Age + Experience = No Job

Me2015

I do not consider myself old.

I do, however, consider myself elderly. My joints creak and hurt sometimes. My hair and beard are a nice shade of white. I occasionally forget things (like walking from one room to another and not recalling why I made that move).

But all of those things were happening to me by the time I was 35.

My hair greyed, and eventually turned white, very early in life; it happened a lot on my mother’s side of the family so I pretty much expected it would happen to me. Shortly after I turned 23, I developed a spot of white hair near the forefront of my head. By 30 I was turning grey, and by 35 I was pretty well on my way to being a white-haired man. My mother’s hair turned white fairly early, as did her uncle’s, her grandfather’s. I suspect that if her parents had lived beyond 40, they would have seen heads of white hair. Thankfully, I dod have a reasonably thick head of hair — it’s just white.

The joints in my body, especially my legs and feet, ache; but that was anticipated since I ran thousands of miles while participating in cross country and track in high school and college. In high school, I averaged 50-75 miles of more training and racing a week. By the time I was running in college, my mileage was higher than that and I was running marathons and ultra-marathons. In college, I ran the entire season of cross country, my freshman year, with a hairline fracture in my ankle. After that season, a doctor told me, after examining the ankle shortly after I’d spent 8 weeks in a cast, “You’re going to pay for all the miles on these legs.” I am … and paying dearly.

I know I am not alone with being occasionally forgetful. It’s not so much that humans are forgetful as they simply don’t focus and listen very well. Even when the old, “A man walked into a room — and forgot why he was there,” thing happens to me when I am all alone. We’ve all done it.

I am 61 years old. As a youngster, I would have categorized someone that age as “old.” Aging has never bothered me, as far as my attitude is concerned. Adding a year to our age every 365 days is just a part of life. I truly believe each person in this world is “only as old as you feel.” Some days I feel really old. Some days I feel pretty young. Most days, I feel 61.

But in this past year, I felt more and more “older” — but in a way different than standard aging.

In January 2014, I sold the two weekly newspapers I’d owned and operated for 37 years. I’d gotten married a couple months prior to the sale, and moved in with my new wife in a town new to me. My initial intent was to be semi-retired. I was only 60 at the time I made the move, too young to actually retire, so I decided I would substitute teach as a means of income. I thought about doing some freelance writing, too. But I wasn’t planning on working full-time.

Well …. I got bored.

The substitute teaching kept me marginally busy. I picked up a few freelance writing gigs, but to be honest, my heart wasn’t into writing. I needed some time away from journalism, so I pretty much stopped writing except for an occasional blog.

Last summer, I picked up a seasonal job as a grounds maintenance person at a research farm near my new home town. I enjoyed working at the farm. I did a lot of mowing, trimming, and tree pruning, but I also did a decent amount of general farm work. I learned a tremendous amount about farming and experimental farming.

In the fall of 2014, I went back to the substitute teaching gig, opening the school year with a long-term sub job for the first eight weeks of the school year. Once that was done, I returned to the farm for a month to help with the harvest. Once that job ended, I got another long-term sub job that took me until the end of the first semester.

But from mid-spring 2014 to the present, I was and have been applying for full-time jobs. Not just any jobs, mind you, but jobs I felt were in my field of expertise — writing, editing, marketing, public relations, and photography. I should mention, in the 1980s and 90s, while operating my newspapers, I took on other full-time jobs. For five years I was the sports editor for an area daily newspaper, then for six years, I worked for a local hospital in their public relations and marketing department. So when I say I have experience and expertise in areas mentioned above, I speak the truth.

To date, I have applied for 30 jobs. Some of the jobs I admit were perhaps a bit of a reach when talking about my “fit” for the position, but in each case, I felt I had the ability and/or experience to do the job. And to date, I have been called in for one interview; and that was for a job I was probably the least qualified. And I got TWO interviews for that job before being told they were “going in another direction.” Well actually, they never contacted me after the second interview (rather tacky if you ask me).

Now I can’t say my age has worked against me — I have no proof. Perhaps some of those potential employers looked at my resume and felt I was either over-qualified, or my vast experience would place me in a salary range too high for their budgets. I have no proof I was discriminated against either because of my age or experience.

But I was never invited to come in to discuss the jobs!

In one situation, a marketing job for a winery that was opening an office in a second location, the job description nearly screamed my name. They wanted good writing and editing skills. Journalism or English degree was preferred, not to mention experience in advertising and/or marketing. Didn’t even get an email back telling me they were or weren’t interested. Nothing. I did, however, see a Facebook post a couple months later (I had “liked” their Facebook site because I was familiar with their wine, and liked it), with a photo of a group of people with the caption, “Meet our new (office location) staff.” No one in the photo was over the age of 30. I’m no rocket scientist, but the photo told me I had been too old to be considered.

With each letter or email rejecting my candidacy for a job that I felt I was qualified to do, my self-esteem slipped a notch. Sometimes I got no reply at all (that just seems tacky to me; at the very least tell me you’ve dropped me from consideration). I try not to let it bother me; the degree of “bother” is usually affixed to my desire/interest in the job. Sometimes I feel I am quite qualified for the job, or it seems like it would be a position I would really enjoy; those hurt the most.

My wife keeps saying one of two things: (1) “If they would just visit with you, they would see what kind of person you are,” and (2) “Don’t worry, something is going to pop up.”

The thing is, if they would call me in for an interview, I would have the chance not only to show them my outgoing, friendly personality, but I could allay whatever fears they might have that I am either looking for a monstrous salary or will retire in 3-5 years, or both. I could tell them my plans, which include working until my wife reaches retirement age (8-9 years from now) and that, while I don’t want to devalue myself nor literally give my skills away, I am willing to work for a reasonable salary, one that would allow me to pay household bills and pad my retirement savings.

I feel I am quite reasonable in both my years of work and pay desire.

But without an interview, I have no opportunity to address those concerns.

The last two job applications I submitted, I decided to throw caution to the wind. I included a paragraph in my letter of application, telling about my work plans and my salary desires. I figured what have I got to lose; perhaps that paragraph will inspire an interview. We’ll see; those letters went out in the last week.

However, while I have no way of proving my suspicions have any validity, it seems rather obvious that potential employers are ignoring my skills in favor of hiring younger candidates whom they can pay less money or who is, unlike me, not under 61 and doesn’t have a bevy of experience.

In school, my forte was not math. But I am pretty sure I know what age + experience adds up to. Nothing.

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One-Way Trip. Would You Go?

It’s a one-way trip to death.

Well, death is not the true destination. The one-way ticket will have “Mars” stamped on it.

The Mars One project, a brainchild of exploration/entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, of the Netherlands. A few years ago, he announced the Mars One project, and began taking applications from people around the world who’d be interested and willing to climb aboard a spaceship and take off for Mars. The idea of the project is to begin colonization of the “red planet.” Mars is our closest neighbor in the solar system, and it has always held a certain mystique regarding whether or not it could (or does) sustain life.

After getting over 202,000 applications from would-be space pioneers, Lansdorp and his Mars One team pared the list down. The group was quickly reduced to just over 1,000 in the first round of cuts, then to 660, and now the third round. The latest list of finalists includes 50 men and 50 women (39 from the Americas (including 33 from the US), plus 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa, and 7 from Oceania). One of the finalists is a 38-year-old Polish man who goes by the name “M1-K0.” He claims to be a Martian sent to Earth who says he would be happy to help us explore his home planet.

The 100 finalists are going to begin training and testing as Mars One officials trim those candidates down to the final 24; those who would actually go. The selected space adventurers will be broken into six crews of four. The first quartet will take off for Mars in 2024, and the remaining groups will be launched every two years until all 24 are on Mars, getting a colony going.

I first read about the Mars One project a few months ago in Popular Science magazine. In that article, a number of the 100 finalists were interviewed. The article pieced together a variety of statements made by the potential space explorers; answers from all kinds of questions, such as: “Why go?” “Won’t you miss life on Earth?” “Do you truly understand the risk?” The Mars One website (mars-one.com) has a large list of frequently asked questions, with answers. It’s interesting to peruse the site and learn about their plans.

Obviously every one of the finalists understand the risks involved in the trip. But from the statements made by the various members of the 100-finalists group, they are looking beyond the risk. They are focused on what the success of the project could mean for humankind. They appreciate the greater good over their mortality. But as one potential Mars explorer stated, “We are all going to die, but it’s important what you do before you die.”

Could you make that trip?

I couldn’t.

May as well be honest about it. Don’t misunderstand, I have always been adventurous. Growing up, my parents taught us there is something wonderful beyond the horizon. They took us places and allowed us to explore; to ask questions; to always wonder about this world we live in (not to mention the worlds that lie well beyond us, in the sky). While I know there were times our “adventures” filled my parents with fear for our safety, they rarely quelled our exploratory spirit.

And that part of me would let me go in a heartbeat. It sounds exciting! Yes, I know I would die sometime within the confines of the trip. The spaceship could explode during launch. It might not hold together through the journey (the Mars One website says it will take roughly seven to eight months to travel from Earth to Mars; precise lengths of time for each trek will vary depending on the positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits). The ship may crash on Mars. Once landed, the planet may not have an inkling of capacity to sustain life. Or if everything goes well, I would die from old age (unless the Mars atmosphere holds some life-lengthening chemistry). But no question about it, once aboard the spaceship, those explorers will definitely die at some point during the project.

A view of the Mars surface from then Curiosity rover.

A view of the Mars surface from then Curiosity rover.

My application to the Mars One project was never filled out (okay, I confess, I didn’t learn about the project until after the application time was well underway), simply because I love my family too much to leave them forever. It doesn’t embarrass me to confess this. I’d guess a whopping percentage of people on Earth would turn down the chance to participate for the same reason. I know, it’s a rather blasé reason for not going, but it’s honest. It’s truthful. It’s real.

I do think the idea of being a space traveler is exciting, and I hope I am not only alive by the time the first ship launches, but I hope technology has advanced so we can keep in constant contact with the explorers. It will be one of the most exciting times in the history of our world. I see myself, if technology were so advanced, following their progress daily.

It is purely hypothetical, but if you were given the opportunity to make such a trek, would you go? Of course, since it is a hypothetical question, people won’t take an honest, realistic look at it, so they’d give unrealistic answers. But think about it. Be honest with yourself.

Would you take that one-way trip?

mars-surface

Birthday Bummer

I have a love-hate relationship with my birthday.

Don’t take that the wrong way. I don’t mind that each year, on a specified date, my age gets bumped up by 1. Getting older doesn’t bother me. I feel pretty good for my age. I have all my basic faculties. I have pretty much everything a man could want. So no, I am not opposed to getting older.

What I do not like about my birthday is the perception that it needs to be special. Again, don’t take that wrong. I am more than glad I was born. I am overjoyed my parents took the steps necessary to produce me. I have no reason to wish I had not been born. What I dislike about my birthday is the perception forwarded by others that it is “special.”

That perception was perpetuated and heightened throughout my younger days by birthday parties. I am a parent, and quick to point out I spent many years — still do it — making my children, and now grandchildren, feel special on their birthdays. But children, by the fact that they are held up in the spotlight on their birthdays, grow up with the idea that their birthday is a very special moment in their lives. And in all honesty, I see no reason to consider it anything other but that.

The birth of all three of my children, and all four of my grandchildren, have all been special and will continue to be so forever.

But once I reached adulthood, especially after the first time I was married, I began to feel uncomfortable about celebrating my birthday. I suppose it’s partly due to the fact that the woman I initially married celebrated her birthday the day after mine. That wasn’t her fault — we met, liked each other, fell in love, and got married. It just happened that her birthday was the day after mine. I never complained … after all, it was a sure-fire guarantee I’d never forget her birthday. But because our birthdays were back-to-back, we usually combined the celebrations. And more times than not, those combo-celebrations were held on her special day simply because of my nature to want to make others’ birthdays feel special.

So I think as time went on, my view of my birthday began to erode. Again, not her’s or anyone else’s fault; it’s just what got into my head and stuck.

Contributing to my idea that my birthday is not special is the fact that, even though I can be a “performer” who likes drawing attention to myself, the attention I get because of my birthday actually embarrasses me. I truly hate it when someone points out my birthday.

“Hey, we’ve got a person with a birthday among us!”

“It’s Kevin’s birthday … ‘Happy birthday to you ….'”

“Hey there birthday boy!”

I just want to holler, “Let’s not!”

It’s not really a matter of not wanting to have it known it’s my birthday, but more of a desire to observe it rather than celebrate it. And I really want that observance to be quiet and private. I smile big when my current wife wakes me with a kiss and a singsongy, “Happy Birthday!” And I do enjoy the “Happy Birthday” texts from my children and stepchildren. And there’s no better feeling than hearing a young grandchild babbling into the phone their unique and unintelligible version of “Happy Birthday, Grandpa.” I really like that. Family gatherings to celebrate birthdays are truly wonderful. Quiet, intimate dinners with my wife are delightful. I’m even okay with Facebook birthday greetings, although I do cringe at the first few because then I know the cascade of well-wishes will come flooding onto my page as my “friends” read those birthday posts and follow suit (I do not list my birthday on my page).

I tolerate familial recognition of my birthday because, well, fair is fair. I make a big deal about their birthdays, so if they feel inclined, I should allow them reciprocation.

I’m sure psychologists would have a field day analyzing and ripping to shreds my birthday attitude. I suppose they would find all sorts of deep-seeded reasons for my disdain of my birthday. Honestly, I couldn’t care less what they’d think. I fully take ownership of my negative attitude concerning my birthday. Whatever reasons they decide upon, it won’t matter to me. In fact, I have tried figuring out why it is I have such a negative attitude — and have come up with some interesting, and quite possibly close-to-the-truth theories.

Maybe as I progress into the twilight years of my life, my attitude will change. Perhaps the proximity to the end of my life will give me pause to reflect and make a shift in my attitude. But for now, I will continue with a love-hate relationship with my birthday. And that’s the way it will be. To quote the song line, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”KevinCake2-13-15