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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Michael Taylor

I AM about to start a new job. Af­ter some care­ful cal­cu­la­tions I have re­alised it will be my 30th. This comes as no great sur­prise to me as I clearly re­mem­ber think­ing dur­ing my last year of high school in 1976 — well, that’s not com­pletely true, be­cause I did very lit­tle think­ing dur­ing most of high school — but in that fi­nal year I did have an am­bi­tion, and that am­bi­tion was a life of va­ri­ety.

To the con­cern of my par­ents, a four-year ap­pren­tice­ship fol­lowed by 35 years of do­ing the same thing was, to me, akin to a life sen­tence. Four years of univer­sity had a sim­i­lar nonat­trac­tion. Bore­dom and rou­tine were a com­bined dis­ease caused by be­ing in a rut and I wanted no part of it. Ever.

I’d like to tell you about my new job but I can’t. I don’t have it yet. It will be in me­dia sales, en­vi­ron­men­tal re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, as a coal tech­ni­cian or a marine of­fi­cer. I don’t know where it will be, how much it will pay, what the hours are or what I will be do­ing ex­actly. One of th­ese four will prob­a­bly even­tu­ate, though. Or not.

This is the ad­dic­tive beauty of job va­ri­ety. It’s like driv­ing through an un­fa­mil­iar city and tak­ing streets at ran­dom just to see where they lead. And then liv­ing there for a while.

When it’s time to sub­mit a re­sume, which can be a se­ri­ously lim­ited rep­re­sen­ta­tion of an ap­pli­cant, I am the master chef of ap­pli­ca­tions. There is an abun­dance of job in­gre­di­ents to choose from. My per­sonal best at one job is three years, but that’s only be­cause I had to sign up and the army is fairly in­flex­i­ble.

To reach my 30th job I have had to work two, and some­times three, jobs at a time. I once spent a cou­ple of years be­ing kicked, bit­ten and trod­den on by a sta­ble full of race­horses. I would pick up their ma­nure, wash them down and clean their sta­bles. Then, on the week­ends, I would work as a river­boat cap­tain and take 60 pas­sen­gers on a two-night cruise.

I have spent ev­ery week­day run­ning per­sonal de­vel­op­ment cour­ses for the un­em­ployed and then gone to work as a deck­hand on a para­sail­ing boat on the week­ends. I have taught hos­pi­tal­ity at TAFE dur­ing the day and worked in a video store in the evenings, and I have driven a courier truck by day and been a futures trader by night. I have be­come so good at job ap­pli­ca­tions and in­ter­views I could teach it. Ac­tu­ally, I have oc­ca­sion­ally been paid well but, alas, the best­paid jobs seem to be the short­est ones. If we are de­fined by what we do to make a liv­ing, then I have no def­i­ni­tion — well, de­pend­ing on when you ask and what I’m do­ing.

There is no money in this life­style. I have made some wrong choices and been down to my last dol­lar many times, but I have never had to re­sort to un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and the va­ri­ety of new ex­pe­ri­ences, in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and dif­fer­ent places is in­valu­able.

As for best and worst jobs — as an ac­tiv­i­ties of­fi­cer at a re­sort on the Gold Coast playing ten­nis, host­ing cock­tail par­ties and playing beach vol­ley­ball or driv­ing a courier truck 12 hours a day on the Sun­shine Coast for $15 an hour — I ben­e­fit from ev­ery job.

Now I’m start­ing to won­der, how­ever, if I may be suf­fer­ing from some sort of dis­or­der as I’m also driv­ing my 17th car, but thank­fully only my sec­ond (and fi­nal) mar­riage. Sta­bil­ity dys­func­tion dis­or­der or not, I have achieved my am­bi­tion. I have no te­dious rou­tine in my ca­reer, no longterm pre­dictabil­ity and no rut I can­not skip out of. Some­times though, I wish I did.

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