Me: “I got your anniversary present.”
Jake: “Oh yeah?”
Me: “Yeah. It’s a t-shirt that says ‘My heart belongs to a librarian.’ I got a matching one that says ‘My heart belongs to a guy whose job is kind of up in the air.’”
I once refused to date anyone who worked in oil. I also refused to date anyone under 6′ tall, losing his hair, and who didn’t like cats, but the oil thing was actually pretty reasonable. You see, growing up, my dad worked for the electric company; which meant that during storm season, he was gone.
I remember how stressed out my mom always was during those months. She worked full time as a nurse and the same weather that called my dad out, called her out. She was never the disciplinarian or very organized, so it was overwhelming for her to be left on five acres with two kids. It sucked for my brother and I, too. If we had a spring recital, my dad probably wasn’t going to make it. When he was home, he was either sleeping because he was so exhausted or screaming at us because he was so exhausted and we were too little to contain our excitement that dad was home. I don’t want that and when I was dating, I wasn’t willing to purse a relationship that would lead to that.
For those of you who didn’t spend your free time hanging out at oil rigs in high school, I’ll sum the industry up for you. The highs are high and the lows are low. So, as an adult, I’ve gotten to see family and friends spend wildly for years, only to turn around and try to sell their fifty thousand dollar cars, when things take a turn. The only people who succeed in oil, are those who acknowledge both extremes and prepare. Those guys do exist… but they’re usually over 40 and saw the results of the last downturn.
When Jake came along, his online profile said that he was a Fluid Engineer and this wasn’t what he planned to do for the rest of his life. He had a degree and a job and apparently aspirations for more. He didn’t judge me for only being a half time librarian, at the time, so I figured it was only fair to give him a shot. Obviously, I’m glad I did.
Me: “I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too.”
Me: “You’re everything I need and want… only shorter.”
While I’m thrilled with all that is Jake, there’s much to be desired in all that is Jake’s career. His schedule has been wonky for months, meaning that sometimes I think we’ll get to see each other daily this week, only for him to leave the next morning and return five days later. When we do see each other, it’s not uncommon to watch one twenty-minute Netflix show and go to bed. A couple of weeks ago, I finally broached the subject.
Me: “What’s the goal here? This sucks, but if it’s leading you to a career you want, fine. I support you, but what do you want?”
Jake: “I guess… I guess I just wanted to work hard for a few years, while I’m young, save a lot of money and then be able to do what I want with my life, without having to worry about whether or not it will support me and my family.”
He went on to tell me that he enjoys teaching people who want to learn, but he knows there’s no money in that. He’d like to save the money he’d need to live debt free, purchasing his first home outright. Though he’s been demoted from Fluid Engineer to truck driver and now to solids control, which is just manual labor, he wants to see if oil picks back up by the end of the year, as the higher ups have said it will. If not, he’s willing to get out and pursue something different… which is good because he’s working 12 hours days and ends them far too exhausted to enjoy life. One night, as we cuddled in bed at 9:30, because he had to leave my place at 4:00 in the morning, he kissed my shoulder and told me…
Jake: “I promise this won’t last past the end of the year. I know it sucks, but I won’t be making terrible money.”
Me: “I don’t care how much money you make. I don’t want to be alone all the time, when we’re married.”
Jake: “You won’t be.”
Me: “What if oil goes back up, you get the office job you’ve always wanted, and you’re home every night, then it falls again? We’ll have small children and I’m not telling them daddy won’t be at their birthday parties.”
Jake: “Those guys are different, babe. I’ve planned financially and I won’t get myself in the same place they are, having to keep up with all of their debt. If that happens, I’ll be able to to get out.”
Me: “Good. If I had to choose between you being home every night at $40,000 a year, or being two weeks on and two weeks off at $200,000, I’d choose the former. I don’t need $80 manicures and designer handbags. I need you. I’d rather you go to the kids’ recitals with me than drive them alone in a Lexus.”
The next morning, Jake woke at 3:30 and drove an hour to Kingston, to do 12 hours of manual labor on a rig. I remember being married to a man who fabricated jobs and reading the Facebook posts of women complaining that their husbands work too hard. Oh, how I’d have given anything for that problem. Today, knowing that when I get home, Jake will be there, likely with just enough energy for conversation, I can do one of the things I love most. I can say that I was right. It’s a great problem to have a man who carefully plans for the future. It’s a great problem to have a man who works too hard to ensure his financial security. It’s a great problem to have a man who’s not above doing manual labor, despite his degree. So, I’ll keep my end of the bargain and be supportive. One day, I’ll forgo the new car for the one with 40,000 miles on it. I’ll save the expensive massages for late term pregnancy. I’ll continue to paint my own nails. In turn, I’m confident Jake will keep his end of the bargain and be there when we’re married with children, because he’s never let me down.
He thought I was joking.