I am unemployable. People laugh when I say that, but it’s frighteningly true. I escaped from corporate America in 1984 (exactly at midnight, December 31st), when I took the plunge into ruining my own life (rather than letting some quasi-competent manager do it for me).
I never looked back.
No, I’m not all that bright, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of successes and suffered through a handful of setbacks. (Actually, those setbacks could be called flat-out “failures,” if I were to dump the politically correct verbiage.)
And, yes, I admit that there have been times when I have stood with my nose to the proverbial restaurant window on a cold winter evening yearning for those regular paychecks my cubicle-dwelling-wage-slave friends were daintily nibbling on. But then I’d realize I am awful at doing stupid pet tricks or singing on-key for my supper, so I’d sigh, smile and walk briskly back to the world of uncertainty, excitement, danger and freedom. Ahhhh.
Actually, I love what I do … in a miserable kind of way. I have made a lot of money over the last 25 years, and have had a lot of fun coming and going as I please, free to work any 18 hours a day I choose.
And every once in a while I get one of those V-8 moments, a glimpse into the world I left behind … and a reminder that my being unemployable really is not a joke, but a true blessing … a positive, determined lifestyle choice.
Yes, I have to fight for my supper, each and every day, slaying dragons every inch of the way, and sometimes getting scorched and bloodied for my efforts. But that’s half the fun. And the alternative is just not an option. I’m like a dog that can’t stand the collar and would chew through its leash if left unchecked.
Anyhow, about my latest V-8 moment: I love to teach. I have taught writing and communications at the college level off and on since 1974. I am pretty good at, too. (Sorry, it ain’t bragging if it’s true.) I am also moderately good at stand-up presentations.
So, when I was offered an opportunity to teach two communications courses at a local technical college for a salary that even the paperboy would have declined (“adjunct professor” is code word for “dirt cheap teacher”), I said, “Sure, why not?”
Well, as it turned out, that sure-why-not was like sticking my head into the jaws of a massive steel trap and then poking around to find the release button.
Now, remember, all I wanted to do was teach a few classes. That means sign me up, give me a syllabus (or, better yet, leave me alone to create my own), and get out of the way.
Never happened. First, I had to prove I’m not a terrorist, a felon, an illegal alien, or a child molester, all documented by a wealth of mindless paperwork. (One requirement was to provide my birth certificate. When I was born, birth certificates were done with quill and ink on papyrus! However, I do still have my draft card from 1968, but that was the one piece of ancient paper they didn’t ask for.)
Then I had to divulge my bank account number so they could direct deposit my $37.45 per month paycheck. (I fought that one tooth and nail … and lost.) So, in the name of security and national defense, I have now exposed myself to a total loss of privacy and the threat of identity theft.
But I try to be a go-along guy (honest, well, kind of), so I comply, because I really enjoy teaching. Meanwhile, no one can find what text I’m supposed to use for the course, and no one asks me to complete a basic job application. So, I finally find my own text (which I must return, so I MUST NOT write in or mar it in any way … or I will be charged), root around for my birth records in the basement archives of Lutheran Hospital in Ozone Park, New York, which I think burned down in 1958, and am only mildly surprised that no one requested a rectal exam or stool sample. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little about the paperwork, but not by much.)
So, finally, having lost ten pounds and trimmed down considerably thanks to my new jumping-through-hoops regimen, I am just two days away from my first class — shoes shined, pencils sharpened, great class prep. In short, I am ready to go!
That’s when I get … THE CALL! It went more or less like this:
“I’m sorry, John, but you are not certified to teach these courses.”
“You actually were certified because you taught some other courses four years ago at another campus.”
“Good. So, what’s the problem?”
“Well, your certification expired several months ago.”
“I don’t recall ever being certified. I just taught.”
“That’s correct. That was how you got certified. You were certified because you taught the course.”
“Good. So everything’s okay, right?”
“I’m afraid not. As I said, your certification expired.”
“So, I just teach the course and I’m certified again, right?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Look, I’ve been teaching at the college and corporate levels for 30 years. I’m qualified.”
“Yes, but you’re not certified. Unless you’re certified, we cannot receive state aid for the courses.“
“So, how do I get certified?”
“Well, the next course will be held in three months.”
“Sooooo, I’m sorry, but can you please return our text books. And, remember, if you have written in them, you will be charged.” (I think that explains why they were so hot to get my bank account numbers!)
And with that, I hang up the phone, wipe my brow, curse a blue streak for about five minutes … and then break out into a big-dog-that-jumped-the-fence-into-a-yard-full-of-Fifi-poodles grin, and count my lucky stars that I am proudly, stubbornly, borderline stupidly, self-employed and 100 percent, hopelessly unemployable.
Work hard. Make money. Have fun.
— John R. Ingrisano, The FreestyleEntrepreneur