My first job was through the summer hire program on base and I was assigned to the Pass & ID office. This was back when you still made paper ID cards and ran them through the laminator. I earned $4.75 an hour. In what was to be a common denominator in my future work experience, I was terrified of screwing up, and I managed my terror by being as quiet and busy and reliable and worker bee-ish as possible. I am absolutely positive the staff sergeants I worked around thought I was the most uptight and irritating high school student they'd ever had the displeasure of being around.
My second job was being a commissary bagger, a job that earned me considerably more money. Toni, the head bagger, was a four-foot eighty-pound woman with a craggy face and suspicious disposition. She owned the express lane and ran a well-oiled team of teenage miscreants. You did not cross Toni, you did not even talk back to Toni, because if you did you were instantly fired and the only other option for you was scooping ice cream at the BX food court. Your best hope, as a commissary bagger, was to score a family shopping on payday. You'd get at least two carts' worth of bags and at least a five dollar tip. More if the family knew your family. And because my parents were elementary school teachers, LOTS of families knew my family.
The next summer I worked at the Public Affairs office on the fancier side of base with the fancier people. So I thought I was fancy. I worked on the base newsletter with another "probably going to major in journalism" high school student and we thought we were awesome. There are two things I remember about this job. One was that I could have gone paragliding off the side of the mountain and written about it for the paper, except that I chickened out at the last minute. (I do not regret it.) The second thing is that we worked right on the flightline and there was a near-crash landing and the pilot was one of the dads of of our friends and it was Really Super Scary.
I got a job my first week at college. I worked at a campus bakery/coffee shop/cafeteria type place. Again, I was terrified. Again, my coworkers thought I was a huge stickinthemud. This lasted until I finally figured out how to make espresso and then I prided myself on being crazyfast and remembering certain professors' drink orders. I worked there at least a year and eventually even made a few friends.
That summer I "waitressed" and "housecleaned" at an assisted living facility. I learned how to fold fitted sheets. I grew to love - really, truly, deeply - Old People.
My second year I worked at the university press in PR. Basically I sent out review copies of excruciatingly boring books. Again, I was terrified, Again, my coworkers were mystified. I thought I was being professional. It was a long time before I realized that grown ups don't always act like grown ups and it was okay to have a personality at work. Maybe when one of my middle-aged coworkers at a future job asked me if I wanted to come smoke pot with her.
My third year I left my beloved PR ladies and went to work in the business office, which was the most boring thing EVERRRRRR. I did, however, learn a thing or two about the book business, and also about databases. I am very good with details. Unfortunately, being super good at details does not make people think you are super fun. Oh well.
I had to quit that job the next year. I had to do something different. This was after I blew all of my savings on a summer in Europe. I missed my old people and I saw a listing for a caregiver at an adult family home. I did not know what an adult family home was. I wish I had never seen that listing. So began a couple of the worst work-related months of my life. I only worked on Saturdays (a 12 hour shift), but this time I was REALLY TERRIFIED because my boss was CRAZY. Seriously. I don't even care if she reads this, which she won't, but I MEAN IT, she was INSANE. Of course, she APPEARED to be normal, which is the most dangerous kind of insane. I could probably write an entire memoir based on that job. I grew to hate Saturdays so much and eventually quit - but I actually really missed 1) the old people and 2) the coworker (of whom I was, of course, originally terrified).
So then I went back to offices. This time I worked for a lobbyist in a fancy downtown office building. It was not awesome. Well, there were awesome parts, like getting to write and research and plan events and call senators and meet important business people and make connections and all that kind of stuff, but there was also the time when he yelled at me for booking him the wrong flights WHICH in my defense, he was ALWAYS CHANGING ANYWAY. But at the time I thought I might die. Literally. Perhaps by melting into my shoes.
I worked for him for a long time. An extra year longer than I planned, because at that point I was afflicted by Anxiety, except I didn't know it was called Anxiety, and I was just trying to survive each day and I thought trying to find a new job might make that more difficult.
But after having me around so long and seeing that I really was good with details even though I messed up that one flight that one time, my boss really liked me (he still likes me, he has met Jack and Molly and sends me Hanukkah cards) and thought I should maybe do something with my life and tried to get me hooked up with all these other jobs. I was not always enthusiastic. There was one job that both of us really wanted me to get. Sort of a foothold in local public policy. I knew a lot of the people already. I was one of the final two candidates. And when I didn't get the job they told my boss it was because I wasn't chatty enough. And he was all, "DIDN'T YOU EVEN TRY?" and I said, "I TRIED HARDER THAN I'VE EVER TRIED!" So that's when I knew: I would never be chatty enough.
Eventually I went to work for the small local publisher. I did a lot of good things for that company. My job was not awesome, but I had a lot of freedom and was always trying to MAKE it awesome. For the first time ever I was friends with a coworker. I taught myself Access and a little Visual Basic. I went to meetings downtown by myself and organized charity events and learned some web design. I was encouraged and applauded, but there was never support for the next step. I meant to quit, but I knew what I really wanted to do was have a baby instead. I meant to come back part-time after that, but it didn't work out. I put crazy hours into training and preparing my replacement, only to find out months later that she was a huge, huge screw up and my old boss was making excuses for her, one of them being that I had left her in the lurch, with no preparation and no materials. Which is a stunning and ginormous lie and I am still, apparently, angry about it.
Now I take care of children. I write stupid things about my life on the internet. I spray paint things. I fold laundry. I make my sister's wedding invitations. I plan baby showers. I make amateurish websites for blogging conferences.
I am always ALWAYS wondering what I am going to do next.