Back in November, right after I started collecting unemployment, the state of Washington told me I had to go down to the local Work Source office and sit around a room for a couple of hours with other jobless people as part of an orientation. I said, at the time, that there’s nothing more depressing than spending a good chunk of your morning hanging out with
jobless losers other people down on their luck (as I am).
Turns out I was wrong.
Hanging out in a room full of people who have been out of work so long they’re now receiving emergency unemployment compensation (such as I) is even more depressing, it turns out, as I discovered yesterday. That’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back again. (And yet, I feel oddly positive these days, like change is just around the corner. I’m hoping that’s a bit of psychic intuition and not just wishful thinking). I can’t really knock the Work Source office, anyway. They are staffed with people who genuinely seem to want to help those who are “between gigs” (again, moi) find employment. The EUC meeting didn’t cover a lot of new ground for me personally, but then I already know how to draft a decent resume and cover letter and my computer skills are great. Therefore, when we had to choose a task to complete during the last hour, I opted to take an online skills assessment test. This was a six-part, several-hundred-questions test designed to gauge which career is best for you based on your answers, which are used to identify your transferable job skills.
The test started out innocently enough. Part 1 consisted of questions like “Do you enjoy selling products to people who are disinterested?” (I’d rather remove my own kidney) and “Do you believe that people are generally good by nature?” (Naively or not, I do). In the next section, you had to compare two situations and choose the one you’d prefer – “Would you rather rebuild a carburetor or write a book?” (Duh). I was sailing along, making great time, when I came face-to-face with my nemesis.
If I had been driving a car, you’d have seen me come to a screeching halt once I arrived at that particular (inter)section. Math and I do not get along. We have never seen eye to eye. I’m a creative type. An artist, if you will! What need do I have for numbers? Unless I’m listening to Kraftwerk, of course. (Cue the inevitable vague reference). I don’t just dislike arithmetic – I refuse to call it that because the name sounds so pretentious. It’s just math, dammit. Anything else I consider putting on airs. Math doesn’t like me, either. How else to explain the pummeling dished out to me by Geometry in high school? I still have bruises from that experience (not to mention a D, my worst grade ever – and that was based on a steep curve). I guess, my problem is, I’ve never exactly been an analytical thinker. Give me a paintbrush and I’ll color you a reasonable facsimile of a tree. Give me polynomial equations and I’ll end up with the dry heaves.
These weren’t just basic 2+2 math questions, either. They were far more intricate than that, the little buggers. We’re talking -4 (7 x .5)² ÷ 3/8 (-6 + – (-4)). And, my favorite: “What is the next number in this series: 4, 12, 6, 12, 36, 18, 36” (actual question – anybody got it)? I muttered, “Nobody told me there’d be math!” under my breath quietly enough so that the instructor wouldn’t hear me (because one of my traits is passive-aggressiveness). And then, a funny thing happened.
I found myself actually enjoying the math problems.
I have no idea why, but they were stimulating. Kind of like brain exercise. I hadn’t worked out math problems like this, by hand, with a pencil and scratch paper (no calculators allowed), in years. I found myself really getting off on the challenge. I took my time, worked everything through, and had a feeling I’d done pretty well on the math portion of the exam. Go figure. And then, I got the results back. A list of occupations that I am most qualified for. #1 turned out to be Librarian. I personally don’t think I’m sexy enough (nor do I wear glasses or have my hair tied back), but who can argue with an 88% job match on the Career Compatibility Chart? Certainly not I. It’s no surprise, given my love for books. But then my eyes skipped to #2 on my list, and I about fell out of my chair.
Even now, as I am writing this post, I cannot believe that one. I guess I aced that portion of the exam, after all. But telling me I should become a mathematician is like suggesting the Pope convert to Judaism or that a vegan should cook hamburgers for a living. It’s just unthinkable. I mean, mathematician (83% job match) ranked higher than Creative Writer (77%) and Writer/Author (77%)!
Suddenly, it’s clear to me why my novel has never been published. All along, I’ve been toiling in the wrong field! I thought I enjoyed writing, but apparently I’m a numbers prodigy instead. Maybe I’m like Rain Man. There’s only one way to find out (hello, Vegas!).
It’s sort of empowering, being a math whiz. I feel like tackling complicated financial statements now, or maybe working on some of those long-unsolved mathematical equations that have bedeviled the likes of John Nash and others for eons. I might as well take a crack at them, now that I’m a certified numbers genius. Maybe I can figure out the Hodge Conjecture or the Riemann Hypothesis. I’d love to take a stab at that pesky Yang-Mills existence and mass gap.
And then write a killer paper about it.
Then again, before I get too big-headed, that same Career Compatibility Chart said I should also consider becoming a Horticulturist (81% match), and I don’t know squat about plants, so clearly something doesn’t add up here (pardon the pun).
In other news, I’m hitting the road a day earlier than planned! Turns out the kids are leaving on Wednesday, rather than Thursday. This works out perfectly because I was secretly hoping for an extra day in Ohio, as I’m tossing around the idea of hitting the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. I figure, when in my life will I ever be so close again? Probably never, seeing as how I haven’t revisited the Buckeye State in 31 years. So, I’m heading out tomorrow (!!) afternoon and won’t be returning until the 4th of July. Like I said, I’ll be blogging from the road. My goal is to write every day, but that’s largely dependent on free wi-fi connections, so we’ll see. At the least, I can update from my phone if necessary. I’ll probably fall behind on reading my favorite blogs, but I hope you’ll follow along on what I’m hoping turns out to be the journey of a lifetime. I’ve got about a million things to do and only about 30 more hours to do them in, so – until I reach my next destination – bon voyage!