Numbers Don’t Count For Everything

Art by mollycakes via flickr

Some women go through relationships like shoes; I go through men like jobs. I’ve had 29 jobs since I started working when I was 16. I’m not even going to try counting the guys I’ve had crushes on, dated, or hooked up with. My longest job lasted a year and a half, my longest relationship approximately four months.

These days it seems whenever I get together with my friends, they need a review: “Where are you working now? Which guy is this you’re dating?”

Breaking up with the last guy who found such shortcomings in my job insecurity has induced me to muse upon the connections between my work and my love life.

Every new job and every new relationship forces introspection. When people ask me what I do, I tell them the exact description of the jobs I’m currently working. Lately, those jobs have included special education aide, tutor, English as a Foreign Language teacher and grant writing consultant. So, I was struck when my new boss-to-be looked at my resume and observed that I’d been teaching six years. It was longer than I thought.

Maybe this is why I dislike statistics. I know some people find comfort in the rules of math, the seeming hard facts that digits provide, but like so many aspects of life I find this data a matter of perspective. I’ve had almost as many jobs as I’ve had years on this planet, which at first glance makes me think, “What’s wrong with me?”

A closer look, however, reveals that many of those jobs were simultaneous. In the 13 years I’ve been working, I’ve been unemployed a mere three months. Those are statistics I find soothing.

My love life is an equally nonsensical set of digits to manipulate. One guy I dated one month, but have been friends with for almost 10 years and acquainted with longer. In the last month, I began developing feelings for a guy I’ve known 15 months and dated only one time, 12 months ago. The only time I’ve been in love was with a guy I had known for only two weeks.

Dating statistics are often only a fraction of  the real relationship. Thus, numbers alone are insignificant, only the stories behind them bring meaning and understanding.

The seeming instability in hopping from job to job and guy to guy has taught me so much about who I am, how I love and the world at large. One of the patterns I’ve noticed about both is that first, I’m nervous and excited. As I get to know the new person or new position, I’m enthusiastic to learn everything I can and to succeed.

Gradually, I get more comfortable, fall into a routine and the shine starts to wear off. Sometimes the fantastic boss turns out not to be the amazing leader I deified in the beginning. Or the vast differences between me and the new guy don’t seem quite so complementary anymore. Employment and relationships end for so many reasons, but saying good-bye doesn’t get any better.

The hardest jobs to get over were the teaching positions in which I didn’t have a back-up plan, usually because I was so busy working and really didn’t want to leave. I often hope that somehow everything will work out for the best.

The most difficult lesson in life is the discovery that a job or relationship I thought was meant to be—because it seemed so perfect and to fit so well, I was certain it had to be ordained by the heavens—could crumble just as easily as that which I didn’t believe so deeply in. I’ve come to realize that I can’t rely on predestination or fate or some divine sign, but instead have to fight tooth and nail for everything I love and desire in this world.

I’ve learned to deal with the hard knocks of love and work life by adapting and trying to prepare for the eventual outcome. When the season, work year, numbers or money start to wane or end, the time comes to look for the next adventure. When the guy I am seeing becomes distant or undesirable, I keep my heart open for new opportunities.

With each new endeavor and romance, I must bend and adapt like branches of the willow tree, while my core continues to stand strong, confident that even without a distinct job or person by my side, I can survive any storm.

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  • Here’s a thought to go with your analogy….

    When you say that you’ve had 29 jobs, what constitutes a “job” for you? Likewise, what constitutes a “relationship” in your book?

  • A job is any position that I got paid for or a stipend for, such as the Peace Corps even though it was technically a volunteer position.I may also have included student-teaching in that count, even though, I actually paid to student-teach.
    To quote “Love Actually,” “The word ‘relationship’ covers all manner of sins.” I think it’s funny how people will date but say they don’t want a relationship, because dating is a type of relationship, as is friendship even. 🙂 In this article, I play with the definition of relationship sometimes describing the connection between two people, for instance, “Dating statistics are often only a fraction of the real relationship.” Other times I use the same word to describe involvement of a romantic nature, anything more than friends, as in “Employment and relationships end for so many reasons, but saying good-bye doesn’t get any better.”

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