My "Job"

Katherine Longshore 2 Tuesday, February 11, 2014
My dad was a teacher.  It wasn't his life's dream when he was a kid.  He didn't walk into his first day at university knowing what his life had in store.  In fact, he started college thinking he might go into the seminary (at least that's what his mother wanted).  But then he found geology and got hooked.  And through science, he started teaching.

We lived less than a mile from the university basement where my dad taught petrology, volcanology and introductory geology for more than forty years.  Every morning, he'd take my mom a cup of coffee in bed, set the breakfast table, and walk "to school".  Every evening, he'd come home, have a martini and talk with my mom while she made dinner.  And every third summer or so he spent in the Nevada desert, teaching geologists how to operate in the field.

It all sounds normal, doesn't it?  I mean, work is work.  We do it every day.  Rain or shine.  Sick or well.  We eat, we sleep, we work.

It was different for my dad.  He loved his work.  He loved rocks.  He loved being out in the field.  He loved his students.  When I had the good luck to attend the university where he worked, I took classes in completely different disciplines, but I still met students who said, "You're John Longshore's daughter?  I love him.  He's the best teacher I ever had."  These were journalism students.  Theater students.  Women's studies students.  People who had taken his Geology 101 as a science requirement.

It was only after he died just over a year ago that I found out how much his geology students loved him, too.  How he inspired one so much that this man moved to Los Angeles to teach science at inner city schools.  How he listened to women geologists worry about being a scientist in a man's world.  How he made being in the stark, hot outback of eastern Nevada fun.  His students sought me out to tell me these things.  They cried on my shoulder.  They created an endowment in my dad's name to support geological field work at Humboldt State in perpetuity.

Growing up with that kind of role model, I had high expectations for my own career.  For me, success was not going to be medals and applause and a huge paycheck.  No, I wanted to love my work as much as he did.

I tried theater, journalism, travel writing, travel agenting.  I went back to school and trained as a Montessori preschool teacher, and I thought that was the one.  In a way, I'd be following my father's footsteps.  I loved teaching, but the environment didn't love me and quitting was the hardest decision I've ever made.  But as I mentioned in an earlier post, quitting was also the best decision I've ever made.

Because I started writing.

Writing can be terrifying, heartbreaking, crazy-making, time-consuming.  But it is also invigorating, soul-replenishing, dream-fulfilling.  As a "job", it doesn't bring in a steady paycheck (and sometimes it brings no paycheck at all).  But my kids see me "go to work" with enthusiasm every day.  They hear me talk with joy about it over the dinner table.  They get to celebrate the private achievements, like finishing a draft--just as we did when I was a kid (like the graduation of an "older", single-mother student).

Loving your work is success, whether you get paid or not.  My dad never published major papers, never discovered a new kind of dinosaur, wasn't asked to speak on the world stage about his area of expertise.  But he was the most successful person I've ever known.  I'm sure my dad didn't "love" his job every day, but he loved it as a whole.

I consider it my job to follow in his footsteps.


What a lovely post, Katherine, and a wonderful tribute to a special man. May we all be so lucky as to love our work.

I love this so much. Such a great way to define success.

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