With My Father

I went to Dictionary.com to see how they define “Father,” and here’s what it says.

  1. a male parent.
  2. a father-in-law, stepfather, or adoptive father.
  3. any male ancestor, especially the founder of a family or line; progenitor.

So we start with a fairly narrow definition, and continue to broaden it to take in more of how father’s are perceived. And of course, they often factor into religious contexts, especially within Christianity, both as those who head churches or catholic organizations and to God himself. I know little of other religious faiths in this vein, but assume they may have similar ideas.

Anyway, the main takeaway is that fatherhood is a complicated concept to wrap one’s head around. And ever since my wedding, well really since the middle of last year, I have been re-expanding my views of what a father is and could be.

Do you remember the Luther Vandross song entitled Dance With My Father? How he talked about being lifted high and skimming just below the ceiling, and the feelings of fun and fear mingling in your belly. I experienced that too, often while Michael Jackson blared from speakers in the living room, on the days when both my parents were in a good mood. I would usually find it difficult to sleep after such nights.

While I do have such nice memories with my “biological” father, I spent the bulk of my formative years with a father figure who really showed me the ropes. He helped me fully get into and appreciate sporting events; spent hours with me on the road talking about girls, school, and the like; and was just generally there. Even now, as a so-called adult, I miss sprawling on the floor, snickers in one hand, cold drink by my face as we watched the Atlanta Braves game while awaiting dinner’s preparation. Ah, what I would do to return to those days of innocence.

The thing that amazes me though is that, after nearly 20 years of inactivity, my “biological” father and I are finally starting to re-form some kind of relationship. Prior to marriage, I had hung out with him three times while residing in Charlotte, going to get a haircut twice and spending a day over in his double wide to watch the Panthers and have pizza. (You’ll note that most of my interactions with either of these men involve sports). Then just this past weekend, I’d hopped the Amtrak to Charlotte to have another nice time with him, enjoying some good food and a drink that, well made me feel good if you get my drift. We also watched the final game of the Warriors Cavs series (oh Cleveland, y’all could have done so much more) and had one of the most meaningful conversations in a really long time, well what I could hear of it over the pulsating Earth, Wind, and Fire Music he blasted through the sound system. That audio was so clear that I could easily make out the lyrics, a rarity for me in my state of near-deafness.

Here’s the thing, father’s aren’t perfect. But, I’m not perfect either, far from it. In between the messiness though, there are chances to forgive, to discover our bonds, to learn of what interests us both. To, in short, reconnect. I am glad that this is happening while we are still in this short life, and will always remember not to take such relationships for granted and to be willing to engage in them.

As the above definition indicates, my idea of fatherhood continues to expand. Today, I will venture to Fayetteville to visit my father-in-law at the restaurant where our wedding rehearsal dinner was held, a place that will thus have special memories (and good food!) for me. The place is called Grandson’s and located on Fayetteville’s Ramsey Street. MMM, I can already taste the meat loaf, fried chicken, and of course mac and cheese. Both he and my new mother have made me feel welcome in my enlarged family, and I felt especially grateful to them for making the trip to Queens University to attend my graduation a few weeks ago.

On this Father’s Day, I am happy to discover that my heart has enough room to accept several versions of “father,” all of whom fill some key part of my life. I will continue to appreciate each of them for as long as I am able to do so. Wishing any dads who read this a happy day themselves.

CHANGING STATIONS: On My Full-scale Job Search

As I briefly alluded to in my prior post, already written more than a month ago (really? I’ve gotta get back on that!), at the same time I prepared to celebrate graduation, I also launched the most intensive job search attempt ever tried. It has been five windy weeks of hopefully something that will pan out into at least the start of my dream.

The Irony

My wife and I were having one of our late night discussions, the kind that make sleep maybe less likely, maybe more so, it’s honestly hard to say. Of course, as we both are standing at the precipice of change, our main subject matter is and has been career choice.

“I think you should get a job coach,” she said. “I mean I can help and try to whenever possible, but it may be good to have someone who is knowledgeable of the ins and outs of figuring this out.”

I had tried this before with a Life Coach, and really felt like my confidence and willingness to grow and try new things had benefitted. So, I was open to the idea of giving coaching a shot. “Ok, I’ll google that tomorrow,” I replied.

Only, LinkedIn decided to bring it to me that next day instead. Was this an incident of “Big Brother” listening in? Or just a sign. We often playfully discuss this. Anyhow, that career site sent me a link to some company with whom they had just linked that allowed me to write what I needed in a coach and have people give me pries for their services and explain what they could offer. I received seven quotes, but ultimately settled on the first respondent because she was close by and her prices were reasonable. She is Dr. Lori Nero Ghosal of Inner Quest Coaching, and she is located right in the Raleigh-Cary area. I had three sessions with her, each an hour long and spread over two weeks, and each covering different, very useful material.

In the first, she had me draw up my “elevator pitch”. This is supposed to help me gain some focus, and also to address the possibility that “you meet the company CEO in the elevator on the way to your interview. She asks you what you want to do. How would you reply?”

After thought and input by her and by myself, here is what I came up with. Perhaps a bit cheesy, but it’s a start right?

I am a communicator wit excellent written and oral skills, with an interest in writing on opinion and advocacy on disability-related issues, social justice, and media. My main focus will be on ability, rather than disability, to demonstrate how simple accommodations can vastly improve quality of life for everyone. Through writing about my experience and applying lessons learned to others with disabilities and able bodied, I hope to demonstrate how individuals from varying backgrounds can achieve independence in work and play, thus enhancing outcomes for society at large.

Well I would not likely remember that word for word anyhow, of course, but I can use it to prepare me for such an encounter. I also managed to apply for a Braillist position in Wake County Schools, as well as an Accessibility position at my current employer, using cover letter skills she helped me fine-tune.

In our second meeting, We really began to draw up a road map for my deciding where to focus my efforts. She created three spreadsheets: Types of Positions, Types of Organizations, and Organizations to Help Me. On the first, we put Writing, Blogging, receptionist, call center, and Braillist. In the next column I am to place corresponding companies, then to note to which I have applied and the result. I’m… kind of getting started? It’s hard to do after work, but this week I will make it priority one now that our sessions are completed.

On the second sheet, Types of Organizations, we put Oxford University Press, YMCA, nonprofit, educational institutions (I’ve put UNC Hospital there as I may have something there), and the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. As you can probably imagine, the difficulty here is finding openings for which I qualify. Any of these types of organizations would be wonderful to work for though, and so I just keep checking availability as things constantly change.

And finally, she created a list of disability-friendly organizations that help us find work, or just large-scale entities, such as the State of North Carolina Jobs Board, where productive searches could be had. Getting Hired, Jobs.com, and the Workforce Recruitment Program are a few of the others she mentioned. These are indeed good options to pursue.

In our last session, we talked about bolder steps I might consider taking. The main one is to sell myself as a freelance editor who could help students with their undergraduate or Master’s theses. This may be the best idea of all, but it will require me to learn to speak of and think about my abilities with a confidence I’m still working to scaffold. I may also join temporary research pools at either of the major local universities in this area, and it seems that since she proposed that idea, Indeed.com has started showing me such positions as well.

And that is the crux of what she and I did. I was pleased with her work, and willingness to occasionally go overtime if she thought it would help me get all of the information I needed to take the actions being considered. I would recommend giving career coaching of some kind a shot if you are having a time figuring what you wish to do, and post my own experiences to give others insight into what the process might be like. Good luck to us all!