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Not From Toronto
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August 19, 2002

Will Leave Home For Work

I'm sure that devoted fans of Not From Toronto are eager to learn what is going to become of my recent California opportunity. Will mr.ska find himself thrust into Central Valley life? Will he trade heavy, back-breaking driveway shoveling for the 3 months of fog that constitutes a Californian winter? Will he cease paying Canadian taxes and instead start earning the almighty United States Dollar? In a word, no.

It's been a roller coaster ride finding out one way or the other, however. One week after my interview and after much online research and discussion with my wife, I called up the headhunter that had arranged my interview and gave him a number. This number, based on what little information I could find about the Californian Central Valley from back here at home in one week, was the salary I believed I would need to maintain my current (pre-unemployment) quality of life. I knew it would be on the high side of what they wanted to pay, and figured it would at least start as a negotiating point. Not so, apparently. Instead of trying to convince me otherwise or offer me more time to do proper research, he just flat out rejected it. California is off the table.

At this point, my love for this particular individual was not exactly generous. I felt he was playing me for a Canadian sucker, and trying to pressure me into jumping into something before I knew what was really going on. I mean, does he really think that the fact that "San Francisco has good food" is really going to sway me in uprooting my family to take a job three time zones away from all of my immediate and extended family? Marks for effort, zip for execution. I then decide to cut out this particular half-baked middleman and call my interviewer directly. I explain what is going on, what I would ideally like to do to get the information I require to accurately forecast my salary expectations, and that I still have some questions about the visa process. It sounds like he's in agreement, and also has some questions regarding the necessary visa for me, and he'll get back to me. California's back on the table.

A few days go by, and I call back again. Based on some notion of what they think I'll want for a salary and the not inconsequential visa cost in time, money, and effort, they don't believe that it's going to work. In fact, they had interviewed someone else in that time and made and offer, which was then accepted. California is off the table - permanently.

You can only imagine what kind of mindset that put me in. Previously, there had been a fabulous opportunity for both myself and my family to pursue a career with lots of growth potential in a magical far-off land where winter doesn't exist and fresh fruit can be had at the roadside for pocket change. Now, there was nothing but the prospect of searching through the job sites and classifieds yet again and attempting to craft a cover letter and résumé that will stand out against the other 300 applicants for each position I apply to. In less eloquent terms, I was in a bad fucking mood and didn't have much to look forward to.

Shining through this loss of paradise was a faint hope that was looking better and better each and every day. I had come across this many weeks previously, but had dismissed it out-of-hand. It was something I had momentarily considered at a career fair a few months before I graduated from university, but had not even thought about it since. After all, would I really want to join the Canadian military?

My sister-in-law is in the Air Force, which means that my in-laws know a thing or two about what the military is like. When I offhandedly told them about the position I saw being advertised I was given cause to stop and actually think about what joining would entail. Aside from being a part of a so-called military that is pretty much laughed at and working with damned-near-obsolete hand-me-down equipment, there are some big plusses. First and foremost, I need to get in shape. If joining the Forces and going through training doesn't do that to me, what will? I also figured that once it got me in shape it would give me the discipline to stay in shape. One big plus.

I've always envied people that can speak more than one language. The best I have is highschool French (and a pee squirt of Klingon) - hardly functionally bilingual. As soon as I would complete my basic training I would have to become bilingual in French and English over a period of seven months. Seven months to learn a language? That seems OK by me. Soak up a bit of Quebecois culture and sample some real, honest-to-goodness French poutine. With luck, I'd also be allowed to pursue some other training I've wanted to do that would be complementary to my future position.

Do you know what one of the biggest draws is? Some may see a 9 year commitment, do some mental math with their age, gasp, and never return. At this point in my career, however, I see it as a bit of a blessing. I've had three jobs in the five years since I graduated. I enjoyed them all, mostly, but they were obviously not enthralling enough to keep me around long-term, and although I did learn something at each company I was hardly inundated with relevant training that would stay with me for years to come. Staying with a company, even if it is the military, for more than two or three years looks really good to me right now.

Sadly, upon further investigation joining the military is going to be a last resort, employed only if the alternative is permanent unemployment and selling my house and buying a used double wide at the local trailer park. The reason? I actually like my family. The training I've mentioned thus far (basic training and second language training) lasts 13 weeks and 7 months, respectively. In addition to that, I would undergo 10 months of professional training to prepare me for the duties I would be expected to perform at my first posting. That is a total of approximately 20 months of training - during which time I would not see my family at all.

I was interested enough in this possibility that I actually went down to the local recruiting center and asked about how the training was set up for married people. Although we were fairly certain that there weren't married quarters on-base, I simply assumed that my family would move into the city and I would see them evenings and weekends, except during basic training. Not so, apparently. My family would not be moved until I get my first posting, which obviously comes after all my training. But as a consolation from being away from them, I'd be eligible for separation pay.

Excuse me? What bureaucrat came up with that idea? Perhaps I'm more attached to my small family than others, but no amount of money the government is prepared to offer me is going to make up for the fact that I would see my daughter for a total of 4 weeks (the allotted vacation) per year for almost the next two years. She is currently 15 months old, learning new things every day, and always surprising us. If I go away for months on end, not only is she not going to have me in her life for longer than she's already been alive, but I'm going to miss out on the best parts of her growing up. Unemployment has been kind in that it has allowed me to see her take her first steps and start communicating. I don't want to miss anything more than I'd miss during a regular 8-hour work day, thanks.

Five years ago would have been the perfect time for me to head into the military. No wife, no kid, no mortgage, just some fairly disposable furniture. At the time the idea of more training was not appealing to me in the least. I had just completed 5 years of school - why would I want to head back into the classroom for another round? Now I'm looking for any opportunity to learn new skills, take a few courses, and further develop myself. If I want my daughter along for the ride, however, it won't be happening with the DND.

Once again, a great opportunity gets flushed down the toilet. This weekend's classifieds had nothing to offer, and I'm sadly sure that what few new jobs get posted on the major job boards will get more attention than I can even imagine. So, for the third time since being canned I'm going to revamp my résumé and see what a properly formatted document can do for me. It's either that or crossing my fingers for this week's Lotto 6/49.


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