It’s Sunday evening. Oats is shut away in her studio, making art, and I’m settling down on the couch in the living room, with the laptop, about to take an online course in fall protection. Kinda ridiculous to learn about safely working at heights while lying on my back, but also rather nice. I’ve been very sick these past few days, and am glad for any chance to stay in a resting position.
Guess what I did earlier this morning? Applied for an apprenticeship with the provincial electrical company, again! That’s the third time, my friends… The first one went nowhere, the second resulted in an interview and amazingly intense “boot camp” but no job offer, and so this time I’m thinking might be the charm. Of course, I’m feeling more ambivalent than ever about the entire thing: Working for them would require me to leave town, and I’m oh-so-full of love for my home at the moment. Somehow, it’s easier to contemplate leaving for Oats to go to school, than it is for my own career advancement.
Speaking of my career, I got a job: Am working as an apprentice with the largest electrical contractor in the city. It’s only been three weeks, but pretty good so far. They have a lot of job sites, and I’ve now worked at three of them. The current one is a mall, the same one where my dentist is, and 20 minutes by bike from my house. I started there on Thursday morning, then missed Friday due to being completely out of commission with a wretched cold, but from that limited experience it seems that I’ll like it. Only two or three other guys working, and I think I enjoy them.
It has occurred to me that becoming an electrician may be the most significant thing in my life. Strange, isn’t it? I don’t mean to put down my other achievements, whatever they may be… I’ve been proud to be myself long before I entered the trade. What I mean is, it’s the thing that people seem to find most interesting about my life. It’s what new acquaintances ask about most, and even strangers have questions when they find out it’s what I’m doing. Then within the trade as well, I’m asked all the time: “Why?” Add that to all the varied Hows and Whats I get from everyone else, and I’ve come to realize that I’m a lot more engaged with my role and identity in my chosen career, than I ever thought possible. Maybe this isn’t actually strange at all, maybe on some level that’s why I selected this path: To be challenged not just by what I do, but also by the doing of what I do.
It’s different from doubt, though. When I was an academic, I questioned my choices constantly and felt filled with anxiety over whether or not I ought to be spending so much time on research that didn’t seem to matter. In the trade, it’s so obvious that the work matters, because that lighting system isn’t going to install itself, and without it, this section of the building will be dark. (In the larger scheme, of course, I can totally get into questioning the use of resources that go into building consumerist-focused crap like malls, but that’s a different topic). Instead, I (along with many others!) am questioning my own role, why I in particular have chosen to be here, installing the lighting. Why me? Why electrical? Why?
In other news, I had a bunch of tattooing done during my last few weeks of unemployment. The redwinged blackbird on my arm now has a chickadee to keep it company, around on the back of my shoulder, and also now has a proper Pacific dogwood branch to hold onto. It’s pretty great.