There is a moment when the last lingering doubt withers away and you are finally forced to accept that you no longer have the skills to resume a former career. An instant when evidence cuffs you upside the head and reality sharpens to pinpoint focus. It is not a pleasant moment but it is surprisingly liberating. Once the internal weeping ceases.
I experienced this moment in February. I had set up a lunch with two of my former bosses/mentors and who remain my friends. The single most rewarding work experience in my adult life occurred in the employ of these two and I’ve tried hard to keep in touch with them ever since our paths diverged a decade ago now. Both are wonderful people who have been remarkably kind to me and my family.
In a perfect world, my work life would have included many more years with them, but alas that was not to be. I moved on to another company for a couple trips around the sun before finally diving head first into this homemaker/child-rearing gig. Now, suddenly, eight years have passed in a flash and right along with them, the relevance of my job expertise. I’ve suspected for a couple years now that I had become obsolete in my preferred occupation. During this lunch, it became a cold, hard reality.
I am not currently looking for work. Thankfully I have a wife who easily supports our family allowing us to live a happy life free of want. More importantly, we are able to do this without the need for me to possess a job. Never has this situation been more fortunate than right now since the industry in which I once worked is suffering mightily. Oil, as you may know, is in the pit toilet of a poorly maintained rustic campground. Me finding work right now after an eight year hiatus is as likely as Justin Trudeau punching a kitten.
But if it ever came to a point where I did need to find work, these are the guys I’d have inquired with first. Let’s face it, I am not a networker. I’ve been out of the happening downtown core business scene for almost a decade. All my school peers are barely hanging on as it is and none are in a position to “toss me a bone” should I come begging. None are management, which I suppose says a little something about the types of friends I make. The point is, I have very few contacts with which to begin a new job hunt.
That abnormally warm February day, during lunch with my most treasured mentors, I learned unequivocally that my best option is no option at all. The stuff they were talking about, as I stuffed my face with Thai food, was not only amazing it was entirely beyond my knowledge. Not in the sense that I’m rusty and have forgotten a few things, either. Oh no. This stuff was wholly unknown to me ever. It’s the cutting edge of the industry and though incredible to hear about, not only did I have nothing to add to their conversation, but I’d be a monumental drain on resources to even attempt getting up to speed as a new hire. I’m not sure I even could.
It’s a startling experience to learn you’re getting too stupid to work in your favoured vocation. Being an oil and gas geologist, the fact I’m unemployable likely makes a few of you happy; one less jerk ravaging the earth and wanting pipelines built through your backyard. But it was a fun, stimulating, challenging, and rewarding career and it saddens me that it is truly over for me. The glimmer of hope, that fall back tucked away in my back pocket, is no more. I’ll never go back to working downtown in the gilded towers of Canada’s oil and gas capital. No more hunting fossil fuel treasures and hidden hydrocarbon bonanzas. The centrepiece of my early adult life, the reason I spent five years in university, twelve more in front of computer screens, stared down microscopes, and picked through drilling samples in minus forty temps, all of it, is now at an end. There is nothing more for me and that is heartbreaking but I now know it and can move on to the future and leave the past in its place.
At least they paid for my lunch.