I’ve written much about the wilderness on this blog. It seems that like me, many of my friends find themselves in a wilderness as well; we are wandering, seeking the trail we are meant to follow, questioning the paths that led us here. So when my friend Jeff Burkholder let our writing group know last week that he was in need of a new job, I didn’t respond with surprise. Instead, I sighed. Yep, another wilderness wanderer.

As a writer (and an avid TV- and movie-watcher, but by saying I’m a writer; it makes my drivel sound a bit more snooty and self-important), I tend to look at real-life events through the filter of dramatic license. Any time something relatively insignificant catches my attention, it suddenly acquires the literary heft of Chekhov’s proverbial gun, and I’ll spend a day or two wondering just when that half-eaten snickerdoodle’s presence I noticed yesterday will suddenly make sense. Likewise, I’ll take events I’ve witnessed or experienced – whether commonplace or important – and ponder the literary (yes, or televised) precursors it may be mimicking. My recent travails in the job world are no different.

Backstory time: I work two jobs; a 9-5 office job in which I help build and monitor websites, and a Sundays-and-occasional-evenings job at my church as the “tech guy.” The full-time day job pays the bills, and I’ve often referred to my church job as the one that gives me “spiritual fulfillment.” In between, I spend my free time with my loving (and loved) wife and kids, drawing comics, and writing.

However, I’d recently observed that my day job wasn’t really a great fit and involved some tasks and responsibilities that don’t mesh well at all with who I am. Frankly, the disconnect has become exhausting. And because of the breakdown in energy, I haven’t been fully present for my other job, not to mention my family, for quite some time now. And my creative endeavors have become looming obligations, rather than enjoyable pass-times. So I made the decision that I need to start looking for another position somewhere. But in order to have time to do that, something needed to give, which led me to the difficult decision to quit my job at the church.

Then, roughly two weeks after I had announced my intention to step down from the church job, in the span of 24 hours I learned that: 1) my wife’s laptop had died, 2) the IRS was auditing us because of questions related to my daughter’s adoption, 3) a close family member was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer, and 4) my boss at my day job had also concluded that the job was not a good fit for me and asked me to start looking for something else. And soon.

Naturally, it seemed obvious that my life was scripting rather closely to Job, with everything suddenly being taken away from me. A friend of mine pointed out, though, that I wasn’t nearly as “whiny” as Job was, so perhaps that wasn’t as apt as I had assumed.

That led me next to ponder the story of Abraham and Isaac. Was my decision to give up the job at the church akin to Abraham putting Isaac on the altar? And me being let go from my other job the analogue to the ram in the briars? Conversely, that didn’t begin to address the other stuff that was going on.

I took these suppositions to friends who suggested that perhaps I was more like Joshua, finding myself in a desert and looking for the Promised Land. Another said that perhaps even the Roman church was closer…all had elements of resonance, but none fit quite right.

Upon further reflection though, it occurred to me that all these allusions were, in fact, smoke and mirrors (pun intended). They all had one significant thing in common: All were events in the past that happened to someone else. My situation was in the present and dealt with … me. And only I could be me enough to face what the future might hold and figure out where the story was headed. I resolved to accept bits of wisdom from these past events, but forge on ahead with my own trail.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some allegorical TV shows to watch.

Jeff Burkholder was born at an early age, and now fancies himself a “writer” of sorts, as well as a passable “husband”, fair-enough “father”, and semi-decent “coffee-drinker”. If any of this rambling was of any sort of interest – morbid curiosity counts, as well – you can find more in his comics at Zoidland, The Ouro Bros (with Jeremy Bentley), and The Social Life of Frank & Linh, or his flash-fiction blog on Gloaming Gap.

Jeff Burkholder

Jeff Burkholder, Wilderness Trail Blazer