On Courage 3/28/19

By Richard Bleil

Although I have written about courage in the past, it’s a topic that is again on my mind. It’s an astounding thing, fragile, while it gives us strength at the same time. Courage gives us the strength to stand up to bullies, but sadly that courage can be damaged depending on the response. I had the courage to stand up to bullies who have been in supervisory positions, and their responses are why I’m looking for work now. Although I tried to do what I believe was the right thing at the time, it may be too difficult for me to do again.

Sometimes, there is no choice but to be courageous. These are heartbreaking situations. A friend of mine had a daughter who is a few years old now, but her daughter has been dealing with arthritis since she was an infant. The pain kept her from walking in the normal time frame (this is how it was discovered as she opted to remain still rather than move), and today its flareups result in swelling and extreme pain. She and her mother are very courageous, continuing only mildly successful medicines to mitigate the effects. These two (and the rest of the family and loved ones) would rather not have to be courageous, but there really is no choice.

Many people don’t understand this, but facing depression takes enormous courage. During periods of depression, which are far too often and last far too long for those of us that face it, make it difficult to have the self-confidence to be productive or even get out of bed to face the day. It’s hard to explain the intense desire to be around people while simultaneously needing to remain isolated. These contrary needs are what depression is all about.

Today, I’m again facing the need to be courageous. Today, I applied for a job that utilized my specialized skills. It was a job in analytical chemistry, running instruments I have utilized since 1985. In less than a minute of submitting my application, I received an email reply that stated, “After thorough consideration, we have elected to pursue other candidates…” This, my dear reader, is a bald-faced lie. There is no way to thoroughly consider nearly 35 years of experience in under a minute.

I have been applying for jobs, literally hundreds of them if not over a thousand, in the past year and a half, in academia and industry. Each time it chips away at my self-confidence and courage. Each rejection feels like it eats away at a piece of who I am, and this company made their decision in less than a minute. I failed some kind of litmus test, but of course they won’t say that or admit it if I tried to call them out on it. I’m either too old (well, thirty-five years of experience), or the wrong gender, or not the ethnicity that they are hoping for, but something made them toss me away like a piece of garbage with no more consideration than we would give a used tissue.

But, it might be a moot point. I’ve been writing blogs for about four months now, at first to try to get my mind active once again. Plus I have a great deal of educational experience in chemistry, and very technical knowledge in accreditation, forensic analysis, analytical chemistry, and much more. No, I’m not looking to land a job with this blog, but it looks like there might be an option for me that, should I take it, will take incredible courage.

See, with blogging, I have been doing considerable writing, and have begun applying for jobs and writing another book. I’ve already published one (sales are abysmal; it’s Vampire Genetics on Amazon and Barnes and Noble if you want to check it out), and now I have this great idea for a new one I will work on. Plus, there have been a couple of freelance blogging opportunities that I have been pursuing. I’ve begun tutoring chemistry online, and recently, some opportunities for consulting within my disciplines have also arisen. This adds up to what may be an ideal retirement opportunity to make money…without a job.

Freelance and consulting means that I could do work from, basically, anyplace that has internet access. There are drawbacks, to be sure. I will have to “withhold” my own taxes, buy my own insurance, put into my own retirement fund, but on the other hand the potential for high income is very good, I can set my own hours, and travel while working. There’s also a significant possibility of not being able to afford things like a house if I cannot generate the work, or having my body found alone in a park somewhere by strangers who have no idea who I am.

This will take courage. I’m not sure that I have it. Even today I’m still applying to more traditional jobs like the one I spoke of earlier. These jobs appeal to the way I was raised, to find a job with a company, get traditional salaries and benefits, and just run with it. But, as I approach the twilight of my life, too quickly and far too alone, is that really what I want?

Maybe, just maybe, I can find the courage.

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