at the Fleetwood Diner and share my breakfast with a homeless guy while I listened to a girl talk about the beautiful wedding dress she was designing for her friend's barn wedding -- strapless, with an empire waist, some fancy fabric with which I am not familiar. If I'm running late for work at Clean Water Action and don't have time to walk the five blocks or so from free parking, I park at a garage that doesn't charge anything if you leave after 11:30 p.m. Since my shift ends at 10 or 10:30, I like to go to the Fleetwood Diner. I love sitting out there at night. It always makes me feel like I'm in Europe. Everyone's lives intersect at the Fleetwood on warm summer nights. It reminds me of a train station. If they ever bulldoze the Fleetwood, no kidding, I'll have a huge fit.

This is my life.


I love my life.

Being an insurance agent just doesn't fit in my life. It's just not how I roll.

Working with the hipsters at Clean Water Action, that's how I roll. Walking around talking to people about protecting my most favorite natural resource in the history of all natural resources in the universe -- the Great Lakes Water Basin that I've enjoyed since my life on this planet began -- that's how I roll.

Sure, I don't make that much money -- not compared to what I made as a journalist at the end of my career. But I didn't get into journalism for the money. I would have been an idiot if I'd pursued journalism for the money. My first journalism job in the 1990s paid $16 K and I drove more than an hour-and-a-half twice a day through Chicago traffic to get to it. I got into journalism because it mattered to me. I wanted to participate in democracy. I wanted to make a difference. I never expected my career in journalism to end so abruptly and it broke my heart. But you can't change change. And media has changed. I don't like the direction it's going. I don't want to play that game right now.

Canvassing for Clean Water Action is good. Plus it's good exercise. I'm a wee bit worried about the winter. The first year I tried Clean Water Action I had a horrible December after an outstanding fall -- and actually ended up getting evicted from my Ann Arbor apartment for lack of rent payment, moving in with my dad in Saginaw and working as a waitress at the Texan Family Restaurant for two months until I landed a job writing grants and stuff for a camp for kids. In December 2005 when I had been used to earning more than $50 K and having four-weeks-paid vacation with my job at the Ann Arbor News, I felt like the Little Match Girl when suburban Detroiters closed their doors on me in the middle of December because they were too busy wrapping Christmas presents to talk to the little-old-clean-water lady who was standing on their doorstep in the dark cold night asking for a donation. I felt very sad and cold those nights -- and afraid of the dark. But I'm a different woman today. I'm not so afraid of the dark. Experiences have refined me. And I'd much prefer walking through the snow and begging people to donate money to protect our lakes than I prefer working as a secretary and listening to my boss give me a bunch of unsolicited and unwelcome advice about my dating life.

We do what we must to find peace in this life. I feel tremendous stress when I do work that is not aligned with my core values. It's a personality thing. I need very much to do what feels right with my system of values.

So no more insurance sales. I'm gonna walk and walk and walk for the Great Lakes Water Basin until another opportunity appears. I've decided I won't go looking for another opportunity. Sending out resumes has never worked for me. Most of the jobs I've ever enjoyed have been jobs that have found me. People have called me to tell me about something they have available. What I am doing is peaceful and of great value. If it leads to something else that's also of great value, that's great.

If not, this is a pretty great life.


  1. Patty,
    I'm really sorry to hear Aflac didn't work out for you. But I'm glad you gave it a try and I hope you're glad you did it, too.
    As for me, I'm still looking, although I am "working." I'm working for an automotive web site, but there's no pay at this point. It might come later, we'll see. Had a few interviews lately, too.
    I know you've been frustrated by the whole resume thing, but you might want to give it another try. I think the job market is starting to loosen up a bit and the competition isn't quite so fierce.
    aNow who am I going to give my Aflac junk to?

  2. I don't blame you for quitting the AFLAC. I could never do a sales job. Lots of kissing ass just to make a sale.

    And I'll agree with Bryan. Send out resumes. Even if you never hear back. You'll feel like you're trying. It's a lot harder to get a job if you're not actively looking, especially in this economic climate.

    I've started to look at going back to some smaller papers (five and six-day dailies). Kind of the community journalism thing that will last longer than the bigger metros (or maybe not). Who knows in journalism?

  3. I totally understand having the job find you. My best jobs have found me. Sure while I was looking, but they never seemed to be the job I was looking for. I don't remember applying for some places that called me. I was literally praying about a job, praying about what I was interested in and talking to God about what I hoped for when I got a call for a job. Right then. Right there. I learned a lot about myself and about other people in that job. I was able to help people and it was an overall great experience. The job I'm on right now came to me. I love it. I signed on for one month and it looks like they want to keep me at least 6 months. I love it, would never have looked for this position, and am thrilled to be doing it. Yes I looked, but the job came to me. Seriously.

    Your attitude is wonderful. We've never met, but I know two things: I would really, REALLY like you, and your energy would WEAR ME OUT. In a good way. Peace to you.