It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.
Muhammad Ali

At one point when I was in high school, I had to fill in a form giving all my pertinent personal information. I don’t remember what it was for, nor why it was anyone’s business when my siblings’ birthdays were, but I dutifully filled out all the questions but stumbled a bit on ‘Hobbies’. I hemmed and hawed, trying to decide between the dreaded swimming lessons (I HATED swimming lessons; I would choke from the smell of chlorine, my bathing suit was a hand-me-down the 50s, and my wet hair would freeze on the bus on the way home) or music (I was then and still am completely tone-deaf. My music teachers would greet me with new hairdos every week to hide the earplugs. Hey, they weren’t going to turn down paid work just because I was, well, tonally-challenged).

I finally settled on needlepoint for Hobbies. When my Dad, z”l, looked over the form (I don’t remember why he did that either), he asked me why I hadn’t put down ‘reading’ for a hobby. “Reading? Reading isn’t a hobby. Reading is just, you know, reading.” I was flabbergasted at the suggestion. “Reading is a very good hobby,” he said quietly, and gave me back the forms. I left needlepoint on the form and didn’t add reading.

I actually did needlepoint whenever I watched television (why didn’t anyone suggest that watching television was a hobby? I would have been an ace), but reading was my air and water. As a kid (and as an adult) I was never without a book. I read on the bus to and from those dreaded swimming lessons, during lunch, in class, while watching television (when I wasn’t also either doing my homework or needle pointing) and throughout the night (when I wasn’t watching old movies on television and doing needlepoint. Today, this would be called multi-tasking. Then, it was called not paying attention). I didn’t actually read anything good, and often I would read the same books over and over and over again – not because I liked them or learned new things with every reading, but because they were all that we had in the house. I think I read ‘Heidi’ 20 times, and ‘Little Women’ 50. But, hey, I read, though I NEVER considered it a ‘hobby’.

All this came to mind recently because I need to look for a new job. For a variety of reasons – too long and too tedious to list here – my current employment seems to be coming to an end. It’s depressing, at my advanced age (21), to have to start again, but not entirely devastating. My job isn’t exactly fascinating or even very satisfying. Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

I had more than settled. I have always been so grateful to have a job; I didn’t care what it was. I just wanted the knowledge that I had somewhere to go each day. I wanted the standing of being ‘employed’. I wanted the paycheck.

And so, when I was told to start looking for a new job and should apply for anything that was advertised within the institution in which I am employed to show I was serious, I considered doing just that; applying for any old job. But I didn’t consider it for long. I’ve had enough waking up each morning, while feeling grateful, not feeling particularly eager. I absolute dread waking up each morning dreading; dreading the work, dreading the people, dreading the day. Been there, done that. And so, I haven’t applied for every position available. Because I don’t want every position available. In fact, there were very few positions I want (and the one I did want – well, I didn’t get it).

The question arose, of course; what do I want. That was easy. I want to work with people. I want to do something that is important, where my job makes a difference. And then the next question arose: What are my skills, and what unique talent could I bring to any job?

Oh dear.

I have a degree from a good university. Within the degree program, there was even a course on the various nuances and phrasing of ‘Do you want fries with that?’ Though I have lived in Israel for more than two thirds of my life, I have mixed mostly with English-speakers and have worked only in English. Therefore, my Hebrew isn’t what it should be (but I am a master of understatement). I spent my formative work years raising five kids and missed out on learning what CAE or CAD/CAM or 24×7 Hub (NOC) Analyst mean. Where I come from, Java is coffee. Web support has something to do with spiders, right? Honestly, one job description was this:

CTO/VP R&D with excellent product management ability, hands on capabilities, with large scale WEB & Mobile systems Design and Architecture, #, MVC architecture, SQL, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and JavaScript libraries (including HTML5 and CSS3, ability to manage production in SAAS production environment.

(This is where I nod my head wisely and pretend to understand, while my eyes glaze over and I try to remember the words to O bla di O bla da [Life goes on!].)

I have no skills, no unique talents.

Nonsense! say my friends and family. “You have plenty of skills! Oodles of talent! You just have to list them. For one thing, you know how to use oodles in a sentence!”

Which is what brought to mind the whole reading as a hobby thing.

If reading can be thought of as a hobby – and yes it can! – then typing can be a skill. Yes it can!

I can type.
I can file.
I can send email. I can even send email to groups.
I can correctly place commas, colons, semi-colons, and – especially – apostrophes in a sentence. (Incorrect: Lets’ eat grandma! Correct: Let’s eat, grandma!)
I can find ANYTHING on Google (except the movie that I want to watch at that moment. It always eludes me).
I can play 23 straight games of Freecell without getting bored.
I know the words to more than 25 nursery rhymes and just about all of Simon and Garfunkel’s songs.
I can lip sync and play air guitar at the same time (what can I say – it’s a skill- especially when one is tonally-challenged).
I can do laundry.
I can make lemon meringue pie.
I can shovel snow (not really relevant anymore).
I can raise five kids to be upstanding voting citizens. (An aside here – once, when talking to a female upper-management executive who was asking me what I had done in my life, I told her that first I raised five law-abiding, respectful, polite kids, one of whom even pays taxes. She said, and I’m not making this up, “that doesn’t count. What real things have you done?” I was shocked. Really, it doesn’t count? Please let me know.)

As for talents, well, here I excel:I can change a diaper with one hand (I use my knees).

I can carry 43 plastic bags filled with groceries (not including potatoes or drinks) at one time from the car to the house.
I can remember – off hand – whose turn it is to carpool/what time school finishes on any given day/what day judo is and what day art (though, I have to admit, I can’t always remember everyone’s name).
I can deal with a child (or adult) having a temper tantrum.
I can hug away tears.
I can make most people laugh.
I am a pure pleasure to work with (really – ask anyone).
I can also drink 27 cups of coffee in a 12-hour period. (Don’t try it at home.) Well, if all that (and I’m sure there’s more, I haven’t even mentioned the fact that I can cross my eyes, blow out my cheeks, and look just like Harpo Marx) isn’t enough to make anyone run out and hire me, then the job market is losing out on true talent and skills. In the meantime, I’ll be reading ‘Heidi’ and watching old movies. Maybe I’ll even start needle pointing again.