When it comes to jobs of my past, I don’t exactly have a stellar track record.
I started off on the straight-and-narrow, at age 11, babysitting for my mom’s friends and neighbors. Ever the professional, I received my babysitting certification from the Red Cross. I knew how to perform CPR. I knew how to bandage abrasions. I knew how to stick my fingers into a kid’s throat to remove a blockage. Basically, I could tell parents, Hey. Nothing bad should happen to your kids under my care, but by golly if they choke or bleed or their hearts stop beating for any reason — any reason at all — I should, theoretically, be able to save them.
I’d pack along my little babysitting kit, complete with crafts and games and things kids liked to do 20 years ago that didn’t involve batteries or electricity or controllers or computer-mimicked hand motions, and I quickly became the IT babysitter for the ‘hood. Kids adored me, believe it or not, and thanks to the under-the-table payment nature of the gig, I was quickly able to save a pretty impressive amount of money by the time I was 15.
Then, through some unfortunate standard of life progression set by our peers, I decided it was time to get a “real” job. I don’t know why, since in retrospect, babysitting was pretty much the best gig ever. The kids would go to bed at 8 and I had the whole night to watch Cocktail and gobble snacks provided by generous parents. Plus, it kept me out of trouble.
Regardless, I moved on to burger flipping at A&W Rootbeer, then Product Replacement Plan selling at Best Buy, then table waiting at a sports bar, then tour guiding on my college campus and dish washing at the nearby coffee shop and waking up at 5:00 a.m. to sign people into the gym and wipe down mirrors and ellipticals.
After quitting college and moving back to Nebraska, waited tables again. Then I took a road trip. Then I fixed and sold watches. Then I moved with Justin to Georgia and waited more tables and worked in a jewelry store and finally – finally — landed an environmental internship on the Air Force base.
In one year, I actually managed to file taxes for 7 different jobs in 3 separate states.
Turns out that’s not the best way to build your resume.
Once we moved to North Carolina, it was on to white-collar America. My first job here was for an environmental consulting company (which involved a very interesting interview), but my hour-and-a-half commute was turning me into a drooling zombie, so that only lasted 6 months.
Then, the job on Fort Bragg.
The job where I cracked.
The job that launched my Costa Rica hot sauce makin’ career and effectively redirected my entire professional course from that of an eventual suit-wearing government schmoozer to a beatnik hippie travel writer, if I could only have my way. (Minus the beatnik hippie part because I enjoy all kinds of travel. All kinds.)
After a year of absolutely nothing happening, I started hourly work at a bar just to earn some cash to feel like less of a lump, and then as a part-time real estate assistant, and this, my friends, is where you would probably still find me in another year, had I not finally realized my problem.
I wasn’t working.
I was gliding.
I wasn’t planning.
I was drifting.
They say that dreams don’t work unless you do.
So I quit my job in order to work.
Which only partially makes me feel like a loser.
But also, now I know.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt I know that working my ass off for someone else’s success is NOT what I want for myself in this world.
I have to stop trying to find myself.
I have to create myself.
It only took me approximately 47 jobs to get here.
Back at the bottom of the ladder again, but this time, it’s my own.
And when you build your own ladder, it seems, it becomes a hell of a lot more satisfying to climb.
For the past 5 years, the closest I’ve ever come to a hostile working environment is the time, only a couple of months ago, that I went all Office Space on my home printer and accidentally-on-purpose dropped it in a childish fit of frustration at its apparent refusal to do its job.
We haven’t spoken since.
Looking back, I realize I’ve been very fortunate. Aside from one boss of questionable moral character and another with questionable people skills whatsoever, I’ve had some pretty fantastic co-workers throughout my adult working life. (I say “adult working life” because we can’t even begin to explore the smorgasbord of bona fide taxed jobs I’ve carried since I was 15-years-old and literally flipping burgers at an ever-classy A&W Root Beer/gas station combo.)
Not the exact one where I worked, but you get the idea.
It started with my first “real” post-college job doing GIS (i.e. “making maps”) for engineers in an environmental consulting company, complete with the extra-private, 6-foot cubicle walls to ensure maximum productivity with minimum person-to-person interaction and an hour and 20 minute commute each way, and then continued when I moved on to working in GIS and then sustainability programs for the U.S. Army in an office full of mostly women – amazing women and one guy – surrounded by a world full of men and politics and acronyms and things that exploded and made the walls shake. It even continued when I reverted back to waitressing in a bar where I worked only for shoddy tips and the occasional bounced paycheck and where I mopped floors for free.
Throughout the history of these endeavors, my co-workers have always made the job, no matter how mundane, interesting and worthwhile. They understood the fact that we were all in this together. They joked, they laughed, and they didn’t mind when I launched the random stress ball over opaque and foreboding cubicle fortress walls.
They were good times.
But apparently, times are a-changin’.
At the risk of someone discovering me and subsequently finding myself dooced, I have to say — things at my new job are not so easygoing. Imagine 3 women working together in a 6′ x 6′ closet, trying to be productive and answering phone calls and pretending to be tech savvy, all while the big boss is away for an extended stint in the Reserves. Then imagine that 2 of those women can’t stand each other, and the third — that would be me — was only just brought in as extra help and currently feels like the knotted sock her dogs like to pull taut between them with clamped and barred teeth.
Only more uncomfortable.
On the one hand, we have the fiercely strong and independent Alpha Female, who territorially stands her forged piece of ground, the boarders carved deep into the earth with her constant pacing and panting and paranoia. Judge her as we might, the pack can’t help but admire the Alpha for her undying loyalty and self-assurance.
Drawing by: Beeju
On the other hand, we have the timid-yet-determined Under Dog, the one who knows she was brought in to be the boss, knows she has to strategically yet tactfully put the Alpha in her place, and knows that in any good plot line, the underdog wins. The pack likes the Under Dog. We know she can bring good things to us. But we’re afraid to show our faltering faith in the Alpha.
Drawing by: Beeju
And then there’s me. What role do I play in this little saga?
So far, all I can figure is I’m just the one who cleans up their shit.
And for right now, I’m thinking that’s the best place to be.
*I apologize in advance to the straight men who read this blog for the photos of attractive men that follow. This is post is not about attractive men. It’s just how the photos happened to work out. Ladies and gay men, you’re welcome.
I have to say, I’m a pretty lucky person.
I’m lucky because I have some pretty hilarious Facebook friends.
And in a world where it seems like people are consistently content to cut each other down, to take pleasure in others’ failures, and to get so caught up in the frantic climb to the top, like so many salmon swimming upstream, sometimes it’s just nice to have people who make me laugh.
Even if it’s at myself.
Especially if it’s at myself.
In a fit of frustrated self-pity yesterday at not being able to even get interviewed for jobs I don’t really want (Ding! Ding! Maybe that’s the problem.), I did something bad. I committed a Facebook faux pas. A Facebook party foul, if you will.
(A farty foul? A parbook foul? I’ll work on that.)
But the point is that it wasn’t good. It was like when you’re at a party, everyone’s having a fantastic time just chillin’, having a couple of drinks, perhaps discussing how it’s physically possible for Jared Leto to still look completely jumpable while wearing a spirit hood, and yet, beyond all reason or comprehension, he does… you know, the usual party stuff, and somehow you manage to knock over an entire pitcher of a tasty, alcoholic beverage and some jerk yells, “PARTY FOUL!” across the room and everybody boos.
As if you didn’t already feel awful enough.
Embarrassing fact: I just learned what a spirit hood is for the first time this morning thanks to laxsupermom’s comment on my post from yesterday. And I have to say, I see the appeal. Especially if it comes gratis with a Jared Leto attached. (Photo source.)
So what I did is I posted one of those, oh-I’m-so-bummed-and-emo-so-please-feel-sorry-for-me-even-though-I’m-making-a-joke-about-myself-under-the-guise-of-humor status updates. It said:
With “Hot Sauce Maker” and “Freelance Writer” as my last two positions held, I suppose I can understand why no one wants to interview me. :(
Yep. Complete with sad face emoticon.
Fortunately, my friends are not the types who would let this dampen their spirits. Nor will they play into my self-pity, because, let’s face it — that doesn’t help anyone.
Instead, they offered me several potentially lucrative job opportunities working for them that hadn’t even occurred to me:
- Part-time wearer outer of 1-year-old twin girls who gets paid in mashed bananas and limitless laughter (thanks, Jenn!);
- Roadie for a travelling masseuse to the stars, where my payment for strapping a massage table to my back and carrying around a bag of assorted lotions and lubes at rock concerts would be backstage passes to said rock concerts (thanks, Kathryn!);
- Professional traveling hippie/road trip partner-in-crime a la Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s On the Road, who gets paid with the freedom to do whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t cost any money. Because we wouldn’t have any (thanks, Ashley H!);
- Classy hooker, where there would be “no getting near the twig and berries,” and yet I would still get paid with “free dinners and Kentucky Derby races” (thanks again, Ashley H!); and
- One opportunity where I might actually get paid. Like with money. And I wouldn’t have to take off my clothes. (Thanks, Ashley L.!)
I’ll admit — some of those gigs actually sound kind of cool to me. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones those are.
“Okay, Mr. Vedder — would you please remove your shorts?”
And finally, there were the comments that weren’t job offers, but written solely to comfort and console me in my time of need. Comments like:
- “You forgot street-walker.” (Thanks, Kelly — I forgot I did that from 2003-2004. I’ll add that to the ol’ res. Maybe I’ll get some bites.)
- “I didn’t know you made hot sauce.” (Thanks, Heather — I was a regular hot sauce makin’ machine, during my time in Costa Rica last year. Sadly, my dreams of choking on capsaicin for the rest of my life were capped when I had to return to the real world.)
- “I’ll interview you if you just need to feel better about your experience. :)” (Thanks, Tim — Because I don’t actually want a job. I just want a fake interview that’s somehow supposed to make me feel better about my work experience even though you’re not “interviewing” me based on my work experience. But actually, when I think about it, that might work. So ignore my sarcasm.)
- “Yeah unless your last name is Tabasco?” (Thanks, John — I knew I should’ve married up. Of course, if I married someone from the Tabasco clan, I wouldn’t be making the sauce — I’d just be bathing in the money it procured.)
So there you have it. Nine bulleted reasons why I love my Facebook friends. Really! I do — for always making me laugh.
And, in case you’re wondering, I really do have Hot Sauce Producer and Freelance Writer on my resume. It’s a very particular set of skills, but combined with a winning attitude and a go-to personality, it just might make me the perfect match for a company that’s going places.
So. This morning I had a revelation.
I know… you’re thinking, here we go. She’s going to talk about one of those revelations again — it’ll be one of those posts where she makes some big declaration about how she’s finally going to get off her ass and start making changes and find her dream job and discover spiritual enlightenment, and blah, blah blah.
Seriously. Can’t. Wait.
Well, you’re in luck, because it IS one of those. Kind of. But not really.
Because I have to be realistic. I’m realizing it’s kind of difficult to get off your ass and make your dream job happen if you don’t exactly know what it is or how to get started. So, following that train of thought, I’ve been looking for an interim job — something to get me out of doing laundry every once-in-a-while and help me remember what it’s like to earn a paycheck. Maybe an office clerk or a realtor’s assistant or something along those lines.
Because dammit, I would be good at that.
The problem is that at the moment, these jobs are few and far between. And where they do exist, they’re highly competitive. And for some reason, “Freelance Writer from Jan-July 2011″ and “Hot Sauce Maker Extraordinaire from Sep-Nov 2010″ don’t immediately present themselves as qualifying work experiences.
But that’s because they don’t know me. If they’d just get to know me, they’d see how my life experience, combined of course with technical know-how, above-average literacy, and superb communication skills, would make me pretty much an awesome person to have as their right-hand-man.
Unfortunately, the only jobs I’m finding listed along those lines turn out to be spammers — jackasses who solely exist in this world to prey upon people who are just looking for a decent break.
At least they give Karma something to do.
The good(?) news is that the 247 illegitimate employment responses I’ve received are making me reevaluate my entire find-something-to-keep-me-busy-and-pay-the-bills-so-I-can-structure-my-schedule-and-feel-less-guilty-about-not-working-and-just-find-time-to-write-on-the-side plan.
See, not too long ago, I whined about lack of signs showing me I was on the right path. And, in effect, perhaps I was ignoring signs telling me I was on the wrong path. But here’s the thing — It’s pretty impossible to ignore the fact that every single sign I receive about getting a crappy office job is telling me NOT to do it. (Let’s just pretend the terrible economy and almost nonexistent job market has nothing to do with it, mmmkay?)
The sad fact is that when I’m honest with myself, one of those jobs would put me exactly back in the position I was in when I first flipped my lid, quit my job, and moved to Costa Rica. And that really can’t be a healthy cycle to start over.
Where does that leave me?
Well, I’m going to continue my quest for interim employment and keep my fingers crossed for something remotely stimulating, challenging, and worthwhile (perhaps an assistant to someone busy and interesting and trusting of my creative personality and the ways I can assist him/her in maintaining the status of being the type of person I’d like to become).
Because, hey — laundry is laundry and a paycheck is a paycheck.
But. I can’t lose focus on my goal, which is writing. Or travel. Or both.
And for me, travel is like breathing – a bare necessity of life.
I kind of forgot where I was going with this, so I will end with two propositions:
1) If you need an assistant — even a virtual one who can type, make phone calls, organize schedules, file, collate, fax and email, I’m your girl. Oh, and I can also make really awesome flyers. Because if you’re cool, you probably need someone who can make flyers.
2) If you want to pay someone to travel to exotic places, take pictures and write back to you about all the exciting things I’m eating, drinking and doing because you’re curious about the world but terrified you might get stuck on a plane next to the most banal, talkative person in existence who also happens to have the bird flu and never washes his hands or covers his mouth when he sneezes, I am definitely your girl.
Because while I don’t particularly want to contract bird flu, I have a feeling that kind of job would be worth it.
So, so worth it.
Have you ever noticed that when television shows or Hollywood movies want to make you feel sorry for a female character, they usually cast her as a waitress?
I mean, really, the biggest thing that makes waiting tables a crappy job (besides the minimal pay, odd hours, and cleaning up other people’s messes) is that obnoxious woman who, as I tell her our specials or bring her another wine spritzer, lets herself think that she’s better than me.
It doesn’t happen often, but I can tell which ones they are. There’s this expression of relief that washes over her face as she makes the conscious decision to not say thank you and instead, turns to her dining partners (who, more often than not, look embarrassed to be seen with her), so she can regale them with stories of her own personal intelligence, wit, and charm.
Because she, after all, did not end up a food server.
(Is that the same blonde actress giving our leading lady the evil eye in both movies? If there’s anything worse than being the waitress we feel sorry for, it’s being the waitress we don’t even think about.)
But I’m here to tell you, friends, that you should never make that mistake. Not only do you portray yourself as a repugnant, judgmental ass, but it’s just plain not nice.
Believe it or not, I actually have a bachelor of science in environmental geoscience with a minor in geology.
I even took a class called Geomorphology.
I could go to grad school, if I felt that would make me any happier.
I’ve worked for both the U.S. Air Force and the Army, as well as a private environmental consulting company – a job that, may I remind you, was not easy to get.
Does this make me better than you? Of course not.
It just makes me better than you think.
In fact, some of the most intelligent people I’ve known have worked in the food service industry at one time or another. A girl with whom I work right now is an RN. So, snobby waitress-hater at my table, the good news is she can save you if one day you choke on your snide-laced pride.
Whether they’re doing it for the social aspect, as a transitional phase, or because it was the only thing preventing them from knocking over cubicle walls or beating the crap out of copy machines, it doesn’t really matter.
More often than not, it’s the catch-all career for those who, while pursuing all of the “shoulds” in their lives, realized they lost sight of the “wants” and decided to try again.
Is that really so degrading?
They’re biding their time until the next big thing.
But, most important, they bring you your food.
And if you’re as smart as you think you are, disparaging woman at my table, then you already know that you should never, ever bite the hand that feeds you.
See you tonight!