I used to be ashamed of my resume. I used to think it was BAD that I changed jobs frequently. I thought employers would read it and think, “Um, sounds like she doesn’t know what she wants to do.” And they would have been right.
Then there was that time I got fired. So, yeah, not good. Not something you want to share and broadcast unless you are Miley Cyrus trying to prove how bad-ass you are. But it wasn’t until I recently that I started to appreciate my work history with all its changes and supposed flaws.
When I started to write my first book, I started to write and think heavily about where I had been and what I had done. This time also coincided with the, ‘I’ve been fired + I’ve dropped out of grad school. OMG. What do I do with my life?’Crisis of 2005. There’s nothing like a tailspin to force you to grab the controls while mascara runs down your face.
I started working as soon as I could, starting at 15 or 16. I’m a working class girl and we didn’t have the Internet back then to beguile the lazy hours away. Plus my mom probably would have yelled at me to get a job anyway. Actually, I don’t know if that is true. I wasn’t pushed, but I felt motivated to make my own money.
So I did what was natural, I asked my stepfather if the company he worked at had any openings. My first summer or seasonal job was at a construction company where I literally counted nuts and bolts and placed them in paper bags. I also entered data into an old fashioned desktop computer while trying to ignore the boxes and boxes – and boxes of flavored Twix candy bars that sat next to me.
I don’t remember why there were so many Twix boxes. I think they were for my stepdad. No, he’s not diabetic or overweight. Must have been warehouse humor. Did you know there is a Cookies n Cream Twix bar? I ate a lot of Twix candy bars. I never got fat though. You can hate me for it.
My stepdad eventually changed companies, but stayed in construction. I would return to construction/warehouse work whenever I was in a penny pinch. In fact, when I was really down in the dumpsters from losing my job, he took me in and I even learned how to operate a fork lift! So, that should let you know, he didn’t treat me like a “girl” – I cut metal pipes and had to do other dirty work. He actually made me feel capable and smart.
At the time though, work just felt like I was earning my keep, you know?
Most of my work history though comes from working many, many, many office jobs, more office work than I ever imagined or want to imagine ever again. Temp work got me working for a great variety of businesses from: H&R Block, Planned Parenthood, a fine meats distributor to a company that flew large animals (mostly horses) around the world – and that’s just the tip of the resume.
Often I was thrown into situations/jobs where paperwork had been neglected or where I needed to dive right in and make a lot of mistakes and ask a lot of questions in order to figure out what needed to be done. So perhaps my ability to take risks and fail often has nothing to do with any innate aptitude, but rather years and years of stepping into new environments, problem-solving and training.
Reading about how teens are working less and less was what originally got me thinking about my work history. Apparently, many teenagers in the US are opting to travel, study longer or volunteer instead of taking what was once a rite of passage – a summer job. Some blame it on the economy or immigrants taking work away, but I believe that our youth today are hungry to be entrepreneurs. I can’t tell you how many early 20somethings are trying to sell me a better way to blog or make money. I also think the world has gotten smaller and that classic message, “get out and see the world” and “work is overrated” has been shared, liked, tweeted and instragramed more than ever.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; it’s just I no longer regret that I didn’t travel abroad when I was younger. I no longer feel like life passed me by while I was slave-waging-it in some cube farm. In fact, I feel better able to handle a life abroad having had full experiences and challenges back home. I’m grateful that I currently work less and make more, and that things didn’t happen the other way around.
I was also an archaeologist. I worked at a children’s summer camp in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado for three summers. And I still have a hard time believing I was a Waldorf teacher.
One of my favorite jobs, surprisingly, was at Little Caesars Pizza because I worked with such fun people. We laughed while we made phallic shapes out of dough and laughed even harder when the manager discovered our creativity in the freezer. I hated when all the phones were ringing and I smelled like a dirty kitchen after a day’s work, but this was where I learned that people do not read signs, and that it’s who you work with that makes a job.
I know what it’s like to be a cashier with a long line out of the door. I know that plumbing supplies are cleverly named. I know that homeowner’s associations are stupid, stupid, stupid places to work. And I certainly remember how much my back hurt from shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow.
I’ve worked with every color, all ages, assholes, racists, mean girls, drunks, idiots, prisoners, hotties and thankfully, some nice and normal people, too. I’ve worked with people who have changed my life, and if that’s too dramatic to say, they made me a better person.
When I was going through jobs like they were costume changes (see GREAT CRISIS), I hit a special low. I worked at Target. In my thirties. I had always enjoyed being a Target shopper and I couldn’t take any more of the homeowner’s association’s absurdity, so I thought, “Why not?” But the idea of being seen in that store sent me into a shame-induced tizzy so I signed up to work the graveyard shift stocking shelves.
As you might imagine, working the graveyard shift produces some rather colorful Target team members like my manager, a gay vampire. Now, you probably think I’m exaggerating or being funny, but no, I am not. He had his incisors enhanced. He had fangs. And he wasn’t the only person I worked with who had them (but that’s the non-profit world, another story).
Nice guys, by the way.
I’m coming out, people. I’m coming out. I worked at Target. In my thirties…and I liked it.
My partner tells me that I should be proud of all I’ve been able to accomplish in the short time I’ve been here in Siem Reap. (It’s been hard adjusting after Thailand.) Funny thing though, I just never recognized that I’ve been thrown into new situations and have survived for all of my working life.