I’m off on a new adventure. Jobless on the wrong side of fifty.
I had an inkling. You can’t work in a Tourist Information Centre if there are no tourists. There’s only so much admin work, deployment and let’s face it bullshitting before someone realises you are dispensable. And in these times of Corona when you’re working remotely, it’s not like you can be called into a side office to have a quick catch-up. More like a phone call from the boss who is upbeat and positive and kind but really has to deliver the bad news.
But is it all bad? I have to sit up and take stock. I’d been on borrowed time for 3 months. I was a contractor and lived from contract to contract. I’m not the only one out of a job. I’m lucky as I have food and shelter and a supportive family. This job initially was for only 3 months and ended lasting for nearly three years.
I loved the interactions, believed in the organisation and the work. It felt worthwhile introducing visitors to Melbourne and helping the city economy at the same time. I wouldn’t have been with the company (aka council) since 2002, first as a volunteer and then as a paid staff if I hadn’t loved the work. It gave me opportunities for self-development, it gave me a sense of pride working with and mentoring the volunteers and it gave me an identity. I realised tourism is one of the happiest industries in the world and that I was one of the lucky ones to be part of it.
It’s funny how I fell into this. I fell in love with tourism after a few ho-hum jobs in customer service. I say, ho-hum because they were safe government jobs and if I’d applied myself I now have squillions in my superannuation fund and perhaps, be a fat cat in Canberra. Instead, I opted out because these jobs were just a means to a end to finance myself to travel, test myself and take risks. I wasn’t interested in a career in Social Security or the tertiary sector.
Travelling led me to apply for a job in a Youth Hostel and really it was the job of my life. Where else could I be paid for chatting to hunky Swedish backpackers, charming Americans and sarcastic Brits. The most stressful thing about the job was making sure the till balanced at the end of the shift, and doing the banking. I job shared with a series of colleagues who were all returned travellers like myself and just filling in time to the next trip. In my case, an 18-month journey to the UK where I had a series of cash in hand jobs due to my non-work visa status. This led me to Hong Kong where I fell into English teaching and a very short stint as a video game tester. I did have an interesting job offer to answer phones for an escort agency but I turned it down. Probably a good thing as a few months later, the agency’s office was turned over by triads and the office manager was beaten up.
Last week, in my farewell emails to volunteers I said that I had to look upon this as an opportunity and as an adventure. Yes, I was (and still am) trying to put on a brave face. I know it’s not going to be easy. Tourism is one of the hardest-hit industries by this pandemic and it’s going to be a long, slow road out. Yet it is one of those resilient industries driven by passion, determination and belief.
And I have all of the above attributes – on my good days. On the bad ones, where it’s an effort to get out of bed, let alone go online and look for jobs, doctor my resume and lie about my age, those fine attributes lie pretty damn dormant.
I haven’t mentioned my writing – which is my other ‘work.’ There is the memoir to finish, short stories to write and competitions to enter. Since the beginning of this COVID crisis I’ve been keeping an occasional pandemic diary that sometimes ends up as a blog post. It began as a dream diary as I was having very odd dreams and it has evolved into something else. My dreams have normalised but life has not.
Maybe this adventure is just making sense of this strange new world we are living in. And from this, who knows what may turn up?