Be Prepared

I Saw It Coming and Prepared

“The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.”

G.K. Chesterton

I loved being a secretary. Not sure why, but I loved it. I say “loved” not because I no longer love it. I say loved because to be a secretary is no more. I didn’t stop being a secretary; the needs for a secretary stop being. Or at the very least dwindled done to bare nothingness. For at least 10 years, I’ve spent more time searching and engaging with the internet than performing work – at work. Spending 30 of the 35 weekly working hours searching the internet, while at work, does not make for a promising future. I had to ask myself, how long until they stop paying me (handsomely) for my expert internet abilities and mushy secretarial skills? See working the internet damaged my secretarial skills. It had to be about 2009 when I said to myself, “self, you are on a dead-end path, working with a diminished kill set, inside a dying profession”.

Praise God for MOOCs. My love of all things computers started when I was about 19 years old. I sat at one that looked like a spaceship. Everything was connected, from the seat to the monitor. I was in heaven. Just playing around. Made me run out and buy an Apple computer. Which also looked just like a spaceship. Computer design didn’t seem to be a priority back in the day. The computer was clunky and the monitor text color was an ugly green. The printer was separate, but it only printed in dot pixels. I think that’s what they called it. All the letters were formed with dots. Believe you me, even with those faults, you couldn’t tell me nothing. I was high tech and in college. That monster clunker produced a few semesters worth of college newsletters. The Apple III came in two pieces and was heavy – at least 75 pounds. The printer was a stand alone.

I did everything on my first computer. Saved it all to floppy disk as well. At the office we were still using an IBM Selectric typewriter, which was high technology. Those machines were smooth as butter. Every secretary’s desk had an IBM Selectric. There was only one computer in the office. Do I need to say it? It looked like the spaceship. There’s was only one person that operated it. It was used, similar to my own personal use, for reports, accounting, etc. You’d think I would have saw the death coming then. I didn’t. It just seemed like upgrades. Chango presto, before you knew it, PCs were hogging up space on every desk. The techno progress began slowly. Then time started to speed up a bit after Microsoft came out with their version of the desktop. This sucker didn’t have ugly green letters and used something called windows. Loved it. Took me 3 hours to figure out how to use the windows. There were lots of upgrades to the systems as well. Things we all were asking for. We got themes for the monitor, tables, the ability to mark documents for bibliographies, tables of content, etc. Fonts, colors, spacing and formatting were like cooking with gas. It was right around this time, that my job duties started to shrink. Again it was slow mo. You would hardly notice the choke hold of death. No this was more like a chip here and a chip chip there. Soon monitors shrank, then got big again. We had CPUs that were flat then we got standing up towers. On and on it went; we even went ergo (i.e., ergo keyboards). By this time, there was no faking the funk. I barely touched a piece of paper let alone typed something to print on one.

So we took the slow burn route. Skills turning to mush and the internet causing my duties to dwindle. It got so bad all I did was print out spreadsheets and answer the phone. I whittled away the lull in my day by learning how to use Excel, PowerPoint and, at home, Access. I was a whiz at Word. There was still work to be done and it did fill up at least 3 – 5 hours of the working day. And then the next wave hit. Folks start to retire. Turned out newbies (their replacments) could type and they grew up using computers so they needed even less of my assistance. Then came the real blow (or first nail in the coffin) – 2008. We crashed hard back then. Not sure if folks remember. Now I’m told we had a recovery. I was fortunate and keep my job throughout, but I remain uconvenienced that we ever recovered. For one thing, we started printing money with nothing to back it up with. The worth of the dollar has steadily went down. It started to fall then. And don’t go writing me about Fort Knox. There’s no gold in Fort Knox. Let that go. It’ll be better for you in the long run. As the “Crash of 2008” went, so did my employment prospects. I lost a job and got a job. The new job paid $20K less. Some recovery that was. About the only thing that got recovered was $20K from my pay.

I spent four years searching the internet. I had to find something I could do. Content no more with just sitting and turning to mush, I found in 2013. I didn’t study web development there, but it led me to other online learning sources. Those learning sources turned out to be free, as Coursera was at the time. And many of them were devoted to teaching web development solely. Now that was news to me and good news at that. So my now 5 – 6 hour lulls were filled learning how to code. Long before “learn how to code” became a catch phrase bandied at laid-off workers in dying professions. The internet appears to be the only place you see real measurable growth. Everything else seems stagnit. If you do have a business it better have a connect to the internet. Everybody in the whole wide wide world of webs should have a webpage. Or at the very least, a profile on LinkedIn. And now we’re at COVID-19. The last nail in the coffin of so many professions. Thank God I learned how to code and I am “Loving It”.

The slow mo route could have cost me. Not that I thought I’d ever earn my living from the web development skills I was learning. My plan was to retire from being a legal secretary. Yet, once we all got settled into 2009, I knew the wheels had come off the wagon. There was no going back. We crossed the Rubicon. Had I not learned how to code, I’d be stuck in the middle of the Rubicon. I got across. Am I where I wanted to be today? No. Nevertheless, I was more prepared than I knew. Since 2013 I’ve been slaving away at building some sort of independent income. Now I’m focused on building a new career. With a bit of business on the side. You need to have an independent source of income. This is not your father’s economy any more. I’ve had some successes. I’ve made a few extra dollars here and there. And I did what I thought would make me a business. Didn’t work so it hasn’t happened. I’m not worst for it. I’m better for it. I made tons of mistakes. However, said mistakes have been awesome opportunities for learning and growing.

I’m a web designer now. So what no one’s hired me full-time – yet. So what all of my live sites were done for free and became hard to finish with flaky website owners and my own inexperience. That’s a real hard lesson I learned. Don’t do things for free. No one will take you seriously. Even if you were not prepared for this “new normal” (yeah like stuff’s really normal right now) there’s still hope. You once loved something and never made it a project. Now’s the time to dust it off and start a fresh. Make it a project – found out about it. The world has not ended. Keep going. Find your niche and sleep, eat and breathe it. It will pay off.