Call This Help?

It appears that the only problem with pre-scheduling my posts for during the work rotation is that when I get home for my off-days I forget that I have to, you know…manually post some entries. I’d like to try and fix myself of this issue if at all possible. One of the big reasons (I suspect) that I’ve been unsuccessful with blogs and the like in the past is because I have no concept of “regular updates”, which as it turns out is a bit important.

In my defense, I had a friend visit from away for four nights, and during three of those nights we devoured a large, large amount of alcohol. A large amount. I may be recovering for another three or four nights.

But I digress. This is an overdue post that I should have made about a week ago when it was originally relevant.

About a week and a half ago there was an article in the local newspapers, detailing a rather frustrating issue with our province’s apprenticeship board. Without going into a great amount of detail, some lawyer (of course) apparently discovered that the apprenticeship board does not actually have the authority to accept work hours that were obtained in other provinces. As an overwhelming number of Nova Scotia apprentices work outside Nova Scotia (i.e. where the jobs are), this is a bit of an issue. It was a topic of much contention out on the work site. But it’s not the main point of the article that bothered me so much…what really bothered me was a quote by an apprenticeship board spokesman that stated how they were trying to help apprentices through this issue and that they were “all about” helping apprentices through to completion of their apprenticeship.

In response to this quote I wrote an emphatic FaceBook status about just how “helpful” I’ve found the apprenticeship board to be over the years. My husband then pointed out that the spokesman I was addressing was unlikely to read my FaceBook page and suggested I submit my status to the newspaper. I did so, expecting nothing to come of it, and was contacted by a family friend a few days later to let me know that he’d just read my letter.

Not the most enormous deal in the world, but pretty exciting to me since it’s technically my first real publication. 🙂 Confidence!

If anyone is interested in reading the letter that I wrote, I submit to you the link to the online version. My letter is third one down, entitled “Call this help?” and signed (obviously) Tracey Tobin.

Lonely Bed

This morning I woke up alone in bed for the first time in a long time. The reason? My husband, like so many other Nova Scotians, has headed out ‘West’ for work.

Here’s the thing. My husband isn’t just some random guy with no education or experience who ran out West with hopes of making some quick cash. He has a college diploma in electrical engineering. He’s a 4th year apprentice Industrial Electrician, very close to become a Red Seal Certified Journeyman. He has a ton of safety training, and approximately 4 years experience in the pulp and paper industry. And we can’t find a job for him anywhere in Nova Scotia.

The same goes for me. I have a university degree (the same program as my husband, but with an extra year of programming languages tacked onto the end). I’m a Red Seal Certified Journeyman (Journeywoman?) Industrial Instrumentation Tech. I have a ton of safety training, and approximately 5 years experience in the pulp and paper industry. And again, I can’t find a job anywhere in Nova Scotia.

I don’t claim to know anything about business or economics. That’s not my thing, and even if someone were to explain it to me I’m quite sure I wouldn’t understand a word of it. But even if I had that knowledge, I think I would still find it impossible to comprehend how an entire province can be devoid of jobs in the trades, a classification of workforce that is enormous in other parts of the country. Just look at the aforementioned ‘out West’. Alberta has so many jobs in the trades that some companies pay for people to fly back and forth between their home and their job, while putting them up in camps during the work shift, effectively eliminating any cost of living. Meanwhile, the few tradesmen that we have here in Nova Scotia are paid a fraction of the wages and get none of those perks. I’m not saying that we don’t get a decent wage, but even a good wage looks pretty awful when you know that a few provinces over you could be getting two or even three times as much. And of course, the wages don’t matter in the slightest if the jobs aren’t even available in the first place.

And it’s not just the trades. Unemployment is as rampant in Nova Scotia as the exodus out West is. It just amazes me, I guess. The politicians in this province have been known to fight tooth and nail for dying industries (*cough*papermill*cough*), but they’ve got no drive toward attracting new, viable ones. The people here (retirees who don’t need work, I’m looking at you) have an awful habit of opposing the industries who do come knocking, usually claiming that they’ll destroy the province. Well I hate to break it to you, activists, but the province can be as pretty and environmental as you want it to be, but no one will be here to enjoy it in a few more years!

I know that for the most part I’m talking to a wall here. The people who agree with me are dealing with the same issues my husband and I are dealing with, and the people who don’t agree aren’t going to listen to anything I have to say anyway. So I guess in the end all I can say is that its a frustrating situation. I know my husband and I aren’t the only one’s dealing with it, but in this sort of case knowing there are others having the same issue isn’t exactly comforting.

Either Walk a Mile in My Shoes or Take Them Off!

One thing that I’ve noticed everyone does at some point in time is downplay other peoples’ jobs as “so much easier” than their own job, even if the job in question is something that person has never had to actually do before. For example, I’ve heard tons of people talk about how easy working at a call center is. “It’s just talking on the damn phone!” they say. But they’ve never worked such a job, and they have no concept of the psychological beating a person can take when being screamed at and/or hung up on all day. Hire someone to follow you around for a day, screaming obscenities and telling you what a worthless piece of crap you are, and you’ll get an idea of what quite a few call center attendants go through. And despite that, people still look at you like you’re crazy if you come home from a shift at the call center and start talking about what a hard day you’ve had.

This phenomenon is not only subjected to those who work in what we tend to think of as the “lowlier” types of jobs. I once had an electrician tell me that there’s “nothing to your job” (instrumentation technician) because it’s “just a little air”. For the record, the “little air” I was dealing with at the time was approximately 60 psi and was being applied to the movement of an industrial rotary valve. In other words, if used improperly, that “little air” could have resulted in my arm getting chopped clean off.

The fact is, we humans have a habit of bolstering the difficulty and importance of the things we do and assuming that the things other people do are simple and insignificant.

I think this might be one of the most frustrating issues plaguing writers and people who want to become writers. People who don’t write seem to think it’s one of the easiest things in the world to do, that it takes no time at all, and that the words just spill out in perfect format with no need to ever look at them again, never mind edit them. And as with my other examples, those people are ridiculously, laughably wrong.

Case in point: my 1000-words-a-day idea. I chose 1000 words because, based on the past few months of writing, I’ve established that 1000 words a day is a reasonable, challenging-but-doable amount. It can be difficult to squeeze those 1000 words in around dealing with the baby, cooking and cleaning, running errands, and all that other daily nonsense, but if I put my mind to it I can manage it. So let us assume for a moment that I accomplish my goal and manage to write precisely 1000 words every day. Someone who doesn’t write probably thinks that sounds great…I’ll have a novel published in no time! But hold up for just a moment…how long is a novel exactly? Well, for example, the first Harry Potter book is 76,944 words. That means if I based my own book off that one and wrote my 1000 words a day, it would take me approximately 77 days to write my novel. That, my friends-who-don’t-write, is before I look back and see all the mistakes I made, the plot-holes I created, the scenes I previously-thought-were-awesome-and-suddenly-realize-are-utter-crap, and so on and so on. Writing a novel is only half the battle (in fact, it might be more like 25% of the battle). The real pain-in-the-ass comes from trying to make the novel good by making sure your wording is correct, your sentence structure readable, and your overall story likeable. And that is a lot harder, and takes a lot more time, than it sounds.

What I guess I’m getting at is, before you assume that someone is complaining for the sake of complaining, or having a hard time at something because they’re just not trying hard enough, put yourself in their shoes and actually try what they’re doing. Write a story, deal with the editing process, and get that sucker published, and then you can turn around and tell me how easy you thought it all was.