For instance, the one in which I entered names and addresses from handwritten cards into a computer for eight loooooooooong hours every day. I bribed myself to keep on living with Mrs. Baird’s cupcakes and one Sunkist a day from the vending machine. Still less fun than it sounds.
…Or the next summer, at the same company, in which I weeded out duplicates from the universe’s longest list of churches. In French. Which I don’t speak. It took me the entire summer.
…Or the summer after that with a company that hired me without actually having a position for me. I occasionally made copies, chatted with the secretaries, and tore sticky notes into miniscule bits to give myself some job security. Oh, and I also avoided their mandatory company-wide “spiritual strengths” meetings, which sounded as pleasant to me as steel wool underwear, by hiding under my desk. (I kept a pile of paper clips on the floor to give me an excuse were I ever caught. I wasn’t.)
…Or my first job out of college—pregnant and newly moved to Unemployment City, U.S.A. I searched high and low for English-nerdy jobs, particularly ones that I could do at home with the baby, but I ended up settling for a part-time position at a dusty resale store in an abandoned shopping center. (I still kick myself for not at least applying to Starbucks. Why? Why? Why? Why? Oh right, placenta brain.) I stocked dusty shelves, reorganized dusty knick-knacks, and coughed over the dusty cash register while dealing with unreasonable customers. I also dusted. And then quit.
…Or the next job I got as a church custodian since it allowed me to bring newborn Natalie along. She slept in the nursery cribs while I scrubbed bathrooms and vacuumed between pews, then I’d read novels from their library while she nursed. It wasn’t such a bad setup (besides leaving me exhausted and grumpy at the end of every day), but I couldn’t deal with my bosses. I would single-handedly clean up debris from a giant church dinner, steam clean the carpets, scrub the urinals, wash the windows… and one of the elders would complain that I had left some dust on the underside of a table in the attic. Perhaps I have a problem with authority figures (make that probably), but (okay, definitely) my days as a “sexton” were over.
…Or the last teaching job I took in the States. I was hired to teach several different courses to students ranging from kindergarten to college in both one-on-one and classroom settings. And now I need a nap. I loved the teaching experience itself (Have you ever played Study Skills Jeopardy with 7th graders? Or taught anything to first graders? They were a blast!). However, the company I worked for required me to make my own curriculum for each of the different classes from scratch. I also had to drive myself across town to different schools throughout the day, and I consistently put 60 unpaid hours a week into the job. In addition, I kept getting called to the principal’s office for:
1) Wearing the wrong kind of jacket.
2) Taking too long to drive from one school to another across town during rush hour.
3) Failing to adequately prepare my English student for his math test.
4) Not allowing a student to do unrelated homework in my class. (After a parent complained… “But my little girl is just so busy! She doesn’t have time to be paying attention in class!”)
5) Breaking the ice with an international student by telling him I would be moving to Italy the following year.
6) Failing to come prepared to a tutoring session. (I brought colorful worksheets I had written and printed up myself, my own books, two packs of markers, a homemade memory game, and a timer. But I made the mistake of asking my student if she had a favorite pen she wanted to use. Her parent called in irate that I had come “unprepared,” and my boss refused to hear my side of the story.)
That last one was the kicker. Irrational parents are one of the most insidious forces in all of nature, and I simply could not deal with them without support from my employer. I was stressed from my peeling toenail polish to my split-ends. Ironically, we were also losing money due to my work-related expenses—gasoline, daycare, vodka by the truckload. I called it quits after one eternally long semester.
Only two of the fifteen jobs I’ve held over the years met my needs for both creative outlet and a boss who didn’t make me cry. However, something tells me that I am unlikely to find a career as a university student worker. (It’s too bad; planning freshmen orientation was fun AND involved free food!) So where does that leave me now?
☑ Large, sticky psychological issues with authority figures
☑ Unsatisfied with my [quite lengthy] résumé
☑ But absolutely no desire to re-enter the workplace
☑ But wishing I could earn some money all the same
☑ Dreaming of the day I can write at home in my pajamas as a professional writer rather than just an errant blogger with a snarly job history.