Here's a friendly warning to y'all: this post has nothing to do with "techie" stuff. I just felt like posting something that's been rolling around in my head. Just so you know...
Anyway, I was sitting at home one day, just kind of mellow, hanging out. I got to thinking about how I had arrived at that particular moment in time. You know, what events had transpired that lead to me sitting there. Everything from, say, junior year of high school and back is pretty fuzzy, so I just kinda thought about the events I could remember. While I was doing this, I discovered I had passed a major decision point in my life without ever realizing it; there was essentially one choice that decided what the next decade of my life would be like.
Coming out of high school, I had managed to complete a university prep program and was considering attending Michigan Tech for an engineering degree. Being a poor lad, it had seemed a safe bet to spend a few years at a community college, and then transfer to the big school, which would save me a LOT of tuition money. Not too difficult. A lot of students do this, and it works out just fine for them.
Once I had pretty much committed myself to staying local, it seemed smart to look for a job, since I was likely to have to pay for my tuition myself before too long. Plus all young people like having stuff, and I was no exception.
One thing I forgot to mention earlier was that part of my high school education involved attending a vocational school. So, in addition to my high school degree, I had a nice little certificate that said I was a certified C.A.D. (computer_assisted design) drafter. Back in the late 90's, this was a pretty good certification to have, since it seemed a lot of companies (at least in Michigan) were always looking to add more C.A.D. operators. That, and computers had not yet pervaded EVERYTHING, so being a bit computer savvy was a big deal.
So, after a summer spent mostly being a bump on a log, I started looking for a job. I put a resume in a few places, but wasn't really getting any nibbles. It happened that my older brother worked for Meijer (a retail chain local to the MidWest region) and was able to swing an interview for me (back then they were a bit more selective in their hiring practices. Now the only prerequisite is a pulse). So I wait for a week or two, and then he tells me I have an interview a few days later.
Here is the part that triggered this little blog post:
On the day I was scheduled to go in for my interview at Meijer, I finally got a call from one of the businesses I had put a resume in at. They were interested in having me come in for an interview, maybe have me do some C.A.D. work for them.
(D'oh. This is painful just thinking about it, much less talking about it...)
Anyway... I had decided that working anywhere that might transition into full-time work was a bad idea, because I didn't want anything to keep me from transferring to Michigan Tech when I was ready. So I politely told the nice lady on the phone that I had an interview with Meijer, and if they (Meijer) were willing to hire me, it would probably work better with my long range plans. So, being a dumb-ass, I declined their (the C.A.D. place) offer and went to work for Meijer.
Here's the rub: like a lot of college freshmen and sophomores, I didn't really take college seriously. I was meeting girls, hanging out, the whole stereotypical dumb-young-kid stuff. Problem is, this dumb-young-kid stuff eventually caught up to me, and I wound up dropping out.
So long, Michigan Tech...
I would go on to spend almost eleven years working at a job I grew to hate with a passion that cannot be expressed in words. I suppose part of that was knowing (maybe only subconsciously) that I could be doing something else if I had only tried harder.
Now, one of the reasons I consider this one of those "life-changing" moments is that I KNOW that I would be an entirely different person right now if I had in fact been hired into that place that was interested in C.A.D. work. See, I grew up in a small town in what could safely be called the B.F.E. (big f-ing empty), where, like, 85% of the people are of Dutch heritage and, like, 95% of the permanent residents are white. So, calling me "sheltered" would have been entirely appropriate.
Working at Meijer (and for a brief time, attending community college) introduced me to a whole host of people with ethnic and social backgrounds that I had never really experienced before. You could call this "Tieson Gets a People Education." If I had worked at that shop doing C.A.D. work, I mostly would have been dealing with the kind of people I already knew. Not exactly a recipe for developing a broad world-view, no?
I can tell you for certain that working at a dead-end job for all those years definitely made it much more of a struggle to get from that wide-eyed punk who swaggered out of high school to the guy I am now, but I can't help but think that the humbling effect of being broke and struggling was necessary for me to be a better person. The friends that have come and gone, the people that I've loved in the blunted way I'm capable of, these people shaped me and made a difference in who I am. If everything had gone according to my original plan, I'd probably be better off financially, but I think I would be a lesser person.
The funny thing is that what was probably the poorest decision of my life was probably also the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
Serendipity. Hoo-rah. :]