Friday, April 13, 2007

The Real Job: Part 1

This is the first of what I hope will be a small string of posts related to the side-effects of having a "real job." Although it's easy to poke fun at office culture (almost too easy sometimes), I owe a lot to having regular hours, regular paychecks, benefits and weekends off. All of those things are luxuries that I never expected to have so soon in life. And all of those things are the reason I have been able to record this album, which is a huge feat for me, and one of my proudest almost-there accomplishments.

I am often teased about being a workaholic, and not without reason. I have worked an obscene amount of jobs in a short amount of time. A recap? Sure.

Starting in high school, I have worked as:

1. A grocery store cashier
2. A salesperson at a CD store
3. A lifeguard
4. A toy store clerk
5. A waitress at a now-defunct organic cafe
6. A waitress at a music cafe
7. A cashier at a natural bakery
8. A market stall vendor and clothing store vendor
9. A salesperson at a specialty paper store
10. A freelance reporter
11. A production assistant
12. A radio broadcast TA
13. A public servant

This doesn't include the stuff I did for fun, like play in bands and run a radio show at CKCU FM for five years. During almost all of those jobs I was also in school, either finishing high school or crawling my way through university. In the last year of my degree, I had six classes and three jobs.

I know. It's all a bit much.

But let me explain. I have a personality that is, how shall I say it... Driven? Obsessive? I like to keep on top of things, or at least have the appearance of keeping on top of things. I like the feeling of getting something done, and doing it well. I love to organize chaos almost as much as I love chaos itself. It satisfies me, and keeps me moving forward. I'm not always successful, but I like trying. This is why I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go that is brimming with lists and careful calculations. If I don't keep a list, I don't get anything done. Some lists are for short-term, purely practical stuff, and some are for long-term things. Some are wish lists. Some are wish-not lists.

In high school, I made a list of goals. Some of them I can't remember, but one of them sticks out. I wanted to pay for university by myself. This was partly out of a desire to see if I could do it, but also because I had few other options.

My parents didn't really have extra money floating around, and asking them of for a loan was out of the question. I might as well have asked for a pet beluga and my own school bus. It wasn't going to happen. Plus, when I was a kid, my mom got laid off from her job, and I vividly remember becoming paranoid about money. I was convinced that we were on the brink of starvation. Looking back, I can see that my little mind went a touch loopy imagining disaster scenarios, and that we probably weren't in totally dire straights. But it's amazing what a kid's brain can do. Either way, I wasn't going to be asking my folks for money.

I was also unwilling to go into debt, having imagined a whole other set of horror stories that involved student loan officers and living at home forever. I was obviously a really cheery youth.

So came the jobs. I started at $6.85 per hour, and worked my way up veeery slowly from there. I would spend a percentage of my paycheck and bank the rest. As I gained experience, I found it harder and harder to turn down jobs. Instead of quitting one for another, I just took on one more. And then one more. Hence my extremely long list of employment - since I started working, I have never stopped, and I usually had at least two jobs at once.

At any rate. I did end up paying for school and then some. This taught me a couple of things. One, that you can accomplish a lot if you work at it. Two, you can do big things with a small amount of money. That first lesson is never far from my mind, but since these regular paychecks started coming in, I've gotten sloppy about lesson number two.

But that's for another post entirely.

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