On Marketable Skills, Arts Education, And Why Photography Is Important

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In addition to all the reasons I gave in my last post about coming off the road, there are two more reasons that I didn’t mention.  One is rooted in my personal life, and I’m not going to share that here.  But the other is very public, and I wanted to talk about that for just a moment.

I realized how important my photography is to me.  And it was killing me that I was not accomplishing as much as I would have liked while on the road.

A few people have asked me about CDL school; how did I feel about spending money on a school to only be in the job for five months?  I tell them that I spent over 5 years getting a Bachelors Degree in Art that I’ve never really done anything with, so 1 month of training for 5 months of employment is the best ROI I’ve ever gotten from education.

I have two competing views regarding my choice to major in Art.  On the one hand, yes, it was a bad decision. Obviously.  My mother was a CPA and she always said that I should have been one as well.  Said I would have been good at it.  And I probably would have been. But, more importantly, it would have given me a marketable skill.  My mother could say that she was an Accountant.  I know people who identify themselves as a Nurse, or a Teacher, or a Welder, or even a Truck Driver.  Being able to say, “This, this is what I do” is a solid place to be, especially when looking for a job.  Which is what I’m doing right now.  Again.

In times like these, yes, I regret making that decision.

However, then I think about this in other ways. I think about how maybe, just maybe, the purpose of education should not be solely for monetary gain.  We should strive to educate ourselves not only to be good employees, but to be better people. The prevailing attitude that education should serve a utilitarian function that only makes kids into wage earners rather than well-rounded adults is extremely dangerous.  Knowledge of the arts, of music and dance and theater and literature should not be looked at as folly that will never enrich our bank accounts, but as fundamental to our growth as better citizens within our society.

The fact that I can appreciate a painting by Caravaggio or Picasso has done zero for me financially over the years.  But when I look at Caravaggio’s The Calling Of Saint Matthew, I see a dramatic struggle between light and dark, between being caught up in your mundane duties and being made aware that I am called, we are all being called, to something greater than just sitting inside at a desk counting money all our lives.  Or, when I look at Picasso’s Guernica, I see the horror of war made with a visceral impact that simple realism could never match.  And it makes me want to fight harder than ever to end violence and war, at least as much as possible, in this world.

Art, real art, great art, tears at our chest, touches our heart, confounds our brain, makes us sympathize with the lonely and desire to love with the lovers.  Art celebrates beauty, and challenges everything. This all sounds pretentious and overblown, I get that.  It doesn’t stop me believing that majoring in art, while never enriching my wallet, made me a better person.

I’ll never say my art is equal to Caravaggio or Picasso.  Hell, I doubt I’m even a good a photographer as Ken Rockwell.  But, being creative is a part of me, and has been from my earliest memories.  And photography has become a true passion, one that I’m determined to pursue.

You’re probably saying, “Yeah, you said that about truck driving, too.”  Fair point.  Here’s my response.

I’ve told this story before, that after my mother past away in 2011, we divided up her belongings into two separate, distinct categories. There was the stuff, mostly junk, that we ended up either giving away or throwing away. And photographs.  When my dad passed away in 2014, we repeated that process.  My wife’s father passed away this year.  Most of what he owned has been sold off or thrown away.  What did my wife save, carefully pack and bring back home with her?  Photographs.  Stacks of photographs.

When I go, my memories of sunsets, and movies, and laughs with friends and family will be gone too.  But, hopefully, my photographs will continue to be around.  Hopefully someone will collect my work, the way Carole and I have collected our families photographs.  And maybe, just maybe, my art will inspire others in ways similar to how other artists inspired me.

 

 

 

Off The Road

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The most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen in my life was on Highway 495 heading northbound into Towaoc, Colorado. There were colors shimmering within the clouds that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before. The light was magic, and fleeting. Even if I could have pulled over to snap a few photos I doubt I would have been able to capture the experience.

I’m sure I’ll see more impressive sunsets somewhere, but probably not from the seat of a big rig traveling through Colorado.  As of this writing, I’ve been off the road for almost a month.  I initially intended to take only one week off to meet my wife at the airport as she returned from being abroad for three months.  A few days to clean our house which had essentially been unlived in for three months, and a few days to catch up with my love after being apart all summer.  That was the plan, anyway.

It is a bit complicated how that one week turned into four, then turned into maybe forever.  The very short story is that my father passed away a few years ago, and his estate has been stuck in probate for most of that time.  Concurrent with my wife coming home, we finally got a hearing in probate court.  After sailing through that, I made a decision to stay home to finally close accounts, transfer titles and shuffle all the paperwork that had remained unshuffled these past years.  Hello Notary Public, I haven’t talked with you in a while, here’s the newest stack of forms we’ll need to go through.

That said, I will be honest, I have not been that excited about truck driving for a while.  I know it’s only been five months.  The shine came off that rose awfully fast.

Here’s a quick sample of some the reasons I didn’t want to continue to be an OTR trucker after only five months:

  1.  I like sleeping in my own bed too much.
    • That’s not to say I had bad nights in the truck, often I slept really good.  But if you look at trucking like you are camping out every night, which essentially you are, it becomes a drag.  And, it’s nice not having to walk the length of a football field in the middle of the night just to go to the toilet.  Or, having to piss in a bottle.  Which brings me to….
  2.  Truck drivers are disgusting.
    • I don’t want to come off all Felix Unger here, but there’s only so many times you can brush your teeth in the same sink that a hundred other truckers just spit into that morning.  Or, you know the thing where someone plugs up one nostril to blow snot out the other?  Then cough and hack up phlegm into the same sink. Then I’m supposed to brush my teeth and/or shave in this same sink that Patient Zero just used?  Pass.
  3.  The money wasn’t really that great
    • Don’t misunderstand, the money was good, and that was just starting out.  And from everything I know, the money in transportation only gets better, often much better.  But….
  4.   I got tired of working 14 hour days
    • And that was the rub.  When you factor in working constant 10, 12 and 14 hour days, and begin to actually look at it with a “per hour” metric, with no overtime ever, then it really was a poor return on your work day.
  5.   I never want to be stuck in L.A. traffic ever again
    • Never.  The 60, the 710, the 210 and the 405 freeways can all go rot as far as I’m concerned.  And I promise never to complain about “traffic” in Vegas ever again.
  6.   I wanted to get off the road before winter
    • I’ve never even driven a car on a slick, icy road in winter, let alone a 75,000 lbs big rig.  And don’t even get me started about my lack of understanding about chaining tires.  No.  Just…no.
  7.   I’m a big pussy
    • Without question, no argument here.
  8.   I love Las Vegas
    • This is the one that surprised me the most. Everywhere I went wasn’t home.  I visited some very cool places, and some that I will actively try to visit again soon, but over the months, I began to live for those days when the assignment finally took me back to Las Vegas.  Back to home.  I never thought I would feel this way about this city.  And I’d rather just stay here.

What’s next?

I’m on the job hunt again.  I have my CDL, it’s still in good order, so I’m primarily looking for local driving jobs.  The catch is that most require at least one to two years experience.  We’ll see what happens.

I think I might evolve this into a “job hunting” blog, actually.  The trials of a 48 year old with only a Bachelors Degree in Art and outstanding Excel skills who is just trying to make his way through a stagnant economy.

Turn all the wheels, indeed.