Circling Back and Touching Bases or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Job (Part I)

by Stephanie

My First Joe Job

I should have had a fondness for the food service industry. I literally wouldn’t exist were it not for the restaurant chain, Denny’s. You see, my mom was a waitress at a Denny’s in Ft. Lauderdale, and my dad was the short-order cook.  They met, fell in love, and sold a lot of pancakes (to this day I am still in awe at my dad’s ability to perfectly flip an omelet).  I look forward to the day I can share more of my family history in the restaurant biz in my forthcoming memoir: My Grandmother Works At Pizza Hut (and Other Tales From the Normal Child). My fondness for serving food, however, ended there, and I made a personal vow to never become a server. In my mind, it just seemed like such a thankless, stressful way to make a living.  I made tiny concessions on this vow when I was in high school because there were very few options for teenagers wanting to join the work force, so at the ripe old age of 15, I began my rocky path of employment at the local Dairy Queen.

I still remember the joy I felt when I received my first paycheck. The autonomy of possessing my own money was immediately addicting, and I was content to keep mixing Blizzards to keep the cash flowing. In the grand scheme of things, the jobs you hold in high school amount to very little beyond earning enough cash to buy a very cheap used car (my beloved 1987 Honda Accord, Charlie), but for me, certain patterns in my approach to work surfaced almost immediately, mainly my high self-inflicted turnover rate.  This first job was precisely what you would expect it to be: lots of sweat, countless Peanut Buster Parfaits and unruly customers, but I had a lot of trouble getting along with my coworkers. The day they locked me in the freezer was the day I quit. I lasted 2 months. I plunged myself even further into the world of slinging hash when I took a job with a few friends as a line-server Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria where the uniforms looked liked this:

I’m fairly certain I recently saw a hipster sporting that dress, so who I am to complain about our cutting edge attire. This job was mostly miserable labor including, but not limited to, cleaning the salad bar, standing on a buffet line dishing out fried chicken and watching old ladies make poor man’s lemonade to avoid a beverage purchase (poor man’s lemonade=free water+free lemons+free sweetener). The upside was that I worked in the trenches with a few good friends, so all was not lost. It was at this point, another pattern emerged: my inability to do just one thing at a time. While I was working here, I decided to take a 2nd job as a veterinarian technician (one of my favorite Joe Jobs!). I continued to keep 2 simultaneous jobs in addition to my extracurricular activities until graduation. By the time I ventured into college, I had accumulated five entries on my pithy resume and started my very own assortment of name tags. If I’m not constantly busy, I drown. I’m like a shark in that respect.

Clock in. Clock out. Cash check. This was my idea of work, and I kept those notions entirely separate from my notions on “career.” A career is something I would be completely passionate about: something I love to do so dearly that most times it would not even seem like work. A “job,” however, is just something you do to pay your bills. As long as I kept those ideas separate, and was making strides to actualize my artistic dreams, I was content to do whatever paying job was available to me.  And that mentality didn’t change as I moved away from my childhood home of Greenwood, IN, and moved to Nashville, TN to start college.

Until next time…

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