Few of us have a realistic game plan right out of high school. We might think we do, but not long after we start college or end college and start work, we find the profession we prepared for isn’t it. I know at least three lawyers who never practiced law or practiced it so briefly, it doesn’t count. I know a professional cellist who, after becoming first cellist for a major orchestra went back to school and became a doctor (M.D.). I know people who wanted to be doctors and ended up engineers (several of them). Exhausted computer developers (I taught several during my few years teaching tech writing in night school) slide into technical writing and tech writers discover they can earn a lot more as developers — or by writing science fiction novels.

If you live in the East Bay area, guess who wrote the manual for your water utility?

Trying to get kids to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their professional lives when they haven’t yet had a life means many of us complete a degree in useful majors like “Medieval French Poetry.” I call these people “future tech writers.”

I started as a music major. With the help of Dr. Deutsch, I realized I didn’t have the competitive passion or (in my opinion) the talent to succeed in music. I dropped my music major with one remaining credit. I needed a semester of choir. By sophomore year, I’d discovered the college radio station. I had terrible speech impediments, so I switched to majoring in Speech. While I was improving my speech, I accidentally completed a major in Speech and Drama. My goal was learning to speak without spitting. I got more than I bargained for.

By the time I rolled into senior year, I had completed a Speech/Drama major, but didn’t know it. I hadn’t counted the credits nor had I realized my drama credits would combine with my speech credits to complete a major. My biggest project for drama was rewriting Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus as a radio drama. I think I got an A for the amount of effort involved in the project. It was exhausting. Afterward, everything I wrote sounded slightly Elizabethan.

During the second half of junior year I discovered a passion for all things pertaining to philosophy and religion. I don’t have a personal commitment to a specific religion, though I have a personal affection for Yiddishkeit which translates to enjoying Jewishness, especially food — minus the rest of the religion.

By all accounts, I’ve had more close calls with the other world than most people yet have never been able to make the leap from interest to faith. The first pastor of the church we joined asked me if I was waiting for God or Jesus to drop by with a photo ID. My answer was “Yes, probably.” Even that might not do it for me. My problem isn’t with Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, et al but with the religions supposedly built on their teachings. Formal religion seems a parody of the original teachings.

All this enthusiasm has made me popular with people who think I’m a potential convert. They see my interest, but miss the doubts. I always warn them I’m not a recruit, but they don’t believe me. How could I be so interested and remain uncommitted?

There aren’t any jobs in religion unless you go all the way and plan to run a church or synagogue — or invent your own religion. I’ve never wanted to run anything except me. Otherwise, there aren’t many well-paying jobs in religion. In a different life, I could have gone Ph.D. but I suspect I’d have ended up writing books about technology, then retiring into blogging.

Categories: #Writing, Anecdote, Education, Ethics and Philosophy, Personal, Religion

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9 replies

  1. I wanted to become a Teacher. I did, during school hours, all the necessary tests to get to the then needed ‘teachers’ college’. My teacher visited my father to ask his permission (it did cost money then to do this 4yr course). My father refused, even fater the teacher told him that he would be easily able to get me a grant. NO, he would not accept a handout, no, his family was not a charity case!!!! For two years I was mad at him for that ‘betrayal’. I went to a three year apprenticeship as a futur commercial clerk. I had ‘big plans’ for myself – even then. I saw myself working abroad, in important positions. I ‘would show him’ ….. When I married at a very young age, I went to Canada with my new husband. I could have had 15 jobs in one day but I had to go with my husband to find HIM a job. He didn’t speak English, his profession didn’t even exist in Canada. during the 2yrs we stayed we took several short and long trips down to Mexico City and up Lake Ontario, we drove all the way to the West and East, I changed ‘places’ like my underwear, I learned and did super well – I couldn’t have gotten a job as a teacher as the curriculum was entirely and utterly different. I made lemonade from lemons and never stopped. One has to have interests, and the guts to follow one’s dreams.
    You did more than well. So did Garry. You are both a beacon of light, entertainment, schooling and often fun too for your readers. Be proud of this!


  2. When I was in my last year of primary school teachers started to ask what we wanted to do when we left school. We had the choice of going to high school if we were academic or technical high school if we were better with our hands. It seemed very arbitrary to me that I had to make decision when I was twelve years old that would affect the rest of my life. I was terrible at sewing and didn’t want to learn shorthand so I chose high school although I did not finish the full five years. I never really knew what I wanted to do except leave school and earn some money so I could travel. One of my best friends had already decided at that age that she wanted to be a librarian and that’s what she went on to do. I said to her once that I envied her knowing what she wanted to do with her life and she said “Oh but I would have quite enjoyed being a music teacher too.”


  3. I wonder you guys have seen so much and how it must be for you both I mean, observing all the change at initial stage, the post wars generation dilemma and then in later life all technology driven revolutions, from real to digital… the journey must have been. Had I been there closer to you guys I would have listen for hours and know more of that and that world. Such fascinating stories and life lessons one can get just being in your company. I am in the east and you in west of course….. May be one day.


    • Ir hasn’t been quite as crazy as my mother. She was born when cars were rare and life was all horses and carts. She lived to see men walking on the moon and communications satellites — and that was in less than 70 years. The world always moves forward. Always did, will forever is we manage to hang on and have a future. Every generation sees amazing things. You are seeing amazing changes. You may not notice them because they are part of a continuity but when in the future, you look back — you’ll see it.


  4. When I was born I was on a mission. I knew it. There was something? I needed to find. I didn’t know what it was called – where it was – how to find it. Nothing. I was on my own. Who could I tell? Who could I Ask? No one. But it wouldn’t go away. It was there every day, every second – nagging, nagging, nagging at me. Where was it though??? How can I find it?? When might I find it? I didn’t know. Year after year this went on. Then when I left home I went through some really tough stuff – I had entered the Dark Night of Soul. And Dark it was. My knees finally hit the ground. I was suicidal. I was ready. I cried and cried. Then I prayed. “God help me. Because I don’t see any reason that I should stay here any longer.” I cried myself to sleep. When I awoke the next morning – I felt different. I didn’t know how or why? But it felt like everything had been lifted from me. Something had happened to me in the night. I got up. I went to corner store to get some bread for breakfast. On a small bookstand in Brown’s Grocery I found a book. My search was finally over. 22 years. I hope I don’t blow it this time.

    Find your book. You are on your own journey. Your own path. That’s between you and GOD.

    You will be tested.


    • I have found many books and have read them too, some of them multiple times. I don’t believe in nothing, but exactly WHAT I believe is a different question. I believe in every ethical and moral function of every faith and religion — and NONE of them manage to have a religion that mirrors what their foundational characters (for Judaism, it’s just plain God or whoever really wrote the books — what remain of the books, anyway). But religions aren’t — collectively — representative of anything I want to be part of So I enjoy them, but I don’t jump in and sign up. I’m pretty sure I never will. I’m open to the concept, but so far, I think not. And after all these years, I know where I stand and I’m OK with it. I think I’m exactly where I need to be.


      • Strangely I too am a doubter. Which is good. Because Doubters only believe what they Experience. And thus it’s said that Doubters become the greatest believers because their Faith is not blind – it’s based upon knowledge is gained through experience – that must be be earned and gained for ourselves. It isn’t easy.


  5. I studied to be a high school math teacher. The last semester was student teaching, and that’s where I figured out I was not cut out to be a teacher. I have since worked in social work and now in accounting, and I’m looking to see what’s out there.


    • I did three years of teaching — adult students trying to change from development, research, and many miscellaneous other paths. A surprising number of my students became Techn writers and a few still are. Burned out developers with a flair for words can be pretty good writers and writers with a flair for the technical are also great. I knew I would be a writer. I think I knew it from very early on but EVERYONE told me I’d never earn a living. Turned out, I did pretty well — but it took a while to find my place I was also (in my opinion), not a great teacher. I was OK, but no better. At least not in a classroom. Much better one on one (or two).

      You grow You learn. Then, if it suits you, you teach. Teaching didn’t do it for me either.

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