Dearest Rachel –
While the choice of a career would tend to ultimately dictate where one works, it doesn’t always follow that strictly. There’s a difference between working for a firm whose industry is that of your chosen profession, and working for a company that needs departmental staff that perform said profession.
That is the beauty of accountancy, after all: there are firms that specialize in it, but literally every company needs employees to fill the role in-house, as well. And if I was no fan of the sixty, seventy-hour work weeks that lower-tier employees would put in at the former, especially around the end of the year and tax time, there was always plenty of opportunities with the latter.
Upon graduation, I basically took the same path that I had during several previous summers, and interviewed with a temporary staffing service. I’d gotten job offers before from previous years’ experience as a temp, so I knew that such a position could well lead to something more permanent, as long as I gave the company I was assigned to satisfactory output.
Although, for a while, I just bounced around from job to job. This was perfectly okay for the time being; I was still waiting for the results of my CPA exam, and my parents had made it clear that – so long as I was working and being a productive member of society – I was more than welcome to stay in my old room while I searched for a permanent position.
I worked at six different places over the course of a few months. Most barely register on my memory, although the stint at Nielson sticks out. Partly because it was the last one before being called to an actual interview; partly because I remember from one of my letters to you back then (yes, we were exchanging letters by this time – after all, you had responded to my attempt to burn bridges with the metaphorical equivalent of a fire brigade) about the facility’s location on Sanders Road, and my supervisor… Rachel.
Interesting coincidence, no? Or maybe I was just looking for it in ways I never would have otherwise.
But after a few weeks, I got a call from the staffing agency. They had a new assignment for me, and this one could lead to a more permanent position if I played my cards right. No, I’m not going to name the place that I interviewed at. You know the name, but to anyone else who might see this, well… to quote the ghost of Christmas Present, “the name would mean nothing to you. It’s a place, that’s all.” Similarly, I’ll just refer to the two that interviewed me as a DJ and Mohinder, for the sake of their privacy. While you know their real names, there’s little need to discuss them in front of the internet at large. All of which should give you a rough idea of what kind of experience it ultimately turned out to be.
For all intents and purposes, the interview went reasonably well. But at one point late in the interview, I think it was DJ who offered to hire me straight up, without bothering to go through the staffing agency. I responded (merely upon instinct – I make no claim to have mentally uttered any arrow prayer for guidance) that while I appreciated the offer, it wouldn’t be fair to the agency who had set me up with the interview in the first place. The two of them exchanged knowing looks, and apparently I had passed some sort of test.
So I was offered the position on a probationary basis, which I promptly accepted. Again, I didn’t think to ask the Lord whether this was what He wanted for my life. And without being asked, of course, He never spoke to me, telling me to refuse. I simply assumed that this was where He had led me.
And as far as I know, I did pretty well. So well, in fact, that they hired me before the planned three month probationary period was over, so as to allow me to vest in the 401(k) plan a year sooner (since otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to be hired permanently until after the first of that year).
And that’s kind of how things went for the first decade or so. The experience was… fairly reasonable. The position paid well, had quite generous benefits… even the company outings were… enjoyable (despite the fact that I was never particularly keen on socializing with people I worked with outside of the office. As far as I was concerned, work is work, fun is fun, and I didn’t see where those should intersect). Apart from my first annual review, where I was asked “Are you really interested in this job? (because at that point I still had that attitude of ‘I don’t really want to act like an accountant’), for the most part, I received pretty decent performance reviews. So I thought I was doing a decent job.
Fast forward about 20 years, and our overseas headquarters had us merge with our sister company based in Detroit. They were about three or four times our company’s size, and I’m going to say they made Mohinder (who was now the sole head of the department, DJ having been laterally promoted to a separate department of his own) nervous. After all, they had administrative staff there in Detroit; was it possible that they wouldn’t need us going forward? They spoke otherwise, but he didn’t seem to believe them. He developed a habit of constantly asking “what’s your contribution?” like a mantra, which may have been meant to be inspirational, but all I read into it was “I’m asking you this question because I don’t see you making any contribution to this company, and if you’re not making a contribution, I see no reason to defend you and your position to the powers that be in Detroit.”
The man made it more than clear that I was little more than a disappointment to him. He would keep me in the conference room for hours at a time, berating me for one shortcoming or another, and top it off with accusing me of wasting his time for doing so. And for the most part, I said nothing in return. What could I say? Any sort of retort might be considered to be insubordinate.
In a way, he made me rethink my perspective on God. Until then, I would generally compare God to my father (a topic I’ll probably discuss some time soon in another letter; I expect I’ll dissect the whole of the Lord’s Prayer with you eventually) and the loving effort he and my mom went through to adopt me as an infant. Yes, I had a much healthier outlook on God than most people. But now, I saw him as a perpetually disappointed (at best) Superior, one who I couldn’t please, being (after all) only human. Every sin was remembered and thrown back at me to remind me of what a worthless piece of crap I was, and that a five- (or two-) year-old would know better how to react in a given situation that I did. I couldn’t help wondering, if a human boss was this upset at me for my failings, how much so would a perfect God be at me for them?
And yet, I still understood that this was the whole point of Jesus’ sacrifice on my – our – behalf. One imperfection or one million – it didn’t matter, none of us could be worthy of Him. And I’ll give Mohinder credit, he understood that one imperfection was sufficient to take one “from the boardroom to the s***room.” None of this “do enough good, and it will balance out the bad” nonsense – which put him ahead of a lot of us Westerners steeped in the Judeo-Christian traditions. But he couldn’t comprehend how I could consider my ticket to heaven being guaranteed thanks to Jesus (well, actually, he usually shut any attempt to explain that part to him with a “I don’t want to hear about your theology” whenever I would try to explain the situation which so infuriated him). Forgiveness was just not a thing for him, as far as I could tell.
And after so many years of this, all I could do was to pray for the day I could be released from this.
Still, there was one more thing in his favor: all that abuse made me so much more grateful to God for you at home, where you would always welcome me with a kiss and an “I love you, honey.” Nothing but unconditional love from you, regardless of how my day had gone.
And then, shortly after my Dad took so sick, your Mom suffered a serious stroke, at which point you rushed down that weekend to see her. You had made a point of heading down to Macomb for about a week each month since your Dad’s first stroke in December of 2016, but this was a special, urgent visit… to say goodbye. Oddly enough, she appeared to rally from the effects of the stroke upon your arrival – maybe your being there had something to do with it, I couldn’t say – and was in fairly good spirits by the time you returned home.
By the end of the next week, Dad’s condition was worsening, but you also received another call from Twofeathers about another stroke your Mom had suffered. After some discussion, you decided to stay up here and support me. I think we concluded that your Mom would pull through against as in the previous week, and with Dad failing health-wise, you thought he and I needed your support this weekend.
I’ll never know if you suffered any self-recrimination afterward, but the fact is that while Dad eventually recovered, your Mom passed away in the wee hours of Sunday morning. You had, at least, been on the phone with her the night previously, although the conversation was… minimal, if I recall correctly. Jo’s mind had regressed over the past few years to the point where she barely recognized you (or possibly worse, mistook you for Bill). In a way, her departure was something of a relief, I think.
Now, what this has to do with my workplace is that, it seemed, my prayers had been answered. While we thought your orphaning would free up your grandmother’s trust fund for us to use – and would have served as a sufficient nest egg to retire on modestly – it turned out that your parents left you most of their savings as well, rather than create various scholarships at the university like we assumed that they had planned to.
In short, I could walk away from work.
Although, oddly enough, given how much of a screwup peon he’d told me I was, Mohinder asked me to stay until the books were closed for the fiscal year, and then to help pick out and train my replacement. Two weeks’ notice turned into over three months.
Still, I was convinced that – especially given the timing – this was a true God thing. I’d heard some time ago that coincidence was something He used when He chose not to sign His name, and this situation had all the earmarks of that sort of thing. I could take over my Dad’s old office in the basement of the family home, work on learning the Creative Cloud suite from there, and keep an eye on him when he was finally released from hospital – and take some of that burden off of Mom in the process.
At the same time, as our church was merging with another church to form a third campus, and gaining a camp in the bargain, I was asked to work on the books for the camp on top of my current duties I was already performing for the church. Having my time freed up made this easy to add to my schedule – even if it meant setting the YouTube work to the side for a while longer. This seemed like it was all part of His plan for me.
But I never actually heard anything from Him. It just seemed like it made sense. Anyone looking at the situation would come to the same conclusion, more or less, but if one were to ask for proof that this was what God wanted from me, well…
Still, isn’t that what faith is for?
つづく (to be continued…)