Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Luckiest Working Girl in the World

The first job I ever had was cleaning rooms at my Great-Aunt Lue's hotel in Evanston. I was 10.

The Sims Hotel circa I don't know...1950's maybe?

Working at the hotel was a rite of passage for my family - my father, my aunts and uncles, my siblings, my cousins, and me. My father was born there. I believe I was the last of us to begin my "professional" life there. We all learned how to operate the mangle, to make hospital corners, to hang sheets on the line.

I have no idea how much I earned. I only know I earned a electric blue, banana seat, Schwin.

After my great-aunt died, my father and his sister and brother made the decision to sell the hotel to the city who subsequently tore it down to build a new city center. It was the end of an era that spanned 50 odd years.

After that, I did what any adolescent girl might do...I babysat...a lot...for cash and for piano lessons.

I cleaned my next door neighbor's house. I was too young to realize at the time just how much she took advantage of me...I did their laundry, fixed some of their meals, washed sinks full of dishes, picked up the clutter, stripped beds, washed sheets, and then re-made beds in addition to the usual dusting, vacuuming, and bathroom maintenance - all for $20 a week.

Eventually we would move to a new city and I would continue to follow another rite of passage of most teenagers in the form of a job at Denny's as a hostess and waitress.

Since then, I've been a floral designer, a receptionist, a data entry clerk for a vitamin company, an usher at a performing arts complex, a secretary, an office manager, a tech support specialist, an a/p specialist, a personal assistant.

When I got out of college, I worked three jobs - 1 full time secretarial position and 2 part time positions - one as a floral designer and one as a mortuary receptionist1.

I've worked most of my life. I've worked really hard. And I've been good at everything I've tried. I've landed jobs for which I've had no experience and managed to work my way up - occasionally in record time.

A few years ago, I had a practice run at a mid-life crisis. I was in a job that, while the pay was better than I'd ever expected, I had learned to hate. I submitted my resignation even though the CEO made every attempt to convince me to stay - even offering me a better position with a 6-figure salary. I still left willingly and with relief.

I'd decided it didn't matter how much money I made or what kind of work I did, I wanted to do something for an organization for which I was passionate. I took a time out, went to the mountains, took some deep breaths, went to a therapist to talk it all out over 3 sessions, and then I came back - rejuvenated and ready.

And here I am, doing what I'm good at for an organization I love. I may never make that 6-figure salary2, but I'm happy. Content. Practically stress free.

1: This was not a bad gig and not as oogy as it may sound. I worked 12-hour shifts on the weekends and most of the time I was alone...well except for the dead people. It was mostly just really quiet and rather boring. I became a computer solitaire champ.

2: Especially not in the current economy in which nearly everyone is sliding backward rather than bumping up the wage scale.

1 comment:

zero hour said...

I'm a bit envious. I long for that stress free job.