Other Related Duties

When I was very young, I used to love to watch reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show which first aired in the early 1960s, but went into reruns well into the 1970s. Along with Dick Van Dyke, the show also starred Mary Tyler Moore, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Richard Deacon, Jerry Paris, Jerry Van Dyke, Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie. Some of those people you might have heard of; some maybe not.

It was a sit-com, but caused big controversy in the 60s because Laura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore) wore slacks around the house instead of a dress like a good sitcom housewife.

The premise of the show was that Rob Petrie (Dick Van Dyke) was the head writer of a TV variety show called The Alan Brady Show (Carl Reiner as Alan Brady).  Rob would spend most of his day in this great writer’s room with his co-writers, Buddy and Sally. The room, as I remember it,  had a sofa (where Buddy would sleep away most of the day) a kitchenette and a typewriter. The three of them would toss around ideas for that week’s show and one of them would type them up.

They had lots of laughs, some pratfalls and many of arguments about what was and wasn’t funny. There were, of course, regular conflicts when Alan Brady would ask them to do outrageous and impossible things and/or when work life would overlap, interfere and impact on Rob’s home life and vice versa.

Anyway, I always thought Rob, Buddy and Sally had absolutely the best jobs in the world. I reckoned when I grew up I was going to spend my days lounging around on sofas in a TV writer’s room and dream up crazy stuff that would be made into hilarious television programs.

I practiced writing stuff and making my younger siblings act it out. I practiced lounging around on sofas. (Which is very  difficult when you’re a kid). I worked hard at English and Drama classes in school, I read a lot and kept writing. Somehow though, over time, the whole TV writer idea sort of faded into the realm of “nice childhood fantasy.”

My first job out of university was as a copywriter for an ad agency in Toronto. It was pretty big time and had some very exciting moments, but mostly it was incredibly brutal. They figured they owned you body and soul and it wasn’t long before I knew that that wasn’t how I wanted to live the rest of my life — especially when my room-mate landed a completely fabulous, chillin’ federal government job. I couldn’t believe she was getting paid more than I was and was working half the hours and had no aggravation at all.

So I went to work for the government. (It was just that easy back then). Because of their excellent training and learning options, I  did a lot of additional schooling to get qualified to work in communications. Then I got to do some writing again, but it was kind of dull and sporatic and I spent most of my time doing other communications-related stuff, of which I wasn’t particularly fond.

Then I came to Ottawa and ended up doing something completely different which was so excrutiatingly boring, it just about brought me to the brink of diving in front of the O Train. (My own fault – getting transfered to Ottawa was more important at the time than the actual job).

Anyway, for years I kept thinking, “If only I could get a government job in an interesting department where I could do nothing but write all day — that would be as close as I could ever get to my nice childhood fantasy job, except in the real world and with benefits.” 

In February of 2008 that very job was advertised. I applied. Eighteen months of tests, waiting, interviews, waiting, assessments, waiting, reviews, waiting, references, waiting paperwork, waiting, waiting and more waiting and then last week I signed the letter of offer. I start on Monday.

I’m not sure what to expect exactly. I have an idea of what to expect formulated from what I know of the job and the department. It could be just what I envision. It could be better. It could be worse. I’ve been with my current department for 11 years, so it’s all a little daunting; but in a mostly good way. If nothing else, it comes with a significantly higher salary, so how bad could that be, right?

I guess I’ll find out.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

How close did you come?


40 responses to “Other Related Duties

  1. I’m fifty and still haven’t “grown up.” I’m scheming & dreaming still.

    I’d love to be a famous song & dance man. The only problem is, I don’t know how to sing and I don’t know how to dance.

  2. Congratulations, XUP! That’s awesome news. What kind of writing will you be doing?

    My problem is that I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Hard to go after a goal when you don’t know what that is, or if it changes all the time. My father laughs when I say that to him and tells me he still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up either.

  3. Congratulations!

    When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fireman, a chemist, a nurse, a doctor and an num (!!!).

    I’m 48 and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

    It’s pathetic really.

  4. I wanted to be a Univeristy Perfessor. I loved science. I loved R&D. I loved teaching. My Uncle was a prof…I saw first hand that it was a pretty cool job.

    Of course, you need a Phd first…that occupied me well into my 30’s. Then I worked for a while…did a post-doc..and started to seriously apply to some schools. The brass ring of academia was in sight.

    I came close…I interviewed for a Prof. job at Ottawa U. I was down to the last 2-3 candidates out of 60. I could almost taste it. But I didnt’ quite get it.

    Unforntunately, my last couple of jobs (includig the Post-doc) didnt’ require me to publish, which didn’t help things.

    Now I’m “too old”. Not that I think so. But Academia thinks so.

    Publish or Perish. I’m a 40-something engineer with industrial experience. But I only have 8-9 publications, the last one which was over 5 years ago.

    In Academia, that makes me a “has-been”. Universities wont’ touch someone like that. They’d rather have a 30 year old workaholic keener, with 15-20 publications under their belt.

    So, thus endeth my Academic career. So now I push paper sitting at a desk. Bored to tears.

    But on the other hand, I’m probably making the same (or more) money as I would have. And I have a lot more vacation and free time (I don’t have to work weekends and evenings making papers and applying for research grants).

    So I dunno where that leaves me. (???). Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    I don’t focus on my career anymore. It’s stalled. It’s just a paycheck.

    Instead, it’s my home life that takes priority.

  5. First off , congrats on the new job. I hope it works out.

    Secondly, I wanted to be Dick Van Dyke so I could have Laura as my hot wife. I wanted her even before I knew what to do when I got ahold of her.

    And I wanted to be a baseball player when I grew up but I learned by jr high that my talent was no where near high enough to even make the high school team, let alone the major leagues. So I decided to settle for comedian/movie star. I was in a movie called ‘Box of Moonlight’ and I write a blog that some people find amusing, so there you go.

  6. Wow….

    If it takes 18 months for you to find out if you got that job (and you’re already IN the govt).

    How is anyone from outside supposed to get hired?

    (But congrats on your new position!)

  7. I’m SO happy for you. I hope it turns out to be your dream job in all respects.

    I always dreamed of being a writer too. In a sense it’s the easiest dream to pursue, because you don’t need any fancy tools or specialized education or resources. But it’s also the hardest for the same reason. I can procrastinate about art by going to the art store and buying more supplies, but there’s nothing standing between me and writing. Drives me crazy some days.

    It’s still my dream.

  8. Wow! Congratulations! How exciting! It only took 11 years, eh? LOL

    I never had any idea what to be when I grew up. Nothing sounded good. I actually took the career-finder quiz (in career ed in high school) a number of times, changing my answers, because nothing turned up when I answered honestly. Nothing turned up when I answered partially-honestly, either, nor when I deliberately tried to answer as though I were someone else. I was the only one who had this problem. At the time, it worried me quite a lot, thinking there was a huge database of jobs in this program and I didn’t match any of them.

    I still don’t, but it doesn’t worry me as much.

    A job where I get to write all day, from home in my underwear, would probably be ideal. I don’t know anyone who pays for it, tho. The editorial standards on newspapers these days makes me itch; I’m always finding mistakes and feeling disgusted. Everything’s driven by advertising.

    So I guess I wanted to be nothing when I grew up, and I’m pretty close to having achieved that goal. ;D

  9. i had my dream job – working as an independent archivist, working with personal archives of some very interesting individuals and working with small archives as a consultant. then the lure of the government with benefits et al became too much and i succumbed. i’ve been relatively lucky with the jobs i’ve had in the government, but i do long to go back to doing my own thing. i often think of taking a sabbatical to really give it a go.
    i really wanted to be a fashion designer when i was little. i often think of marrying my two passions, fashion and archives, by being fashion designers personal archivists. a girl can dream, non?
    congrats by the way, change is good!

  10. You did good! Congrats and I hope the job turns out to be even more than you hoped for…Risley

  11. Congrats. Maybe it will be very close to what your dream is/was. Or something you can mold into the ideal job.

    Me. Yes, an artist. I’m both a commercial artist and a fine artist.

    I don’t know if I imagined the actual details but it’s pretty close to what I had wanted. Weird how it worked out. I’ve strayed a little over the years (strayed in that I did stints in photography or silk screening and other art-ish jobs)

    And for the record, both commercial and fine are not a glamourous as some might think. A job is a job. But on a whole, I consider myself forturnate to have a job (11 years now) that I like.

  12. I always knew I wanted to do something that involved writing. I’ve never been much of a creative writer, though. Essays I excelled at, but there’s not much call for essays in the real world. In my first couple of years at University, I imagined myself continuing on to get a Masters and PhD in some area of History, but by third year I realized there really wasn’t one area of history I wanted to live and breathe for the next few years. I like to dabble in topics, but I get bored when I start to dig too deeply.

    In my mid-20’s, I thought radio was the answer. I loved the documentaries and in-depth programs on the CBC. Wouldn’t it be fun and interesting to write and produce stuff like that? But after 2 years of broadcasting at Algonquin, I was feeling less sure radio was for me. An internship at CBC put a nail in the coffin. The place seemed so depressing…all the job cuts that were happening, the stressful atmosphere, and the fact that I spent that month working for the most sour, humourless person I’ve ever met. Plus I realized I wasn’t cut out for journalism…doing interviews always felt like I was prying, being rude.

    After stumbling about for a year working as a Kelly contractor and feeling vastly over-qualified I started tech writing. In the beginning I was pretty excited to get into something that allowed me to write a lot, even if it was install manuals and user guides. Now, to be honest, it bores me to tears. But the pay is good, and man–it is so hard to leave that for…for…for God knows what? Hell, I don’t even know what else I would do anyway.

    I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

  13. Tom – At the Landsdowne market on Sundays there’s one of those organ grinder guys who is very entertaining. He doesn’t have a monkey though – he just grinds his organ.
    Megan – A dentist? Really? I’ve always wondered why someone would want to be a dentist. Why did you? (Thanks)
    Louise – How awesome it is remains to be seen. I have holding my delirium in check for now, just in case. But thank you. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not defining yourself as “something” –leave your options open – you never know what might smack you in the face.
    Jazz – Thanks. You could probably still become a nurse – the rest is pretty much out though I suspect. I would have thought you’d have wanted to be a journalist or something like that.
    Susan – Good! The best blog posts inspire blog posts in other people, I always say. I get a lot of ideas by reading other people’s blogs. I shall pop over and see what you always wanted to be.
    Friar – My sister is a university professor. She doesn’t seem to work much at all. She gets grants and takes sabbaticals and travels around giving papers at conferences and gets grad students to do most of her teaching. She’s down to spending about 2 hours a week at the university dealing with the riff raff (aka students). If you’re one of those odd ducks who actually wants to teach, why not try a college? They hire people part time, evenings, etc. It’s sad that you had all this vim and vigour and brilliance they sucked it out of you. But home life should always take priority anyway. I wouldn’t want a job that didn’t accept that.
    And ya, 18 months is pretty standard for a competition to go through from the day the job is posted until the day you sign a letter of offer. So many hoops to jump through, so many t’s to cross and i’s to dot. Everything has to be done so make it seem transparent and equitable for all, blah, blah, blah. All that takes forever.
    Dr. Monkey – Thanks, Doc. Laura was pretty hot. I don’t know how that pencil-necked geek ever got her. Box of Moonlight with John Turturro?? It’s available for 12 bucks at Amazon.ca. Are you in the credits?
    Zoom – Shucks. Thanks. If it’s even half as good as my expectations, it will be fine. The writing thing is a toughie. Lots of people have aspirations to write a book or something, but only a few actually do it and only a very few of those are actually any good at it. I’m pretty sure some of the people who never get around to it would even be better at it than some of the people who do push out a book and are terrible at it. So, in conclusion, it ain’t easy to be a writer – at least not a novelist type writer. Maybe you could get a government grant to write a book and then you’ll feel so guilty for taking the taxpayer money, you’ll force yourself to actually write the thing?
    Hallie – Yay!! Not that I agree about you being nothing. You decorate a mean house and you could totally be a freelance writer – then you could sit around in your beautifully decorated house in your underwear and write and eventually someone would pay you for it. Or turn your blog into a money-maker. Lots of people have done that. It sounds like a lot of work though.
    Meanie – It’s tough to leave the government once you’ve been there a while. Once your pension is locked in, you’re pretty much stuck. And, unless your spouse has a better dental/medical plan then you kind of need the benefits – especially with kids. Your job now seems pretty interesting though. Don’t you like it? (Actually, are you still in the same place or did I hear you moved somewhere else?)
    Cedar – MORE? That would just be insane. I’ll be perfectly happy with 50% or more of what I’d hoped. But thank you very much, ma’am
    Reeky – If you’re happy to get to work every day, feel satisfied most days with what you’ve accomplished and maybe, just maybe, get a little thrill every time you tell someone what you do for a living; then you’ve got it pretty good (Oh, and if it pays the bills – even better).
    Mary Lynn – I looked into tech writer at one point, but then got waylaid into communications. I still think there’s creativity involved. Your words are going to crystallize something important for someone. That’s pretty cool.

  14. Wow! Congratulations.

    I wanted to be a writer. I am a writer. But I should have added that I wanted to get paid fabulous amounts of money to do it. In the next life, then.

  15. Congratulations! Fantastic! Good luck!

    Love Dick Van Dyke!

    I am still moving along towards my dream job. I really terribly want to get my PhD and I have since I was 12. Now I work in (public) academia, I have a Master’s degree and I work with 90% MDs and PhDs (which makes my degrees seem so puny sometimes). I like what I do, but I know I will become bored with it and there is an academic roof blocking me from most jobs above my own.

    My husband is just finishing his Master’s degree, so while I wait for him I go through bouts of confidence and doubt as to whether or not I am “good enough” for a PhD program. My colleagues are wonderful, engaged an talented people. I love working with them. They are people and therefore imperfect! Like me! But I have a poor memory and a foggy sense of what I would go for and how we could swing it.

    Stories like yours are inspiring. I have lots of time to get a degree, to try other jobs and roles in life. Maybe I will have a baby and realize a closeted stay-at-home Mom in me? Maybe I SHOULD be in advertising?

    Maybe we will move to Canada or France or Norway and we will live the dream of socialized government and eat more seafood.

  16. Yay! Good for you! My husband has his dream job so why shouldn’t everyone else? When I was little I wanted to be a lawyer, but as I aged I figured out it wasn’t very glamorous. I liked being a graphic artist, but I probably have my true dream job now, which is not working. Who doesn’t want to be a “lady of leisure?”

  17. Congratulations! My dream job is to become an interior designer. But right now I’m going to school to become a dental hygienist.

  18. Oh and in a very fun case of synchronicity, my blogger friend Naomi posted her birthday party pics today from last weekend featuring her buddy Annie Guilbert who played Millie Helper on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Weird, huh?

  19. Lola – There is still time for the fabulous amounts of money to start rolling in – don’t give up!

    Missy – Okay, here’s what you do — move to Canada, have a baby and do your PhD while you’re raising your baby. I don’t know what your 1st two degrees are in, but do something really off the wall for your PhD – they love stuff like that in Canada. Maybe a PhD in blogging? I guarantee you you’ll find someone to support that here.

    Geewits – Lady of Leisure would certainly be my first choice – though you don’t seem to do much leisuring between all the volunteer stuff and crafting and cooking and home repairs. I would want people to do that for me otherwise it wouldn’t feel leisurely enough. (So, your friend is friends with Ann Guilbert? Or she just posted as her? But either way, it’s very weird)

    Jen – Why? That’s really all I can say. Interior design is a perfectly legitimate career, why not go for it? It’s not like you aspire to be a fairy princess or something and decided there wasn’t enough money in that.

  20. So congrats on waiting out the tortuous competition period and getting it! And you didn’t have to trip over too many ottomans, did you?

    I always wanted to be an architect. But I totally suck at math, and geometry, and algebra, and numbers in general. It took me 5 years to decide to go back to school to become a massage therapist, and that process nearly killed me (school is harder after a 15 year absence).

  21. I’ve seen the Dick Van Dyke show in reruns and I agree, it is fantastic. I laughed, and yes, their jobs seemed so glam.

    I’m so happy to hear of your fantastic new job! I hope it is awesome, and then I hope you use all your newfound power to get the rest of us jobs there too :).

    When I was a kid I wanted to be a very famous actress. I can’t imagine a job I am LESS well suited for. I hate having people look at me, I have no ability to pretend to be someone else, and I cannot imagine the horror of being in the tabloids. So it’s a good thing I was way too lazy to do anything to actually make it happen!

  22. First of all, apropos of absolutely nothing, I know the guy who played little Richie on the Dick Van Dyke Show. He’s about as whacked-out as child actors get.

    When I grew up my dream job was to work for magazines. I was so lucky because I was able to do it for 16 years. It was every bit as great as I always imagined it would be. A couple years ago I needed to make a change and now work in advertising. It’s brutal and soul-sucking so I’m once again trying to figure out what I want to be next.

  23. Congrats, Chris! That’s great news. Especially the significantly higher salary part.

    When I was young, I wanted to be an archaeologist, or a wildlife biologist who studies wolves, or a stewardess (which is what we called flight attendants). And now I’m a scientific editor with a geology degree. Life is weird.

  24. I wish you all the best. You will be missed around the dungeon…
    If this job even gives you a glimpse into what you really want I am so happy for you and hope you spend many happy years there. If its not even close and sucks terribly please come back!!!!!!!!!!

    Your Bitch in the Dungeon

  25. Humongous congratulations!

    A note about the Dick Van Dyke Show (which I loved, too): Millie Helper, the next door neighbour/dentist’s wife was played by Ann Morgan Guilbert who, as Ann Guilbert, played Grandma Yetta on The Nanny.

    Despite various titles and ancillary duties, my entire career has been centered around writing news. I love it. In fact, as I mark the fourth month of being laid off from the work I so love, I can tell you that I took advantage of some independent career counselling, paid for by my former employer. I took two tests to determine personality traits and where I should look for work. The results: I should be a journalist and a writer.

    Okay, so it validated what I’ve been doing for the past 30 years, but the news business is very tight for jobs right now. So I’m looking elsewhere.

    Congrats again on the new job and the pay raise that goes with it.

  26. Congratulations.
    I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up!
    I used to think it would be nice to be Madonna but then I realized I had massive stage fright. And clearly Madonna is kind of a weird hag now so I guess it’s good that didn’t happen.

  27. Violetsky – I considered practicing pratfalls over furniture, but I didn’t want to hurt myself. Also, I reckon Rob did most of that falling at home and not on the job, so I was okay. Good for you for going back to school. I know how your brain shuts down after 25 if you don’t use it a lot, making it so much more difficult to learn stuff. Do you love what you do now?

    Mo – Did he ever do anything besides Richie? How whacked out can you get from 10 seconds of TV exposure per week for a few years? And, why did you leave a job you loved so much for a soul-sucking job that seems to be killing you?

    Alison – Well, geology is close to archeology and wildlife — it’s all science and outdoors. Your job has always sounded very cool to me. There aren’t a lot of cool jobs in government — people all seem to somehow end up there. I used to work with people who were architects, engineers, scientists, designers — all in the same department and all they did was look at the work of architects, engineers, scientists and designers in the private sector and push papers around in response. Seemed kinda sad.

    Uma – We’ll see. We’ll see. I’ll give you a day by day, blow by blow account.

    Bob – Thanks. Those journalistic/writer skills you have should be easily transferable to any number of areas, wouldn’t you think? But then again, it never hurts to broaden your horizons. I know you’d never consider moving, but the field might be more open in other regions of the province or even country. The first thing I always said I’d do if I found myself jobless was to sign with some temp agencies. They keep your skills sharp, keep some money rolling in and get you a foot in the door of all sorts of places you’d normally never have access to. There are temp agencies now for all sorts of skill sets from secretarial pool to the executive level.

    Charlene – Madonna was always a weird hag, she just got away with it when she was young because she was young. Nothing has actually changed except that she has a few more years under her belt. She’s in awesome shape; still sings and dances just like she always did; still does freaky stuff. Anyway, you seem more or less happy with your life, so just as well you never became Madonna, I guess

  28. That is so great XUP! Congrats! My job really is nowhere near to my childhood dreams, but its stable and permanent.

    I’m hoping to fulfill my more creative ambitions on evenings and weekends.

  29. Congratulations on the new job. With the old one so boring, it’s got to be better. But, good grief, 18 months!!!

    Even though Dick VanDyke was controversial with Laura wearing slacks, they still made Sally do all the typing, although she did contribute to the writing too.

    Other than a short stint wanting to be a missionary (I was thoroughly caught up in the mass “conversion” think that happens at an evangelists “tent show”) Otherwise, all I ever wanted to do was because a classical musician. I was on learning my third instrument when the band director fired me. Hard to believe a teacher can do that. But, a girl wanted my spot and he was sleeping with her mother. Needless to say, I was devistated. My grades plummeted and while I did get my diploma, I quit after my Junior year.

    Fast forward, I’m 26 and in college for pre-law. Had a guaranteed spot in a successful law firm I was clerking for too. Money aside, I did the right thing, I would have been miserable.

    Fast forward, I’m an artist. Before I got sick I was making a wage about 1/4 of the poverty guideline. But, I love it and I do not have to be my and my kids sole support anymore. I am learning to play the violin on the side.

  30. Hannah – Ya, I kept telling myself that too, but then this came along. I’m sure I’ll still have to save creativity for evenings and weekends. It IS the government after all.

    Sheryl – Wow. That’s quite a switch from music to law. If you love what you’re doing, money is really secondary — provided you’re not starving and living on the streets of course. That would dampen any passion you have for your work pretty quickly.

  31. XUP, sorry for being slightly* off-topic here, but is there something wrong with images on your blog? Starting at the end of page 3 (May 28th post), images are rendered as bupkis. Or has this always been the case?

    *only slightly

    – RG>

  32. Grouchy – I don’t know why this happened. Sun spots or aliens or maybe cuz I upgraded my internet thingy. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it though, are you?

  33. Congratulations and best of luck on your first day!!!
    I’m an incurable optimist and go along with Nike’s Impossible is Nothing…
    I’m a translator and own a small language school. I LOVE my work and hope to be able to earn a decent living from it at some point in the future.
    Right now, work is scarce, slow coming in and future looks bleak.
    But a simple phone call can change that any day…
    Truly glad for you.

  34. How great to get the job! I hope you love it. I wanted to be a nurse when I was a little girl. I actually became one and hated it but it paid the bills. I’m so glad I don’t have to do that anymore. Mostly because working with doctors was a real pain.

  35. Congratulations on the job!

    Did you notice that it was usually Sally doing the typing? Typing was definitely a “girl’s job” back then.

    When I was a kid, I always just assumed that I’d be Laura Petrie when I grew up. I assumed I’d get married and I’d get to stay home while my husband went to work and my kids went to school. Then I’d get to hang out with Millie all day. Well, that’s not how my life turned out. Surprise! Women’s Lib came along, and women were suddenly expected to go out to work. Now I don’t even get to live in my own house at night. I’m a government contractor, living in a hotel Monday through Thursday. At least my husband has the house nice and clean for me when I come home for weekends.

    Do you think Sally was a closet lesbian?