There was a time not so long ago that a 30 something being with the same employer for 10 years was very common however I think those days are gone. Coincidentally perhaps, recently I have found myself thinking about the jobs I’ve had and my current job. I’ve thought about the learning experiences and knowledge I’ve accumulated along the way and thought about my future.
Like many girls, my first job was babysitting. While babysitting most certainly had it’s learning opportunities, I won’t speak of that today because in the end I don’t find myself thinking of it often.
Park Ranger: Age 16. summer
My first non cash job was working as a Park Ranger. I heard about the opportunity over the morning announcements in high school when I was about 16 years old and applied. I got the job and the first day of my summer vacation was spent in my grandparents mini-van as they drove me about 8 hours up north to a government park in the middle of nowhere. That summer was my first time being away from my friends, family and everything that made me feel secure and comfortable. Our work camp consisted of several cabins and about 20ish teenage girls assigned two to a room. My first night I was lonely, and remorseful of my decision to accept the job. I woke up in the night and rolled over to see the eye of the Wiccan girl in the room beside me pressed up against a hole in the wall staring at me. The next morning I covered the hole with a picture. The job was physically demanding and over the course of the summer I gained a lot of weight in muscle mass which took me probably 3/4 of the following school year to lose. I built spawning beds for salmon, planted trees, maintained portage trails and other such natury work. I learned the value of strong work ethic and over the summer ventured outside of my comfort zone and actually let the other girls get to know me. That summer my musical taste expanded beyond the radio pop I had been listening to, I dyed my hair for the first time and I learned to be myself and not to worry about the opinions of others. The changes in me were apparent to others because for my final year of high school I became more outgoing, dyed my hair purple, got my eyebrow pierced, and changed my style of clothes completely. That was also the year I tried marijuana for the first time and drank vodka and Pepsi ever so occasionally at school. Once I was accepted into college
Waste Incineration plant: Age 17 and 18, summers
I went from my summer job being all girls, to being the only girl. When you first work at a garbage plant you gag from the smell of hot steaming garbage but you actually get used to it. I was a cleaner which at a garbage incineration plant consists of shoveling knee deep piles of metal that was magnetically removed and fell off the belts, sweeping up piles of maggots, shoveling sludge and various equally as glamorous tasks. Once when cleaning up the maggots a pig’s leg fell on my hardhat from a belt above. As I became known for my hard work I was graduated to a roll I much preferred. I worked the “bridge” which is what it sounds like. I worked on a bridge that crosses over the massive pit of garbage and had to monitor the five shredders to make sure they didn’t get blocked. I had to pull off any items too large or dense to make it through the shredders. The small things i did by hand and the large ones I had a remote control for a giant overhead claw which in retrospect is pretty awesome. Being the only girl meant that there were nudie mags and calendars everywhere. Those didn’t bother me and I never said anything. What I didn’t realize at my young age is that I should have spoken up about the sexually fueled comments some of the men directed at me and especially the especially pervy guy that would follow me to my change room and said he wanted to see me shower. I remember having to force the door closed with him pushing it and me locking it to keep him out. The highlight of that job was when the police would bring in their drug seizures to incinerate. The marijuana burning days made the whole place small amahzing! I didn’t have much learning at that job however I think having experience in a dirty labour job has garnered me increased respect with some individuals.
Residential brain injury: Age 19: 8 months
My first job out of college was working in a residential home with men who had acquired brain injuries. They were low functioning and the job entailed a lot of personal care. I didn’t like the staff who worked there nor the management. From that job I learned that I don’t want to work in a field that involves me wiping anyone’s ass or that involves me ducking punches from a man three times my size.
Residential brain injury: Age 19 plus: About 5 years:
Yes, more brain injury but this time it was residential treatment with the goal of supporting individuals to gain independence. My official job title was “Lifeskills Coach”. This job provided me with more learning opportunities than the previous as over the years I was appointed to creating programming, gathering statistics, writing reports and presenting materials at case conferences. Nearing the end I was working with one client who’s behaviours and treatment of me caused me to become burnt out. I took a page from Seinfeld and left that job and had a “summer of George”. I spent that summer laying on the deck sunbathing and reading. I owned at house by this time though so my summer of George couldn’t last forever and I began looking for a new job.
Social assistance: last 10 years
In my last 10 years of work I have learned more about people and the world than I had ever known. I have had the privilege of meeting a hugely diverse group of individuals. I’ve had clients who have been political prisoners in their home countries, bank robbers, murderers, corporate CEO’s, members of global bike gangs, abusers and the abused. Over the years I have learned that the manner in which you speak to people and support them will earn their trust and respect no matter what their background. I have learned that the world is more corrupt than I ever thought was true. I know of immigrants who have arrived with fake documents which were necessary to escape governments without persecution, I know of police in my own city who blackmail those they are sworn to protect and those in my own government who use our data system to stalk and prey on who they wish. Despite all the negative which I have become aware of, the positives greatly outweigh them. I have helped countless people find homes, jobs, medical care, regain self-worth and find happiness when they felt all was lost. I have made a few close friends out of co-workers who have been more helpful than they will ever know at times in my life when I needed help the most. I have learned to passionately stand for what I believe is right even if it contradicts the opinions of my superiors. I have gained confidence in facilitating groups and presenting in public forums. With all of those opportunities for which I am forever grateful, I can’t say that I want to continue this work in it’s current capacity for another 10 years. I am starting to think of new opportunities, new challenges and new passions. I don’t know yet what those are, but I’m certain that they will become clear when the time is right.
Last night I dutch ovened my cat. Initially he was curious and went in for a closer sniff however his demeanor abruptly changed and he bit my ass. I regret nothing.