Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Just when I thought I was out..."

I officially started my life in pest control when I was 21.  In 2000, I had just returned home from a LDS mission in the Philippines, and I needed a job.  I called my uncle and started work the next day.  He owned the company that my grandfather had started, and it seemed like a great way to pay for school.

I liked it.  It wasn't too hard, and I enjoyed working with my customers.  I found satisfaction in helping people get rid of their bug problems and sharing my "bug knowledge."  I worked as a technician, manager, owner, and salesman with various companies in various states.

Eventually I wanted to try something new.  I was tired of the office politics found in large companies.  I was tired of wearing a degrading uniform.  I was tired of not being fulfilled in my career.  Although I considered being a technician honest work, there were many people who felt I was at the bottom of the social order.  Through condescending words, humiliating tasks, and repeated threats, I was constantly reminded of my status.  After working nine years as an "exterminator" (I really hate that term) I decided to finish my formal education and start a new path.

I excel in academia.  I love attending class, writing papers, learning new thoughts and perspectives, meeting intelligent peers who challenge me in many ways to become a better student.  After my acceptance to Columbia, I felt certain that I was a new man and that my technician days were just a stepping stone on the path of life.

But then I needed a job.  I searched for seven months to find something, anything, that wasn't pest control.  Nothing was offered.  With a resume that showed close to eleven years of killing bugs, companies saw me as nothing more than the bug guy.  It was not easy looking for a job and explaining to potential employers that I intended to attend school full-time until I graduated.  I saw their faces change as they read my resume and came across my history.  I needed a job that would value my vast experience, be close to school, allow me to finish my degree, provide health insurance, and still give me the time to be a dad.  This was my prayer.  This was my intention that I gave to the Universe.

In an attempt to broaden my networking, I talked to my building superintendent last week to see if she knew of any job opportunities within Columbia that I could apply to.  She didn't, but she did make another call.  She called the pest control company that has the contract for all off-campus University Housing in my neighborhood.  They were interested, and I hesitantly sent them my resume because I wasn't too sure that I wanted back into the pest control world.  Something amazing happened.  Not only were they interested in me, but I was offered a job without a formal interview and started work a few days later based on my experience that they valued.  As they have a large contract with Columbia, I am one of four men working full-time here in my neighborhood.  They provide health insurance even if I do not work a 40 hour week, and they will schedule all of my work around my classes.  I can walk to work, kill some bugs, walk to class, walk back to work, and then walk home at the end of my day to spend time with my boy.  They have been great to me.  They plan to use me for the "high profile" calls that they get which means that I will get to know some very important members of the Columbia community.  With a little luck, I might get a couple of great letters of recommendation for graduate school from some influential people because of this job.

Despite my initial indifference to a life that I thought I had left behind, I was blessed to find a connection that allows me to be a full-time dad and a full-time student.  I am grateful for this opportunity.  I know that it will not be easy, but I never liked taking the easy road.