Unwanted

Life can be funny sometimes.  Things we often tend to view in absolutes can become quite fuzzy or even inverted when the context is right.  One example I’ve experienced very recently is an inversion of the concept that it’s bad to be unwanted.

Most of us spend a good portion of our lives trying to be something or someone who is wanted.  We develop skills that are wanted by employers.  We seek to be wanted by friends and love interests.  We often find ourselves trying to acquire stuff and abilities that place us in a position to be envied.  I think it is a part of human nature to want to be something admired or desired by almost everyone we meet.

When I was a kid, I was a klutz who was usually among the last to be chosen when it came time to pick teams for any kind of sport (a situation, incidentally, that hasn’t really changed).  I hated feeling unwanted, and as a result I pretty much quit trying  to play sports in the first place.  As a young man, I didn’t fit in with the “in crowd” (who incidentally have for the most part had fairly miserable adult lives if reports are to be believed) and was an unwanted strap-hanger or outsider.  I hated it enough that I quit going to youth activities at church to avoid feeling unwanted.  I wanted to be wanted.

Fast forward many years, and I am now waiting to find out where the Air Force is going to send us for the next four years.  For some unknown reason, the personnel gods decided to completely ignore my preferences and the recommendations of my senior leadership and opted to recommend me to the “cables” office at the office of the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF).   This office is basically a glorified 24-hour a day, 365 day a year answering and generalized executive services staff for the SECDEF.  It’s not the kind of thing I’ve spent years and years in school only to spend the last years of my military service on.  In fact, one of my friends from a previous assignment had worked in that office before, and the first thing he said when I called him was: “You’ll HATE it!”  Based on his subsequent descriptions, I’m certain he was right.

The way I found out about the personnel system’s intentions was a call from the chief of the cables office, a Navy Captain (Colonel equivalent).  He was concerned that I didn’t have enough “operational experience” in my background.  He expressed hesitation and reservation in hiring me, and made it sound like the job was something to be coveted.  He seemed to suffer from the same delusion many Air Force fighter pilots are under that being an “operator” qualifies you for everything, and that anyone who hasn’t done what they’ve done couldn’t possibly be as good at anything as they are.  I’m not sure what planning and executing operations has to do with answering the phone and filing emails, but I answered his questions and sent him a more detailed resume anyway.  Along the way, I think I might have mentioned the fact that I hadn’t exactly volunteered for the position (didn’t intend to submarine the job, but sometimes Freudian slips are hard to avoid).

I didn’t hear anything back from them for a week, waiting the whole time for the dreaded notification that my assignment had been finalized.  By Thursday (one week since sending my resume), I sent a short note to the Captain asking if he needed any additional information and if they had made a decision yet.  He informed me that they were still deliberating and had received another nomination from the personnel center.  The only way they would have gotten another nomination would have been if they asked for one.  The message, intended or not, was that they weren’t happy with my background.  Yesterday this was confirmed when they sent me a message telling me I was not selected for the position.   I guess answering phones is too tough for someone as unexperienced and uneducated as I am.  It’s never felt so good to be unwanted.  I cried all day… tears of joy that is.

The only down-side to this tale, however, is that while the cables office was waffling and “deliberating,” people were being matched against all the other less than awful jobs on the must-fill list.  The entire job-matching process is supposed to be complete tomorrow, and the personnel system didn’t get the message I wasn’t accepted until yesterday.  They are probably going to plug me against one of the must-fill jobs that nobody volunteered for, since almost all the rest will have already been filled by now, and they don’t have a lot of time to do anything different.   Man… I can’t wait to find out what other hell-hole of a job they think my PhD and varied experience qualifies me for.

UPDATE

It would appear we are off to Albuquerque where I will for the first time be in a position that actually has the potential to utilize all that over-hyped and high-priced education the military paid for.  Michael has trouble pronouncing it, instead using a word that is more of a cross between an albatross and a turkey (albaturkey).   The other kids just have trouble spelling it.

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