Daring To Dream - Making The Move To Branson, Mo.
The Here and Now
I am at, if not an advanced age then at least one advancing quicker than I had ever expected. I am entering the final decade of what I hope will be my Working Life, and we are attempting to do something I have never really dared to do: dream of retirement. Oh, perhaps not the living on the Riviera type of retirement; nor the lay around all day and bask in the sunshine and listen to our grandchildren laughing retirement, but a more realistic form of retirement that allows us to enjoy life to a greater degree while still working somewhere doing something both enjoyable and relaxing that still provides some degree of income, minor though it may be.
My current position is one of high stress, great responsibility, decent pay but the rewards are extremely mixed. On one hand, I enjoy the students I am blessed to see daily. Their smiles, laughter, hugs and joy fill my soul like no other job I have ever had; yet the other hand holds malice, injustice, blame, and virtually no positive acknowledgement from those with whom I work.
For example, I recently received the highest honor one in my position can attain, that of Administrator Of the Year in our state, yet no one within my district gave any praise, any positive words whatsoever. None. Zilch. Zero. Not even a comment to let me know they knew of it. The board failed to acknowledge it, whether by design or by oversight. It was mentioned in the trade magazine published by the state so I know my peers know, yet my own district refuses to acknowledge the honor. I know they knew of it as it was brought to my attention by one who spoke with someone in the administration and it came up, but nothing back to me or those I work with. Why, you might ask? Well, I wish I was free to describe what went on, but I am unable to do so without involving others I work with and I am not the type of person to throw dirt on anyone, deserved or not. I simply forge ahead, head down and determination in my soul, doing the best I can regardless of whether acknowledge comes my way or not. But this hurt; badly.
Suffice it to say I was injured, mind body and soul. My mind became one which saw enemies at every doorway, my body failed by having a mild heart attack and then being placed on blood pressure medicine, and my soul felt as though it could not bear to live another day in the position I found myself in.
Yet I have a family which depends upon me for leadership, strength, and income. I could not, would not allow myself to fail.
Am I an idiot to try to do this at this time in my life?
My lovely wife and I set out on a plan to do something, anything which would lead us to a better place. I had previously enjoyed retail management, working with the public in order to make sure customers felt cared for, found what they desired, and went away happy. So, we set out to find something in which I could plunge myself into, in order to prove to myself that I was better than those who doubted me thought. We searched the Internet countless hours for The One Job. It was painful, it was time consuming, it was overwhelming.
And, it was less than successful.
I dreamed of working in a location surrounded by beauty. My wife dreamed of living near the water, any reasonably large body of water. River, lake, ocean - it mattered not. As far as I went, that would be fine with me, so we focused on locations that would satisfy that desire. I applied for no less than thirty (30) jobs with L.L. Bean, primarily in the Northeast in and around Maine. I also applied for a position in Oregon, some in Minnesota, and even Michigan.
No one thought enough of me to even give me a call back.
Well, Plan B. Perhaps something nearer a body of water centrally located in the country, say Branson, Mo. So I took the plunge and applied for a job near there in a position very similar to that which I hold now, save with less pay and somewhat less responsibility yet on a larger scale. Some twenty-eight persons applied including myself. I tidied up the resume and sent it off, then waited. And waited. Finally a call came to me and asked if I was still interested; why, yes I am. A phone interview that was slated for fifteen minutes turned into twice that, leaving me feeling hopeful. Two weeks later, another call asked me to visit them for a second interview. Again, the process was very positive. Then, another week or so brought the call saying I was one of three being brought back for a final interview.
I traveled the eighty miles once more and found myself seated with the same individuals as before. This time, the interview was less formal, more talking. After a few moments, I was shocked to hear that perhaps I was, well - too nice. Too nice?! Because I was professional, smiled when speaking with them, made eye contact as they spoke with me and me with them, was cordial and polite, I was perhaps "too nice".
What do I say to that?
Changing The Plan
Ultimately, I was number two. I failed to get the position because the district went with another person. I do not fault them for choosing another, but when I was told that I had all of the qualifications they were looking for, I was still not good enough. They went with another who had no qualifications in the field yet was more "technically proficient" in other areas. They felt they could teach the other person how to do the job they hired them for and be just fine.
I wish them the best of luck. I can say that this industry is high stress enough that for those not able to adapt to it, failure is not only an option it is a probability. The burnout rate for those attuned to it runs to the three year mark, and for those not attuned to it, is much, much less.
So, on to Plan C. Only, what IS Plan C?
- Branson.com : The Official Branson Website
Branson MO's Official Resource Center for Visitors, Locals, Discounts, Shows, Lodging, Restaurants, Vacations, Maps, News, and Events.
Plan C turns out to be a dangerous, exhilarating, fearful prayer.
Divulge ourselves of virtually everything we own; selling almost everything but some clothes and a few furniture items, and moving to where we want to live while praying a job will be forthcoming. Scary, right?
We spent another hundred hours or so looking at more jobs and housing. We pared our life down to the core, eliminating anything which might be a hindrance while testing our resolve to really follow through on our dream. Out goes the old king size bed, in comes a smaller one. Out go the chest freezers and large refrigerator, in comes a smaller fridge/freezer. Out goes the riding lawnmower, in comes a condo. Wait, condo? Move from a 1,900 sq. ft. 4 bedroom home on 5 acres, set in a secluded valley filled with wildlife into a 1,100 sq. ft. 2 bedroom bottom floor condo unit surrounded by others similar in type?
Well, yes. In order to pursue the dream, this is the requirement. And while it may sound drastic (it is, I agree) the hope is that the end will warrant the means. We chose a small condo unit in a small town adjacent to Branson, one which sits literally at the waters edge. We can walk out the back sliding glass doors and find ourselves within casting distance of the lake. And, that's not the best part.
The gentleman we are going to be renting from is a Christian, but not just any Christian. He is one that within moments after meeting made us so comfortable as to encourage us to speak more freely than we ever have with another person not within our immediate family. And God moved within us when we spoke with him in a manner I have never experienced before. There was no contract to sign; no credit check. A simple handshake deal, a check for deposit and first month, and we have a new home, ready for us to move into at our leisure.
Laying The Groundwork For The Future
So, we now have a location; we have a home base from which to plan, to move ahead towards and into. What now?
I am continuing to apply for jobs in and around the area. Some I have experience performing and have done well at such as Retail Management. As Branson is a recreational town, drawing in literally millions of visitors annually for the shows, theme parks, and fishing. There are hundreds of retail outlets in the town so hopefully my experience will allow me an opportunity.
Then there are the other positions that, while I may not be completely suited for I am still able and interested. There is one which would be enjoyable as it would allow me to continue gardening but on a much larger scale. A local college needs a person to oversee planting, running their Farmer's Market and doing odd jobs on campus. I applied for it.
The local Branson Tourism Department needs someone to be a manager, overseeing various activities and duties including scheduling, running the front desk, visiting with potential customer/visitors to the area. I applied for that.
Multiple retail shops within the area posted jobs for Assistant Store Managers, Store Managers, Shift Managers. In small market and larger market stores. In toys, clothes, books, specialist and generalist stores. I applied for them. All of them.
All told, I applied for close to a hundred different jobs.
I received one (1) call back. From a desperate district manager who wanted to give me a "try-out" as an assistant store manager of a small store for a week while he went on vacation. And as much as I wanted to, I could not say yes to him simply because he sounded so desperate and it was only going to be a week long tryout with no guarantee. I simply couldn't take that chance for my family's sake.
Fishing Lake Taneycomo
So, six months of applications; six months spent surfing the Web for jobs, for homes both to buy or rent. Gone. Was there something wrong with me? Was there something on my resume that raised an alarm to prospective employers? I was growing depressed.
Then, a ray of sunshine, a small hope entered my world. Another district in the immediate area needed someone to do just what I have been doing. I applied and received a call back in short order. A phone interview went well and was followed by an invite to drive the two hours to meet with them. In a state of happiness unlike anything I had felt in years, I made the trip.
The interview could not have any better in my eyes. There were ten people in the room and all were smiling at me as I sat down. Questions were asked and answered, with each person nodding their heads and smiling in return. I was never stumped; had crisp, clear, concise answers for everything thrown at me. My accomplishments were read to the room by the leader of the interview and congratulations filled the air. I was escorted to the building in which the person selected would work in; introduced to several who were there; and shown the office I would work in. It was even called "my" office as if the decision were a foregone conclusion. I returned to the room, shook hands once more and told the decision would be forthcoming that day, tomorrow at the latest.
I left on a high flying cloud of hope.
The call came while driving home, in a very small portion of the drive where I did not have cell reception. When the voice mail appeared, I listened to it with great excitement, which faded to nothingness within seconds.
Sorry, but they went another direction. Great qualifications, solid background, impressive credentials but no job offer. I was crushed before I even made it halfway home.
For about a day, I gave up hope. But hope found me anyway. Stay tuned to my next hub detailing what can occur when you give it all to God.