Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

As kids we sometimes talked about what we would become when we grew to adulthood. Most of us had no clue. It's amazing when you think about it that such an important decision was given so little thought. We all knew we had to go to high school, but after that, who knew? Few families in the neighborhood could afford college for their children. Most were counting the days until kids living at home could get jobs and start helping out with the expenses. Girls with no special calling thought about being secretaries or working as telephone operators. For the guys it was either a laborer or an office job. We did have some cops, firemen, teachers and nurses, but most of us just drifted into any job we could get.

Today, high schools have counsellors and college recruiters to help seniors decide on a career. When I went to high school, if you saw the guidance counsellor, it usually meant you were in trouble. I attended Brooklyn Tech, considered a very good school then and now. The first two years of study were general academics, but starting in junior year, students selected a tailored course of study to prepare them either for college or a job. Some of the specialized tracks included Electrical, Chemical, Mechanical, Structural and Architectural. I picked Industrial Design because I loved to draw and I was good at it. Unfortunately not enough juniors chose that track and so Tech did not offer it that year. I wound up in the Aeronautical track, God knows why, and I hated it. I was turned off to school and scraped through my remaining high school years.

My first job out of high school was for Bankers Trust Company on 46th Street in Manhattan. The pay was a fast $52 bucks a week, but they gave every employee a free checking account. I thought I died and went to heaven. The part about a checking account that did not sink into my teenage brain was the need to actually have money in the account before writing the checks. I think some of the checks I wrote back then are still bouncing. The job was boring but I met a bunch of guys that became good friends. We could be found most Friday nights in Johnny's Bar across the street blowing off the pressures of the week and trying to impress girls; we rarely succeeded.

Thanks to a tip from a neighborhood friend, I applied for a job with the Standard Register Company based in Dayton, Ohio. They sold business forms and equipment, and had an opening for a forms designer. The drawing skills I had honed at Brooklyn Tech came in very handy, and I got the job. I later went into sales and worked out of their office in Roslyn, Long Island. I recently received a call from a co-worker of mine at Standard Register named Mike Giorgio. He says he was just calling around to try to locate some old friends and wants to have a drink. I liked Mike and will join him for a drink...I'm just suspicious that he's got some pyramid scheme going and is looking for victims. That's me, glass half empty.

I soon realized that the jobs I was working were dead end, and with a nudge from my wife, started evening college classes. Eventually I got a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Bernard Baruch College back in the days when you needed more than just a pulse to graduate. I had a very satisfying career with Con Edison, and have worked as a part-time consultant for them since I retired ten years ago. I sometimes wonder what turn my life would have taken if I had completed the Industrial Design study track back at Brooklyn Tech. We like to think we have control over our lives, but more often than not, some chance event alters our fate and there is no going back. All in all, no complaints.


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