(June/July, 1999)

Career Choice for Flaker
from Brian

What's up, Ed? This is only my second time visiting your web site, but both times I've felt like I'm connecting to every one of your correspondents. I have been living with P for the last eleven years. I'm 22 years old and honestly thought it would have gone away by now but I was wrong. I'm a sophomore in college and am confused about what I'm going to major in because of my P. Being a teacher would be cool because I could be off all summer in the sun. I want to ask you: What would be the best thing to major in for a person who has P? Thanks. -Brian


Ed's Response: I'm glad you asked the question, Brian, even though I'm now going to tell you it's an irrelevant question to ask. Or, at least, NEARLY irrelevant.

I don't think P should play TOO heavily in a young flaker's career decision making. Take your case, for example. The very fact that you have had P for 11 years, that you are in college now, that you can even ASK questions about career choices ... all of this suggests that P is not a significant LIMITING factor. I think this is true for most of us. There are some obvious pragmatic exceptions: just like a stutterer might find employment scarce as a disk jockey; someone whose skin is routinely flawed might not find exotic dancing too lucrative. There are even more grey areas: Would a flaker find happiness as a dentist? a masseur? a lifeguard? Ironically, and no matter what you think, I wager there are successful flakers in every occupation, even the least likely....

Career planning in general is something about which any advice is, in my mind at least, questionable. When I was young there were batteries of tests designed to tell you what kind of job you are going to be good at, and what kind of career you will find most satisfying. If I followed my results from those tests, I would probably be an ichthyologist for the Fish and Game Department today. Perhaps I would be enjoying myself. Also, civilization is evolving and career opportunities change. Twenty-five years ago I was a doomed teletypist and the word "Internet" didn't exist.

A few years ago, while in a cab in New York City, I was studying second story signage. (A hobby of mine, applicable in most larger cities. It's simple: As you walk or drive through a city, ignore the signs and window dressing at street level and pay attention only to second-story windows and signs. What you learn is amazing.) On this occasion I was struck by a small but eye-catching sign in a window: "Worldwide Flute and Piccolo Repair." First, one understands intuitively why this is a "second-story business," and, perhaps, only possible in New York City. But then one must wonder, did the proprietor grow up lusting for that sign? business? career? Who knows, if you are a professional flute or piccolo player, the owner of that business might be a well-known individual, the only person in the world universally trusted to make well a sick instrument. Or, the proprietor might have been a minor player whose career was halted by some debilitating accident and who now barely makes ends meet by an occasional repair hard-earned from classifieds placed in musician's periodicals on several continents. You can imagine the story in many ways....

What do you think you like to do? What are you good at and what makes you happy? Now, having answered that thoughtfully, review your answer. Was it based on personal experience? Intimate second-hand familiarity with the career (perhaps a close relative has this career)? Or is it more of a fantasy, perhaps haphazardly informed and mostly imagined? If you think you really know about what you think you like to do (!) then imagine yourself doing it during your worst-ever flaking outbreak....

People with whom I work know me as an aging eccentric who has somehow managed to snag a job that allows him to live and work in the country (in my business, all of Kentucky is "the country"). Some who know I am a flaker no doubt think my condition has influenced my career, that I'm fortunate to stay gainfully employed and yet hide myself. Few realize, and I feel no compunction to explain, that I was well on my way to doing what I do, how I do it, before I ever manifested P. It must be considered fortunate that I was doing what I am doing when I became a flaker. On the other hand, but for a handful of accidents of fate and a couple of fortuitous decisions, I might still be an executive technologist in some big eastern city, a three-piece-suited jet-setter constantly in touch with a large public. Would my flaking have halted all of that? I don't think so. I think, had that been the case, I would have made larger annual donations to the National Psoriasis Foundation, Flake would have been a fatter book, and this web site probably would not exist.

Just be happy, Brian. Plan to make flaking of little consequence to that happiness. -Ed

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