A Road Not Taken


When I was younger, I interviewed for a job at a factory that made brake shoes for railroad cars. One of the questions the personnel manager asked me was, “If you could have any job you wanted, what would it be?” Without taking any time at all to think about it, I said, “I would be a photographer for National Geographic.”

I’m not sure why I answered his question the way I did. At the time I didn’t own a decent camera, and my history of taking pictures was spotty at best. I suppose the idea of photographing fire-belching volcanoes, Bengal tigers and green-eyed beauties in exotic places appealed to me on a subconscious level.

As the man considered my answer, I thought I saw a quizzical look flash across his face, but it went by in an instant and was gone. He smiled and proceeded to the next question. The interview ended a short time later, and I went home without a job offer.

My “National Geographic” response was apparently a source of great amusement in the general offices of the brake shoe factory, and word of it eventually found its way to my father through one of the owners, who was a relative by virtue of his marriage to my cousin. My father didn’t see the humor in it. When he asked me about it later, his words said, “What did you mean by that?”, but his tone and the expression on his face said “How could you say something so stupid?” Little did I know at the time, it would turn out to be the smartest thing I said that day.

Looking back in hindsight, I realize that being honest in a job interview is the best way to sabotage any chance of actually getting the job. I know now I should have given an answer the personnel man wanted to hear, something like, “ I would be a low level manager in a loud, smoky foundry with no air-conditioning.”

Life is a series of roads taken and roads not taken, and sometimes the latter has a greater impact on the outcome than does the former. That was certainly true for me in this case, because by not going to work at the brake shoe factory, I continued on the road that led eventually, after some brief detours, to where I am now.

Today I have a job that allows me to travel to a variety of destinations across the country and stay for extended periods of time. While they are not the exotic locales found in the pages of National Geographic, they have all been interesting in their own way.

About five years ago I received a point-and-shoot camera as a gift, and I started taking pictures with it when I traveled. Since then I have become infatuated with everything about photography. I have done extensive reading. I’ve searched out online tutorials. I watched countless videos on YouTube. I’ve become fairly adept at editing with GIMP. I discovered WordPress.com and started following photography blogs. I posted some of my photos online and got some positive feedback. Recently, I bought a better camera.

The wise among us say the secret to a full life is to find our passion then figure out a way to earn a living doing it. I can’t see myself ever earning my living taking pictures, and I’m not yet ready to declare that photography is my one true passion, but I can safely say it comes closer than anything ever has before. However things turn out, it’s beginning to look like a casual remark I made in a job interview thirty-five years ago may have been more telling than I ever imagined.


About Truman

Sixty-five. Bald. Fat. Grouchy. 'bout covers it.
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3 Responses to A Road Not Taken

  1. Katie Renee says:

    I’ve always had a National Geographic in my house ever since I was a little girl. I love the image that you used for this, that issue was by far a great one. I remember when they found the girl in the photograph, now a woman, and while a lot about her had changed, she still had those beautiful and haunting eyes.

  2. Becoming a photographer for National Geographic would be incredible! Keep taking pictures! I don’t know about making it a profession but I do love taking pictures.

    I would like to think I’m decent with my compact camera and am considering moving up to a nice DSLR. I figure if I know my camera in and out and am becoming limited by it’s capabilities it’s time to move up!

  3. marting04 says:

    Excellent answer, wish I’d used that one in the past.

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