I’ve gone through 3 significant career changes over the years. I started out doing the stereotypical “starving actor” thing out in LA. Then I shifted into computer game development. Then into computer hardware development as a Project Manager. And for the last 3 years I’ve been a college English Instructor. And through it all, whether it’s been in LA, Tampa, San Fran, Boulder, or here in Rochester, NY, I’ve had my motorcycles.
I got my first bike back in the 80s. It was a little Yamaha 125 dirt bike, and I rode that thing into the ground. Since then I’ve had 2 Hondas, a Kawasaki, another Yamaha, and the Indian and BMW I have now. Being able to jump on and go, even if just for a couple hours, has allowed me to maintain some semblance of sanity through these rather sweeping changes in my life. The bike is my stability.
And it’s my good luck piece, as well. For example…
I’ve been trying to find a full-time teaching job for the last three years, and this past winter I made up my mind… I would either find a teaching gig or get out of education altogether. Being a part time instructor at two local colleges was just too hard, financially and personally, and at that point I was having no luck at all in getting even a phone interview. Basically, I let myself get down. But I still kept at it. I quite literally saturated the market with my resume. Between November and April I submitted over 75 applications all over the country.
February was when I first started to get frustrated. Thankfully, winter here was amazingly mild last year, and I was able to jump on the bike and go for a day ride along Lake Ontario. I stopped at a little lighthouse diner for some coffee, and what do you know, a college in Tennessee called to schedule a phone interview! My first contact. Things were looking up. The interview went well, I thought, but in the end I didn’t get the job.
In March, I needed to get away again and clear my head, so I jumped onto the bike and took off for Maryland to visit my friends Dan and Nancy. When I got there, another request for an interview… this time in person! And from a school in, of all places… Maryland! Well, we didn’t do the interview while I was there, but I went back down for it the following week (thanks for putting up with my freeloading, Dan & Nancy!). This time, the interview didn’t go well. I knew it, they knew it… it just wasn’t a good mesh, if you know what I mean. But that’s ok… interviewing is something I hadn’t done in a long time, and it’s good to sort of shake the cobwebs off those oh-so-important skills. I actually told myself mid-interview to look at it as practice for the next one.
So… Coincidence that both calls came while I was on the bike? Nope… lucky charm.
And in April and May I rode and rode and rode, but that “next one” ever appeared. What’s more, I was fairly certain that due to falling enrollment I wasn’t going to get an assignment at one of the colleges, which would leave me with only two courses to teach. Things were getting sticky until one of my freelancing gigs took an interesting and extremely tempting turn. They made me a very informal offer which would nearly double the salary of any full time teaching gig I could hope to acquire. But it was outside education. What’s more, it involved about 50% travel, so I wouldn’t even be able to teach a night class. And if I got out of education, most likely there’d be no getting back in. But the salary…
Not knowing what to do, I jumped on the bike. And rode. And rode. I put 400 miles on little backroads that day, twisting through the Finger Lakes, down into Pennsylvania, up and around back to Lake Ontario. And when I got home and threw the kickstand down, I realized I had made my decision.
I turned that job down.
Yeah… potentially one of the dumbest decisions I have ever made. I know that now. Hell, I knew that then. But it didn’t matter. I wanted to teach. I didn’t want to spend 2 out of every 4 weeks in Portland, or Albany, or Philadelphia, or Oklahoma City. I wanted to teach, and I would do what needed to be done to make that happen. Interestingly, when I went out to get the mail after that little decision-making-day-ride, I received notification that I actually did get a course for the fall, so everything wasn’t completely upside down after all. Good luck charm, indeed.
When it came time for my summer road trip, I still hadn’t received any other bites on the resume. I was tempted to call off the trip and keep applying, keep by the phone, keep… just keep on keeping on! But of course I didn’t. I needed a break, so I quickly planned out a general route and 2-3 week time frame… Across Canada to Michigan, then on to Illinois and Missouri, east to North Carolina, then up the coast to MD and back home. Very little planning, with no idea where I was going to throw up my tent along the way. I just plugged destinations into the GPS and took off on the blue roads.
The second day of riding brought me from Ann Arbor, MI to my aunt’s house in Pekin, IL. After a beer (or three) I checked my messages, and guess what… a request for a phone and potential Skype interview. They wanted to do it on a day when I knew I’d be deep in MO with no cell coverage, so I called and rescheduled, arranging to come back to my aunt’s house after camping in MO to take the calls. The interview was rather cursory – five interviewers, one question each, 2 questions from me, done – but I had this feeling… a good feeling. I tell them I’m on the road touring around the country, but I’ll check my messages several times a day and will be able to make myself available for phone or Skype with a little advanced notice.
And off towards North Carolina I went.
As I was pulling into the campground in NC, my phone rang. I didn’t get to it in time and decided to book the campsite before checking the message. I sort of half forget about the message until I was about to put up the tent. It was the college, and they wanted an in-person interview rather than a call through Skype. In one week. I called them back and scheduled it. I took off for Rochester the next morning, stopping twice along the way to stay with friends. When I got home, it seemed I had just enough time to unpack, do 4 loads of laundry, book the travel, repack (this time with a suit), and get to the airport. The interviews went great.
And there it is… the good luck trifecta. The third time’s the charm, as they say. They called with an offer last week. Today I accepted. Next week I ride down to start looking for a place to live. Come August 10th or so, I guess I’ll have to buy a hat and boots.
I won’t need spurs, will I? I’ll have to ask my buddy in Austin. He’ll know. He has a hat.