The best memory I have of my dad from when I was growing up happened when I was about 7 years old. At the time he was looking for work in Washington state, and he, my mom, my little brother, and I were all living in a tent.
My dad knew I liked Airwolf, a 1980’s TV show about a hi-tech helicopter used to fight criminals. For my birthday he made me a replica Airwolf carved of wood from a tree near our tent.
This is also one of the only memories I have of my dad when I was a kid.
The High Point
When I was 10 my dad got a job working for a conveyor belt manufacturer as a welder and maintenance man. He worked hard and made the most of his opportunity, and rose through the company pretty rapidly. By the time I was a teenager he was traveling throughout the world, and had his picture taken on a camel in front of the Great Pyramids. He spent extended periods of time working in Chile and Germany, and had friends on almost every continent.
Those years were the high point of my Dad’s life, to him. I don’t blame him—feeling important is a powerful drug. During these years the name “Dave McKissen” meant something to people who were not in our family. However, these were not good years for our relationship, and I barely saw him.
But they were the best years for our family, financially.
Then he lost his job during my senior year of high school, right before I turned 18.
The Low Point
My dad hasn’t had regular, consistent employment for the past 15 years. It’s not because of any larger economic issues, and it’s not because of a lack of talent. My dad’s hands and brain are connected in a way that mine aren’t. Though he lacks a degree, he is the most talented engineer I’ve ever seen. A treehouse that is born in his mind ends up in my yard in the time it would take me to find a hammer.
I see the same talent in my son, and I am literally in awe of the two of them.
My dad is also good at more than just building things—he is a good guy, with a good heart, and people love him. I love him. He is a great Grandpa.
But when he lost his job, he lost part of himself.
When you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself the search to find that missing piece can take to you to some very dark places. It did for my dad, and much of the last 15 years have been hard on him, and the people that care about him.
Remember That You’re Still Here
After a recent article I received a few emails from people who had lost their job, and a couple of emails from people who are facing an impending job loss.
I don’t have good advice on what to do about a stint of unemployment on a resume.
What I can say is that if you lose your job, don’t lose yourself.
You’re still here, even if your job isn’t.
The best parts of you, the parts that will be remembered, usually have nothing to do with your job. You should give your job your best, but don’t make the best part of you your job.
You also may have to realize that you may never reach your prior peak. It’s hard to imagine the circumstances that placed my dad on a camel in front of the Great Pyramids occurring again.
But just because that time has come and gone doesn’t mean you have come and gone.
As for my dad, things are finally getting better. We work at filling in the missing memories by going to a bar near my house and having a beer, or by playing horseshoes in our neighbor’s yard. Last year we took a road trip together to Philadelphia, Mississippi in my Smart Car.
He has a standing gig to serve as the local Catholic school’s jack-of-all-trades and handyman when they have the funds in their budget. It’s a job that’s just a few blocks from our house, and last year he painted the auditorium.
The walls in that auditorium won’t last as long as the Great Pyramids, but they will be there for a few years, and his grandkids know that “Dave McKissen” painted them.
Author: Dustin McKissen is the Vice President of First Resource