Friday, April 27, 2012

Roaring Twenties: Get The Rubes...

 ...or "How I Paid My Way Through A Haphazard Existence"
Rubes (n.) - money or dollars
Here are some of the things I did for money in my twenties (in very loose chronological order):
dog sitter
Ritz camera sales associate/photo processor
SPCA animal caretaker
short-order cook and pizza delivery girl at Italian restaurant
radio station marketing manager

insurance claim investigator/researcher in Florida
Teacher's Assistant
taught 2 semesters of college public speaking

costume designer in Maine for a summer, made costumes for camp theater program
camp counselor at arts camp in Maryland for 2 weeks for 2 summers
marketing associate
corporate event planner
trivia host/writer
freelance writer/photographer
freelance marketing associate
retail at a vintage clothing store

I really have no idea how many jobs I've had in the past ten years. The above is merely an outline; a mere suggestion

There are two things I am really, really good at: making money, and spending it.

There have been jobs I absolutely loved (camp counseling, trivia hosting, freelance writing); jobs I hated so much I contemplated permanent bodily damage to get out of them (corporate event planning, animal caretaker, retail); and jobs that weren't titilating but afforded me some luxuries I might not otherwise have had (bartending, serving, teaching).

I was really and truly horrible at some things. Retail, for one. I hope to God I never have to work retail again. It was the most boring job I have ever had, and I am simply not a good enough sales person to foist merchandise off onto people. I HATE pushy sales associates, and therefore I stuck by the ideology that I should be as hands-off as possible. Note: owners of retail establishments do not hire people to be "hands-off." This did not go over well.

I was also pretty terrible at teaching, at least my first semester. I went the route of "23-year-old-teaching-college-and-trying-to-seem-qualified-when-she's-not." I refused to accept late assignments for ANY reason (Grandmother in the hospital? What, do they not allow text books at the bedside?), I graded on what I thought was the least arbitrary scale possible (which meant numbers, which, when you're grading qualitative assignments like written essays, does not go over well), and I refused to take any questions until the end of the class. Which meant most of the time, students had forgotten their questions by then. Which meant I was safe from having to answer questions I didn't know the answers to.
I got better my second semester. I relaxed the rules a bit, and learned what battles to fight.  I discovered the joys of conversational teaching, that is, to treat learning like a conversation with everyone participating. I stopped taking things personally. I even want to say I would have actually grown to LIKE teaching,  but I wasn't interested in pursuing a PhD, and so my academic career ended with a mere Masters. (In that field - you might as well not have a degree at all.) 
And then there were the jobs at which I was merely "ok." Nannying, for one. I was responsible, marginally mature, and did a very good job of making sure that none of my charges ever caught on fire, maimed themselves or anyone else, or watched pornography under my charge. I was not a very good nanny in the sense that I am innately lacking in the gene that makes one comfortable enough around children to actually be "fun." I'm far too self-conscious and creeped out by the fact that children are so...INTUITIVE. THEY KNOW WHAT YOU'RE THINKING. THEY KNOW YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING. I also lacked the creativity to come up with anything remotely constructive for children to do, beyond building forts or making elaborate grilled cheese sandwiches. Those were basically the only tricks in my arsenal. 

One thing I was good at - playing beauty shop. As cliche and gendered as it may be, I was always a hit with little girls because I let them slather me with make up, dress me up in "princess" costumes, and do my hair however they pleased. What? I know what makes girls happy - I was one.

Pretty much every weekend of my teenage life was spent heading off to suggest good fort-building material or try not to flinch while someone pulled my hair into thirty tiny little pigtails.

There were the jobs I loved - freelance writing, short-order cooking, costume designing. I loved working with my hands, I loved the stress of a busy kitchen on a busy night with orders coming in, my hands flying to create subs and sandwiches as fast as I could. The rhythm was nearly Zen, and I considered each creation a craft. Perfectly-sautéed onions atop perfectly browned bread, with the lettuce sprinkled evenly and tomatoes spaced neatly. Costume designing for the children was fun too - children in big theater productions are far more gung-ho to wear loud, crazy, colorful costumes. The don't worry about looking fat, or being self-conscious. They are enthusiastic critics, however, but most of the time it is much easier to tell a little bitty actor "no" than it is to say "no" to an adult actor. No, your costume may not be made to catch on fire for effect. No, you may not be a blue frog, although I appreciate and applaud your creativity.

And I loved it. Picking each word, being forced to let go of flawless paragraphs for the sake of space, anguishing over whether to use "a" or "the." I went to amazing restaurants when I was a freelancer, I attended events and clubs I never would have otherwise. And the food...oh, the's a little sampling of the delicious things I was forced to eat during my tenure as a freelance food writer. (And photographer.)

Yes, these are pancakes with bacon cooked in, smothered in bananas and peanut butter. The Elvis-special.

Bacon-wrapped scallops. Mmmm.

Chicken 'n Waffles - a Baltimore specialty.

Fish baked in a banana leaf.

Ohhh, the food.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics did a study and discovered that Baby Boomers, on average, have held about 10.5 jobs in their lifetimes. This seems implausible today when people seem to start working as young as 12 (I was a Mother's Helper!) and will be working probably until their late 80's (Social Security, hmmmmm?). I count 19 jobs here, and that's just in my twenties and doesn't include my current job. There were many more jobs I had in high school (summer researcher for Board of Education, library page, Renaissance wench, to name a few). And there will probably be many more. In my current life, I juggle my career with trivia, bartending gigs, and a fervent desire to add "book writing" to that list. (We'll see how that goes.)

But I learned something from every job, and I'm pretty sure I'm the better for it. I find, in my current career path, that all the useless bits of knowledge I've picked up along the way come into play. Especially in a nonprofit, where one is forced to wear many hats. Building a community kitchen and need to know ordering, layout, procedure, and safety protocol of a commercial kitchen? I gotcha. I worked in them for years. Photo editing? The basics are down. Quick, we need a gimmick for this presentation - ok, I'll make props.

Oh, the jobs; the jobs.

Coming up next on The Roaring Twenties: Dating. You know you've been waiting for this one.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. The next one...I've been waiting for it. Make sure you include our lesbian trysts and how we broke up and got back together several times.


The New Glitterati said...

Our love is too pretty for words.