Looking for a Job at Age 59

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
—Helen Keller

Design work has slowed to a trickle and I am behind in my payments. This is a fine kettle of fish. Four years ago, I left my full-time job to start my own business as sole proprietor. I had worked for design agencies and publishing houses for more than 20 years while doing freelance graphic design in the evenings. I felt I had gained enough experience and built up enough of a client base to strike out on my own. Plus, I was working through some personal problems which made it difficult to do the nine-to-five for someone else. But that’s a subject for another day. I’m thankful to say those problems are behind me. Now I have a new problem.

These are uncertain times. The economic slowdown has taken its toll and doing my own thing is no longer sustainable. The taxes are huge if you are sole proprietor, and I worry that I’m paying for a social security that might not be there by the time I need it. I also lack business acumen. I’m right-brained. My left brain is the size of a walnut. I wonder if there is disability compensation for this obvious birth defect?

Time to look for a full time job. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the WEB I go. However, things have changed since the last time I applied for a job. One no longer sends in a resume with samples of one’s portfolio and hears back within a week or two that an interview is desired. Now everything is automated and there is no response. And I am no spring chicken.

As the child of Depression-era parents who grew up with very little money, I know how to roll up my sleeves and get going when the going gets tough. While raising my son as a single parent, I worked two jobs and when things were slow, washed dishes for a catering company one summer. I’ve subscribed to seven or eight job sites, signed up with a creative placement agency, combed Craigslist, sent in countless resumes, attended Business Networking luncheons, Job Transition Support Groups, updated my Linked In account as well as my website. Not a single bite. I’ve taken a part-time job as companion for a senior woman in my town and I donate plasma two times a week for a little gas and grocery money.

Outside of singing and tap dancing, I’m not sure what else to do.

Pray. Definitely pray. God is aware of my needs. He said He’ll show me the way to go. I’m trusting. I have my moments of worry but I just can’t give in to that. In the past, worry and fear kept me from living a healthy life. No more. That beast has been slain.

There are mystery recruiters out there in The Great Swirly of cyberspace. Every time I send in my resume to a company, these mystery entities intercept it and send me alerts to specific jobs they think I could do. Apparently, I qualify as an Insurance Adjustor, Claims Specialist, and, most recently, I have been offered an exciting opportunity in a meat production plant.

“Hello. We saw your resume and think you would make an excellent candidate for our current job opening as a Meat Production Associate. Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an interview.”

Just what is a Meat Production “Associate”? Who are they associated with? They’ve obviously never seen me carve a turkey. No one should trust me with a knife… ever. My meat processing skills are more relegated to advertising and operating the Super Bass-O-Matic ’76 fish blender alongside Dan Akroyd.

So I’m spending every day and night, searching the internet, listening to Indie rock from Iceland (I can tell the sun doesn’t shine very often in Iceland), and trying to envision things I can do. If not graphic design, then what? Digging deep, I try to come up with a list of other “skills” I might have. Caregiving? Backbreaking work for $10/hour. Probably not. Retail Sales Associate? (There’s that important “associate” title again.) Nope. Being on my feet for hours and hours requires a different set of muscles that haven’t been developed after 20 years of sitting at a computer. Jobs requiring math skills are right out. I need to do something creative and relational or I might just waste away into nothingness.

I sort of stumbled into graphic design. Although I am artistic, I didn’t go to school for design. I was a missions student for seven years, working in a print shop art department doing paste-up and key lining the old fashioned way—with a draft table and a T-square. Then I moved in with my brother to help care for his wife who was diagnosed with brain cancer. She got me a job in the print shop where she worked and taught me typesetting so I could drive us both to work every day because she lost her license after brain surgery. She was a brilliant typesetter and her fingers fairly flew over the keyboard. We sat back-to-back in a small, windowless office talking as we typed. We could read copy and type while simultaneously carrying on a completely separate conversation about life, kids, the past, joys, and sorrows. I learned what an amazing woman she was. A pillar of strength through adversity.

Toward the end, her brain began to fail her and her fingers lost the trail from her eyes. I spent the end of each day retyping all of her work so it would get done right and she could get paid. She needed the paychecks. We kept our employer in the dark as long as we could about the real state of things. Finally, we could keep it from him no longer and she had to resign. I was heartbroken. It wasn’t the same working there without her.

I’m remembering this because she was an important person in my journey to becoming a graphic designer. Looking back, I can trace God’s hand in leading me. I learned on the job. I liked working on computers. It was a natural progression to learn desktop publishing and I’m thankful for employers who were willing to take me in and train me as personal computers evolved.

Back then, we all learned computers on the job. Desktop publishing was the Wild West. We started out with little Apple MacIntosh IIci’s when it was a really big deal to have 40 megabytes of hard drive space. There was no IT department to call on when things went wrong. We were IT, down on our hands and knees with flashlights replacing motherboards, installing more ram, or “zapping” the P-ram. We could read an entire Communication Arts magazine cover to cover while a Photoshop file was saving.

At the risk of sounding ancient, things sure have changed. We’re not in Kansas anymore. Kids are graduating from college knowing how to do websites, social media platforms, html coding, animation, and lots more. I could still learn all that but I’m not sure I want to. There’s something deep in me that craves simplicity. I need to keep a little bit of my life unplugged. I’ve noticed that artists & musicians seem to get better with age. They never really retire, they evolve. Maybe it’s time to start painting. I hear about folks turning sixty, taking up painting and becoming successful artists. Blessed are the late bloomers…

If all else fails, there’s always all that money promised to me from that rich bank president in Nigeria who contacted me out of the blue over the internet. (How did he ever find me? A miracle!) “Hello, I am Mr. Ahmad Mualla, Bill and Exchange Manager/ Secretary General, Head of the World Bank Finance Group Branch. You are being legally contacted regarding the release of your long awaited fund. After a detailed review of your file, the World Bank Group has mandated that your fund should be release immediately.The sum of GBPS 2,000,000.00 (two Million Pounds) has been approved in your favor via my desk. I therefore wish to inform you that your payment is being processed and will be released to you as soon as you respond to this letter. Please re-confirm to us the following:
(1) Your Full Name:
(2) Phone, Fax and Mobile Number:
(3) Company Name, Home Address:
(4) Profession, Age and Marital status
(5) Bank account number for deposit”

There’s a sucker born every minute. I wonder if he’s single?

So, the search goes on. I am plagued from time to time with feelings of self-doubt. Am I washed up? Over the hill? Irrelevant? I have felt irrelevant before in my life and I’m pretty sure that—along with hopelessness—will kill the human spirit faster than anything. I cling to the knowledge that there is a divine order, a divine purpose for me. Jeremiah 29:11 confirms this: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I have come to learn this about God: He is the Ultimate Creator, the author of all creativity and productivity. He holds the future and I’m pretty sure He’s not done with me yet. Maybe the best is yet to come. Maybe all the things I’ve experienced in life, both good and bad, have prepared me for a future unlike anything I’ve ever dreamed. What if I let go, really let go of all my fears and reservations and just say, “I’m ready for the next daring adventure, God; bring it on?”

Stay tuned.

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