Day 25 – Better 37 and Unemployed Than 21 and a Schmuck

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Monday – September 22, 2014

I'm roughly 21 here. I'm being much more mysterious than is warranted.

I’m roughly 21 here. I’m being much more mysterious than is warranted.

Erin had an absolutely fantastic interview this morning with a local company. The position she applied for was entry level, but they took one look at her and her snazzy business-appropriate outfit and decided she might be a much better fit for the level above entry. Because these people are sane. We’ll see where it goes.

While Erin was having this success, I was with Violet at home when I got a call from my Sister-in-Law, Karen, about a friend of her’s looking for an Art Director for a company up in Northern California. I jumped on this one fast with an email and a sent Resume. An hour later I had a phone interview for tomorrow scheduled. Obviously, this is a perfect match and I’ll have the job by this time next week.

It feels like things are ramping up. Erin and I have both got so many different leads and they’re all rising at the same time. At some point, they’re either gonna crash into each other and we’ll have some hard decisions to make, or one of them is gonna break the surface of the water first and come out on top. The question isn’t: Will we find something? It’s: Which one of us gets a job first?

Oh, and there’s one other question: Where will we go?

Central California and everywhere else. These are the twin poles of our job hunt. I’ve known for the past 16 years of my professional career exactly what I was going to do and where I wanted to be. Now, everything is up in the air and there are moments when that’s more than a little disconcerting.

The last time I was this uncertain about the future and this unsettled in my life, I was a fresh-faced 21-year-old just home from his mission, trying to make a go of it with a Sister Missionary from that same mission, not looking for a job, and with absolutely no desire to attend college (while absolutely needing to).*

*There, now you don’t have to read the first five chapters of WORLDS APART.

Okay, when I write it all out like that I realize that I’m actually much better off today than I was back then. That guy–that young guy?–he was kind of a schmuck. He got stuck a lot. He was too hyper focused on what he couldn’t do. He had a self-punishing belief that he would never be good enough for anyone and always be alone. He was terrible at love, barely entering relationships before he either offended his way out of them or they ended with literal disasters. Like that one time with the car wreck.*

*Like I said, first five chapters.

This was taken earlier this year. Look at that confidence! That unshaven face!

This was taken earlier this year. Look at that confidence! That unshaven face!

I’m so very much not alone now. I’ve got a wife, and a fantastic one at that who has not left me after any of the times I wrecked or otherwise damaged the car. I’ve got three beautiful daughters. I’ve got amazing friends and a college degree. I’ve got a tried and tested Faith. I’ve got three pets, and only one of them pees on me with regularity. And, really, he’s doing a lot better. I’ve got brownies in the kitchen right now.

Basically–and I realize this is a recurring theme at this point (and it darn well better be)–I’ve got blessings. I may possibly be more blessed now than at any other time of my life. And I’m unemployed.

Go figure.


11 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 20

Me, circa 20. That's a monsoon behind me. How appropriate.

In no particular order:

1. All Your Wildest Dreams Will Come True (And Some You’re Not Wild Enough to Guess At Yet)

A lot of what you desire you don’t have to worry so much about. Stuff is either gonna work itself out or you’re gonna figure it out. Either way, don’t be afraid to hope. You’ll be rewarded.

That said, dream bigger, dude. Don’t limit yourself by what you think you can do now. You can do a lot more. You will do a lot more.

2. All of Your Worst Nightmares Will Come True (And Some You’re Too Scared to Even Imagine) 

No, not the one about your parents with baby bodies and football helmets. And not the one about the giant evil face outside your bedroom window that tells you no one loves you.  I’m talking about the tough stuff ahead that will pound away at your faith and confidence and people you love until you beg the cup away from you.

You’re not going to be able to avoid that stuff and, once it gets here, it’s not going to go away. You’re an adult now. Things last.

But you’re going to be okay.

3. You Will Get Married

No, your ability to attract and flirt with a woman will never improve (sorry), but when you find the right one it won’t matter. So stop worrying so much about it. Your insecurity is your least attractive quality.

What’s that? Yeah, she’s pretty. Geez, man, there are other things that are way more important. But yes, she’s gorgeous. Calm down.

The helmet kind of takes away from what I'm trying to achieve here.

4. Don’t Stop Writing in Your Journals

Don’t make the same mistake I did. You write every day in your journal and that’s excellent. Just. Don’t. Stop. Your life will disappear if you don’t make a record. Your memory isn’t as good as you think it is.

5. Learn Now to Slow Down Your Anger

Little girls really freak out when you are quick to anger. You and your wife will raise at least three of them. You’re not going to abuse them or anything, but unless you want to feel like the worst human being ever on a regular basis, learn now how to count to ten.

6. Loosen Up

Your uptight attitude and tendency to look at your watch every few minutes puts people off. Toss the watch, loosen the tie. Yeah, I know you’re a missionary, but even now there are people you’re not reaching because they think you don’t care about them. They think you care about the trains running on time.

Life’s not all about the trains, man.

It's not so much that I was small. That was just a very big dryer.

7. At Some Point After You Hit 30 You Will Begin to Lose Your Hair

Don’t stress. That just makes it worse.

8. You Need a College Degree

Stop fighting this and the next few years will be a lot easier for you. You’re going back to school and that’s final. I promise the degree will come to mean a great deal to you. No, it’s not gonna seem that way for a really, REALLY long time, but if you don’t go you will lose some amazing opportunities–not the least of which is meeting your future wife.

9. Get Some Apple Stock

I don’t care how bad off the company looks at the moment or how you get the money, invest now and as much as possible.

Oh, and never buy first generation.

10. When Something is Happening You Know is Not Right, Speak Up

Some of your biggest regrets will come because you didn’t say something when you should have. I know, hard to imagine a loudmouth like you shutting up about anything, but it will happen. Use good judgment and don’t be a jerk about it, but don’t be so afraid to offend that you hold back when you should be standing up for your friends and what is right.

My 21st Birthday Party. I'm the super cool one in the suspenders.

11. Don’t Read This List

Too late, I know, but I don’t really want you to change anything (mostly). I’m not perfect, but I’m the result of all the good things you will do AND all the mistakes you’re about to make. I don’t want to risk losing anyone or anything.

Also, you’re a world class second guesser. You’re never gonna be able to interpret any of this advice correctly.

What would you say to your 20-year-old self? Would you say anything at all? Are you 20 now? In that case, bask in my wisdom.

(By the way, I completely stole the idea for this post from the great writer and blogger Shelli Johnson. You should go read her version now.)

Does That Cost Extra?

Have you ever gone a date with someone that just embarrassed you to no end and about whom you felt the need to apologize for to every person you came in contact with? I haven’t. Instead, women tend to go on those types of dates with ME. You needn’t fear, however. Now that I’m married there is only one woman upon whom I inflict my embarrassment mojo. We have a love/tolerate relationship.

There is a quaint little Mexican Restaurant in the Old Town section of the city where I live called ‘La Posada.’ It’s so quaint that you would never take this particular eatery for a restaurant. It’s a converted, small house where the people are swell and the food is good. You ever eat in a place like this? I feel like an intruder every time I go in. For all I know, the chef just rolled out of bed before cooking my enchiladas and my order acts as his wake up call. “Curse you, Heasley… curse you,” I can hear him saying.

One night about a year and a half ago we decided to treat ourselves to some ‘La Posada’ after a particularly stressful week. Money was tight and we were looking at having our second child early the next year and all I could think about was money and how much of it everyone else had and we didn’t. Now, my wife is a very reasonable individual. She’ll get worked up over things, but she always calms down afterwards. She knows better than to get me worked up because there are always physical manifestations and whatever it is takes over my brain. No one knows this better than our waitress that night at ‘La Posada.’

Nicest Waitress in the World: Can I take your order?

Me: Yeah, um…

Wife: I’ll have the Enchiladas and Tacos combo.

NWITW: Would you like some tortillas with that?

Wife: Yes, please.

Me: Those are free, right?

NWITW: Yes, they are.

Me: Okay. Great. Um…I’ll have the same but instead of the regular tacos can I get the fish tacos?

NWITW: Sure thing. That’ll be a dollar more, is that okay?

Me: Really? Oh, never mind then. I’ll just take the regular tacos.

NWITW: Ok. Would you like anything to drink with that?

Wife (kicking me under the table): Just water’s fine.

NWITW: Ok. Would you like lemon with that?

Me:  Does that cost extra?

‘Does that cost extra?’ Now, there’s a phrase that will haunt me for the rest of my life. If we’re at a party and my wife needs a funny story, there’s always ‘Does that cost extra?’ Yes, it’s true, I actually wanted to know if the little lemon slices they put on the rim of our glasses of water cost money.

The Nicest Waitress in the World leaves and you can bet I was in for it.

Wife: Omigosh. You sound just like Logan.

This is not a compliment. Now, Logan is my younger brother. You do not want to go to a restaurant with Logan. He is notorious for giving waiters and waitresses a hard time. (Hopefully, he doesn’t also read this blog. Love ya, bro!) Sample of Logan:

Logan: Hey, you better keep this pitcher of water full. Your tip depends on it; you understand what I’m saying?

We eat and my wife’s conversation seems distracted. I think she’s secretly praying every time our waitress comes around that I won’t open my mouth. The food is excellent, as always, and the check arrives. We had set aside some cash for the evening and we had just enough to cover it. Only just. There was no money for the tip.

What was I supposed to do? Break out my check card for a $3 tip?  That seemed ridiculous and even more embarrassing. We left the table and made our way to the register. Like I said, it was a small place. Who do you think our cashier was? That’s right, the Nicest Waitress in the World. I paid the cost of the meal with great shame and left.

NWITW: Have a good night.

I once read that Quentin Tarantino doesn’t believe in tipping. No, not cows. Or goats for that matter. He doesn’t believe in leaving tip at a restaurant after a meal. From what I understand he expounds on this philosophy through a character in a bloody, profane movie he did (that I have not seen) called ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ His reasoning, I believe, is this: I’m paying for the meal and you’re providing a service for which you are also paid therefore I do not need to tip you for simply doing your job. On a certain level, this makes sense. On another level, Quentin Tarantino is a big, fat jerk. And so was I.

My wife left the restaurant as soon as we got up from the table. No way she was gonna stick around and watch me pay for the meal and give some sort of implied approval of my non-tipping ways. I made my way out to the car and got in.

Wife: What did you do about the tip?

Me: I didn’t pay it.

Wife: You really didn’t pay it!?

Me: No. I need to go back. I need to pay it.

Wife: We don’t have any money.

Me: We need to get money. We have to find an ATM.

Wife. You have got to be kidding me. I’m not going back in there.

I drove around Old Town for about 15 minutes looking for an ATM.  When I finally found one, I bit the bullet and took out the minimum from our savings–$20. Now, I knew I wasn’t going to tip $20, even if she was The Nicest Waitress in the World. I just couldn’t afford it. I also only had a Twenty Dollar Bill. We found a little cafe and I bought a small milk. By now 30 minutes had passed since we left the restaurant.

Now, I did not want to go back. I already knew at this point that this would rank as one of the top five embarrassments of my life, but what was I going to do? If anyone ever deserved to be tipped, it was NWITW. I entered the door and who do you think was still at the cash register?

Me: Hi. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to leave without giving a tip. I just didn’t have enough money on me. Here you go.Thanks a lot for tonight. The food was really good.

I handed her $5.

NWITW: Thank you. Have a good night.

For about a split second we just kind of looked at each other. There was this look of terrible gratitude in her face and her whole frame seemed to relax. I can only imagine the things she said about me to her coworkers. And I felt good, too. It was obvious she’d had a rough day and I think she was sure she would never see me again. She was probably hoping she wouldn’t. But not at that moment.

Of course, I ruined the moment by tripping over the threshold as I backed out of the restaurant to back to the car.