Unqualified

Have you ever pulled shit out of a dog’s ass? Have you ever witnessed a beagle rabidly consume a dead pigeon feathers and all, too horrified to do anything about it? Ever attempt to rescue a playing dead possum out of a redbone hound dog’s steel trap jaws, or have a portly pit bull take a massive dump in the backseat of your car while you’re driving?

No?

Well, then, clearly, you haven’t lived.

Giving an assist to a dog who’s having trouble evacuating his bowels is all in a day’s work for this earth mother goddess. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking it sounds pretty shitty. Well, it is shitty, because shit happens when you’re a dog walker.

The rabid beagle in action.

Believe me, walking dogs for a living was never exactly a dream of mine, not that there’s anything wrong with being a dog walker. I love my doggie clients. Plus, I get to spend my weekdays outdoors basking in sunshine and nature while you’re most likely cooped up in an office wilting beneath florescent lighting or sitting in soul crushing traffic.

Nevertheless, I didn’t study my ass off to earn a BA from UCLA just so I could have a diploma to hang on my wall for everyone to admire. (Actually, my diploma is in a drawer somewhere.) All those years of school and I’ve nothing to show for it except for a piece of paper. Sad.

As much as I love walking dogs, it’s beginning to take a toll on my body, not to mention my car, which always smells like wet dog, and vacuuming, it seems, is pointless. Adopting the c’est la vie, “dog hair, don’t care” motto requires far less effort. Oh, so, you want me to drive? Okay, fine. Bring a lint roll.

I have to admit, though, there are moments, like, when I’m trudging up the Hollywood Hills and it’s 105 degrees out and I’ve got sweat rolling down my back into the crack of my ass, and I’ll think, shit, man, there’s gotta be something else, something more I could be doing with my life.

I mean, here I am, divorced ten years, on the precipice of fifty-four, making just enough to get by, teetering precariously on the edge without a 401(k) or significant savings, while my friends own homes, have financial portfolios, and the means to visit far away places at least once a year. Well, at least I finally have health insurance. Thanks Obama.

So, why don’t I have a “real” career like most of my women friends do?

Because instead of pursuing a career after graduating from college at age thirty, I chose to have a baby and be a stay-at-home mom while my husband provided for us financially. In 1996, with more women than ever out there conquering the work force, being a stay-at-home mom felt like a radical choice. It’s not lost on me that it was also an incredible privilege. One I don’t take for granted. Interminable maternity leave was an option countless women didn’t have, even if they wanted it, because they couldn’t afford not to work.

When my daughter was halfway through kindergarten, I got a full-time job at her school. How I loved this job. It didn’t pay much, but it didn’t matter, until it did. I don’t regret, not for one second, choosing motherhood over career. My incredibly intelligent, talented, kindhearted young adult daughter is my greatest accomplishment to date. I only wish I’d had the foresight to make a contingency plan. You know, just in case.

You’d think I’d have gotten my shit together after my divorce, right? But, no. My spousal and child support paid my rent and put food on the table and my not-even-entry-level job as a behaviorist working with students on the autism spectrum picked up the slack. I figured as long as my bills got paid I was doing okay.

I inadvertently fell into dog walking upon looking for a summer job on Craig’s List. Surprisingly, the hourly pay rate was actually higher than what I made as a behaviorist and walking dogs was so much more enjoyable than being stuck in a classroom all day. By summer’s end, I decided to forgo kids for dogs and I never looked back. My stress level plummeted. Communing with nature on a daily basis had me feeling joyful and playful and happy. I felt like myself again.

My Franklin Canyon office.

After a few years working for the pet care company, I took a calculated leap and began working for myself. Although I currently make a decent living, in today’s economy, it’s not nearly enough. There’s really nothing left to put away for a rainy day, and right now, it’s raining. Hard.

For the first time in a few years, I owe a big chunk of change to the IRS, mainly due to the fact that I no longer qualify for a child tax credit, even though my daughter still lives with me since there’s no way in hell she could live on her own without support. My well-meaning tax guy suggested I contribute a few thousand to a SEP IRA, which would bring my taxes down “at least a thousand.” Um, thing is, I don’t have a few thousand sitting around to invest. My savings account is a joke and borrowing money isn’t an option. I’m gonna have to arrange an installment plan to pay the government what I owe. Wow. So much for that new tax reform plan. It’s really working out great. Thanks, Trump.

Pay up, sucker.

What really sucks is, on top of owing, I have to somehow magically conjure up quarterly payments in preparation for next year’s taxes. You see, instead of pocketing my refund, I always just rolled it over toward the following year’s taxes so I didn’t have to worry about it. Now, I have to worry about it. Chances are excellent I’ll be royally screwed next year, too. I suppose I could put the quarterlies on my credit card, but didn’t I just spend the better part of a decade getting out of credit card debt?

Listen, I realize I’m feeling a little sorry for myself and that’s okay, as long as I don’t wallow in self-pity for too long. I’m also quite aware I have nobody to blame but myself for the position I’m in at this juncture in my life. I’ve spent too many years living with my head in the clouds entertaining grandiose dreams of making a living as a writer. I’ve done a lot more daydreaming than doing. Maybe it’s high time I wake up and face reality. I have bills to pay, taxes to cough up, and no plans, no safety net on which my future can rely.

photo: Victor Tongdee/Getty Images/iStockphoto

In full spinning out mode, I updated my threadbare resume and posted it on Indeed, only to render myself paralyzed from applying to anything because, despite my college degree, it appears I am woefully unqualified due to my lack of the kind of skills and experience necessary to compete for well-paying jobs with the type of benefits that would enable me to better support myself and maybe take a vacation every once in awhile. It seems being “highly organized, proactive, and a team player” just doesn’t cut it anymore. You gotta to be extra.

For the first time since I took that leap and left my marriage, I feel a bit hopeless and a whole lot scared. I feel terribly uncertain and horribly lost. I feel like I’m not doing enough, and yet, I have absolutely no idea what to do. Do I go back to school and get an MA in something I can actually use? Is taking out a massive student loan even a good idea? Should I maybe take some classes at my local community college and become fluent in all the technologies and get in with Google? Do I double down and cultivate my little dog walking operation and become an official LLC, or something, despite this ever growing desire inside myself to do something else with my life– something more meaningful? Something about which I’m actually passionate?

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t fucking know. I don’t know what to do. All I really know is I don’t want to be walking dogs when I’m sixty.

Not to get all metaphysical, but I suppose one could argue the Universe gifted me with this awful tax bill as motivation for me to finally get my ass in gear and figure out my life once and for all– if you believe in that sorta thing, which I tend to do.

Besides, I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, owing taxes isn’t the end of the world. Yeah, sure, it totally sucks and it’s gonna take awhile, but eventually, I’ll pay it off. By the way, did I mention I’m also waiting for an ER bill to roll in sometime soon? Yeah. What I thought might be a heart attack turned out to be GERD.

I don’t know. Maybe I need to have more faith in myself. Maybe with a healthy dose of perseverance, persistence, and a whole lotta patience, I can find a more sufficient way to support myself and achieve my grandiose dreams. It’s entirely possible. Isn’t it?

Yes? No? Maybe?

Hopefully.

One Response

  1. Always thinking of you Vic. You’re on the right track.

    It’s hell being an independent contractor, isn’t it? Keep reading and writing.

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