If you have met me you might have noticed me dressed in a suit. It’s a habit I started at Bemidji State University. I remembered the old adage, “dress for the job you want,” and for the most part, that’s what I did.
I bring this up because, given that impression, you might find it hard to believe that if it weren’t for an imaginary hairy-footed little man named Bilbo Baggins, I could very well have ended up a construction worker, a miserable one at that.
I didn’t like reading until I read “The Hobbit,” and writing was a chore before “The Lord of the Rings” inspired me. It’s strange to think that a few carefully chosen words can make such a big difference in one life, let alone millions.
Every time I think about Tolkien and his work I can’t help but feel grateful. Not everyone knows what they want to do in life, and even fewer get the chance to do it. There seem to be so many things in the way.
I can remember the first time I fully realized that I had chosen the right path in the world of employment. I was walking the hall in a nursing home, on my way to interview the late Gracie Snow of Backus about her memories of the Backus Municipal Airport. I passed a sitting room where someone was reading aloud to the residents.
I heard, “None of them have the flavor of the morels. That’s the best one.” I knew those words, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember why.
I wracked my brain until my interview. I thought about it as I drove back to the office, and it drove me nuts for the rest of the afternoon.
It turns out that line was written by an amateur as one of his first pieces published outside of an academic setting. I remembered the line because it was on a subject I love, wild food. An incredible lady named Alma Christensen said those words, but they were written in the local newspaper ... by me.
I said I would make a miserable construction worker. There is nothing wrong with construction, but manual labor is obviously not my calling. I built trusses, landscaping and carpentry and I love building things, but strangely, that love is lost once I do it for a living.
The same cannot be said for writing, or teaching writing for that matter.
Until I started writing for the newspaper and teaching at Bemidji State University, I woke up each morning with the same feeling. I hated getting up because I didn’t like my job. Today the only things keeping me in bed in the morning are tiredness and cold.
I LOVE MY JOB! I’ve already heard from three of my former teachers. They see me at the grocery store, on the street or email me and tell me how proud they are. I occasionally get recognized by people, and just once I got the chance to hear someone reading a story that I had written out loud to a group of people who seemed to enjoy it.
I guess what I am trying to say is this: If you love your job, whether it is construction, sewer pumping or brain surgery, I wish you the best. You should never let anyone get you down about work so long as you are proud to have it.
For me, I’ll stick with writing.