I lost my job as a copywriter in March of 2005. I haven’t had a full-time job since then, though I’ve done quite a bit of freelance work. I like the variety that freelance provides, but I hate not knowing whether I’ll have enough money to pay the bills next month. Mrs. Happy and I have always managed our money wisely, though, so even the lean months have not been too scary. Even so, I think I’d prefer having a regular job that provides a steady income and health benefits for my family.
I actually received a job offer a few months ago. It would have brought us fantastic insurance and a so-so salary, but it seemed to be a tedious job that would suck me dry and send my career in a direction I didn’t want. So I turned it down. Our money is now running low, and our insurance is still outrageously expensive. I wonder sometimes whether I made the wrong decision in turning down that job. I believed a better job was waiting for me and that I would find it in a matter of days. I believed I would not stay unemployed long enough for our money to run out. It seems I was mistaken about pretty much everything.
I’m still not convinced I should have taken that job. They say hindsight is 20/20, but that applies only to what has actually happened. I can look back and see with perfect clarity the consequences of turning down that particular job, but I can’t see what would have happened had I accepted it. I imagine that if I had taken the tedious job, I would be abjectly miserable right now. It would have entailed doing the dullest work in an industry renowned for its dullness. It would have meant earning more than $10,000 less per year than my last job. It would have pigeon-holed me for future employers as the kind of writer I don’t want to be.
I can’t know that for sure, of course. I really liked the people I interviewed with. The work might actually have been challenging and rewarding. I might have received a quick raise in pay. The job might have been the first step on a great career trajectory. I’ll never know. What I do know is that, at least in this instance, looking back doesn’t help. Did I make the right decision? Were there even right and wrong decisions to make? Were there other options that I didn’t examine? I’ll never know.
I’ve heard it said that experience is a teacher that gives you the test, then gives you the lesson. As I get older, I’m finding that experience is often a little unclear about the lesson even after the test. If a smart man learns from his mistakes, and a wise man learns from others’ mistakes, I wonder what kind of man can’t even figure out if he made a mistake. Uncertainty is one of the heaviest burdens for someone who places a great deal of value on solid understanding. If I can still have the love and respect of my wife after a decision like that, and my wife does let me know every day that I have her love and respect, it’s a burden I can bear with faith and fortitude.