Sunday, April 12, 2009

No Caramel Apples at the Fair

Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.
The Divine Comedy

The Mower County Fair in Austin, Minnesota always takes place during August. When I was a little kid, any description of heaven required this event. Flower shows, cow barns, tractors, the Tilt-a-Whirl, Scrambler, and the Rock-o-Planes. Exhibit halls. Real A&W Root Beer. My grandpa at the steam engine display. Horses. And guaranteed, the headliner at the grandstand was a regular on the Lawrence Welk show.

Dusk crept up on these summer skies offering a glimpse of the night-lighted rides and the hope of a teenage life beyond my ten-year-old 7:30pm boundary.

Even though cotton candy had its place, caramel apples captured my culinary taste. Sold out of an Airstream trailer, as I recall. Always so hard to take the first bite, to get a grip of the sweet delight and the tart apple inside.

Last Saturday I went to a fair. Drawn by the word “fair”, I had no idea it might not be fun. But what makes anyone think taking something fun and putting an ugly word like “job” in front of it will make it fun? Oxymoron at its best.

Offered by the local school district, this Midlife Jobhunter arrived late in the morning with my haphazardly prepared resume clutched close to my heart. Having been a secondary teacher in a past life, I always assumed I could return to this profession if needed. But as a rookie walking into the midway of this fair represented by all the schools in the district, all I saw was a mirage of ants moving throughout the room. Long lines of almost uniform black and white clad job hunters holding their quiver of resumes to their own hearts.

Standing in the middle of the crowd, I didn’t know where to go, what line to join, what to say. I saw the familiar colors of my kid’s high school banner and like a fly drawn to shit, walked directly to that table. No long lines stacked up before it as most of this school’s teachers have a hundred years of tenure, especially in the English Department. As I fiddled with the papers in my folder, I had to acknowledge to the interviewer that I was perhaps wasting her time. Great start, huh? But, honestly, if I were a math or science major, this might be a different story. We English majors are much too plentiful. And without my certification up to date, the kind woman explained that my resume would sit at the bottom of the pile. Seemed I wasn't the first attendee to not have the complete credentials, and having had them once didn't seem to serve me any better. I’ve known I need to get on the re-certification bandwagon. Have even found the site online and started the process. But I’ve dragged my feet finishing that task, not knowing why.

I left the comfort of a familiar school table and wandered to the middle of the room, activity continuing to swarm around me, hopeful job seekers in long lines eager to grab an interview or to leave an impression for a later date. In place, I turned in a circle, and then another, and then another. I didn’t know what line to get in, how to smooze for a job I didn’t want. Round and round I went, never leaving my one-foot space, the tables and applicants swirling while I twirled as though on a merry-go-round. And then it struck me. I didn’t want to switch to the Scrambler to toss me toward the endless lines, darting here and there. I was doing that aimlessly just fine on my own, but I now understood the reason for my delay on the road to recertification. I didn’t want this merry-go-round. I left.

I passed my husband in the garage as I arrived home. “I don’t want to be a high school teacher again,” I said as I walked by him.

“Okay,” he said.

This is what this job road trip is about, right? Discovering what I can do, what I want to do? That SOMETHING I've done all these years will qualify me for something beyond where I've already been? Trying this road and that one to find the one I want to take for a longer ride?

And if I come across another fair, they had better be selling caramel apples.


  1. Wow. What an epiphany. Me thinks someone is trying to tell you that you are about to grow in leaps & bounds. Because now you are NOT returning to ye ol' familiar comfort zone as planned, but you will be led to something new and exciting, AND (I'd be willing to bet) will discover a part of you you've never known. That's what I think! Let us ALL take note!

  2. No reason to go without those sticky apples and funnel cakes!

    Blog bling for ya at my place. :)

  3. i have had moments like that. How great you have a husband who gets you and allows you to find the place where the apple is!

    LOVE caramel apples!!

  4. Wow. So you don't wanna be a high school teacher after all, eh? The good news is that you discovered this, and the better news is what Michelle said. Sounds like a new adventure is in store for you. I like the ring of that. Do you? Do you have any idea what the new adventure might be? I can't wait to hear what's going to happen next. :)


  5. Oh, and that spark of an Airstream trailer has me wondering what oh what is going on with Ruby and the gang? Are they traveling right now, or stopped over somewhere?

  6. There are moments in your life when you just think either YES NO or NOT AGAIN etc. Sounds like a really big moment. How exciting...good luck with whatever lovely things are in the future for you

  7. ...although I can picture you teaching at the Austin, MN, high school, strangely enough. I had a section of my community college freshman comp held there for a few years, so's the smartie high school kids could still have a challenge. Even thought I don't know you, I can picture you in that building, doing good things.

    But the job fair? EEEEEK. It actually sounds more soul-sucking than the job you've been doing.

  8. i was sent here by jocelyn. she steered me well because i soooooo identify with this process. 19 years out of the workforce and now trying to re-enter. ugh.

  9. It is always good when you can come to a conclusion I think.
    And yes, caramel apples are a must.

  10. Michelle - Geez. You're scaring me. You mean I have to think beyond that?

    Angie - Thank you! Can you hear me swearing as I try to copy onto mine?

    TTTC - Yeah, There are days when my husband feels like that. Sometimes I just think he is better at knowing when to let me fly off the handle.

    Fragrant Liar - I have to figure out the next adventure? Can't someone just tell me that? And, Ruby, she is still somewhere in South Dakota, waiting for Julie to remember what the plan for her novel was, is, something like that.

  11. Jocelyn - I think it so interesting that you know that town and lived there. Actually, I didn't teach there, but I did go to school in that building. And, how bad is this? I remember when they moved the community college out of that building and built the new campus.

    And, yes, soul sucking is a good description.

  12. Lakeland Jo - Thank you and I wish I knew what those lovely things might be. Welcome.

    Lime - Welcome to you also. 19 years - yes we are in the same boat. I'll share my sail!

    Debbie - Yes, conclusions are good. But not I need a new beginning.

  13. SMB - thanks for the envy, but I'm scared as hell. Deep breath, deep breath. Not sure where to start, but I think I'll get through this gig the first week of may and see what comes next.

  14. I am so excited! Ok, first of all I was excited by the fair. I love fairs like that! We have one here in our small community and it rocks! And then the anxiety of you there at that job fair. I almost broke out in hives reading that. But when you wrote that short sentence, I left! Frig, I was on my feet! Life is too short to do things that don't feed the soul. Love it! (You see how many exclamation marks I used. Actually went back and pulled one. Didn't want to be too excited...wait for it...!)


Let me know what you think. Every word you write, I appreciate.


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