Do you remember taking those aptitude tests in high school? Those multiple choice, fill in the circle completely ones with sections labeled “Mechanical Reasoning”, “Abstract Intelligence”, “General Prickishness?” They supposedly determined the career for you based on how adept you were in each category.
I don't remember what parts of the test came particularly easily or proved difficult, though I remembering especially hating the analogy bits like “Bird is to fax machine as Cher is to ___” (of course I know now the answer is taffy, but I didn't then). But I do remember that my results were inconclusive. I did not excel in anything specifically and, as such, would not be ideal for one career over another. At the time, I remember as a kind of artistic badge of honour. “I'm a square peg, man! You can't put me in your little box! Don't label me, narc!” Now, though, I realize how damning such diagnoses can be.
I don't regret my university education, my real world experiences, all those times I get paid to do stuff I sort of know about, but I do wonder how different things would have turned out for old James has I been the perfect candidate for x, y, or z.
Dream: Determine the up and downsides of any possible career.
Goal: Achievable. I'm not a career counselor, but I watch a lot of television. Plus, if I'm at a party and meet someone who has a different job than me, I make a concerted effort to learn about it rather than play my usual party game, “What's with your eyebrows?”
Plan: A down and dirty pros and cons list of jobs that line the road less traveled, such as:
- Saving lives
- Cool coats
- People get naked when you tell them to
- You're around sick people all the time
- Long hours
- Constant handwashing
- Winning an argument gets you money
- Whatever you say can be read back to you on a whim
- Yelling “Objection” and, occasionally, “No YOU'RE out of order!”
- Getting criminals off sometimes
- Being a criminal sometimes
- Wearing a suit every goddamn day
Elementary School Teacher
- Helping a child to learn
- Knowing the answer before the stupid children do
- Longer summers and Christmas vacay than others.
- Having no free time between prep, class, and extra-curricular
- Teaching the same material day after day, year after year
- Helping children to and from the goddamn bathroom
- Always in business
- Sandwiches with no crust at funerals
- Weekend at Bernie's laughable in its implausibility
- Crying people snotting on you
- Constant references to Six Feet Under at parties
- Pervasive and ongoing sense of doom
- Coins for laundry later
- Being hit-on by drunk weirdos.
- Running off your feet until 4 in the morning
- Stupid songs like “I'm on a Boat” being played all the time for seafaring bros.
- See all over the world
- Weak applause when you nail a land
- First dibs on left behind porn (this is a real thing! My father used to being one of those luggage loader/unloader guys and he says dudes would buy porn on a business trip or something, realize they still had it in their luggage, ditch it on the plane before going home to their wives).
- Persistent flight attendant chatter
- Waiting on the runway for two hours for no reason
- Probably dying in a plane crash
CEO of Big Business Businesscorp
- Lots of money
- Hot trophy spouse
- Steak for lunch, steak for dinner, and puny little bleeding hearts like you for breakfast
- Expensive divorces
- Lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits
- Crap your pants during unexpected heart attacks; loss of slacks, quality of life
- Bring life to a character
- Do cool things in front of an audience
- Constant stoking of your fragile ego
- Rejection, rejection, rejection.
- No money
- Tights and shoe polish in your hair.
- Better paycheque than cashier
- Get paid to write stuff
- Super fun coworkers
- Long commute
- Weird computer problems
- Terrible smell in the cafeteria sometimes
So all things considered, I ended up with a pretty good gig, at least for now. I don't often consider how things would be with a different sort of job, because I feel like I'm going to have at least six more jobs between now and my first gig as a trophy spouse. I suppose the great thing about having no particular aptitude is that you have every opportunity. And aptitude is to opportunity as gargoyle is to ferrets.