Tell me about the best job you’ve ever had.
I do like to work. A little too much, I think. The truth is, have enjoyed every single job I’ve had. That is saying a lot once you find out what those were. I have been paid to gut fish, euthanized kittens, decorated cakes, and analyzed sunshine… Working has always been a release for me. I enjoy engulfing myself into a cause. I’ve had to learn how to become particular over time. Historically, work is where I’ve challenged myself and found my self-worth. When I am dealing with something emotional I’ve tended to make myself very busy because ‘busy’ is where I seem to be the most comfortable.
It’s through my tiny house lifestyle where I began to realize that keeping myself busy with work may not be the best coping mechanism. It has been one of the most challenging things for me to step aside from my focused career path for a spell. Challenging but, like the other jobs, it has been worth it.
Job #1 – Make’n Cookies
I was around 6 when I started making cookies to sell. I used to make a lot, more than we could eat so dad started taking them to work for the break room. Soon, people were asking when he was bringing in more cookies so I decided to go into business. Mom helped me calculated the costs to a batch of cookies, figured out how many were in a batch and then put a price on them that made me a profit. $.25 each.
Dad took the cookies in and would bring home the money. I would take out the cost of the ingredients and pay back mom. Then I had enough to buy more. This went on for a couple years I think before dad’s work put the kabash on it (probably for good reason!).
Job #2 – Horse Halters
I must have been about 9-10 when my grandpa learned how to make horse halters with my aunt out of a string of rope. He showed me how and I could make a halter in 15 minutes flat. He made a big deal out of it because it took him and hour and a half to do the same thing. I saw an opportunity again. I went out, bought a bunch of rope went into the horse halter business. Grandpa did the selling, I just made the goods.
Selling has never been fun for me, I tried to strike up a deal with my brother. 50/50 profits if he would be the one to knock on doors and do the selling. He didn’t bite… so the business went under (to this day, through all of my minimizing I still have a basket full of rope from this venture! Maybe one day soon I’ll show Hazel or Miles how to make them ;-)).
Job #3 – Vet Tech
Technically I started as a kennel tech first. I used to want to be a vet. When I turned 16, the legal working age, I went to work for a vet. My jobs included taking care of lovable animals while their owners were away, giving medications, cleaning kennels and helping out the doctors as much as I could. I had to be there at 4am so that I could make my rounds before school and then right after school to go again. I usually worked a full shift on weekends too.
Before too long I was fast enough with my tasks so I could help the doctors more and more. I would hold the pets in visits so the doctors didn’t get bit while clipping nails or giving shots. Eventually I was cleaning surgery tools, assisting in autopsies and stitching up patients and giving shots. I felt like I was doing a good job, the main doctor was giving me more and more opportunities. It hit me one day, I didn’t feel like the work I was doing was as ethical as I wanted it to be.
I had to put a litter of kittens to sleep because they were sick, not terminally, but sick enough that they couldn’t be sold by the breeder. When I had to watch a perfectly healthy Rottweiler be put down because it’s family wanted a new puppy instead, I was ashamed of the job. I had no idea the circumstances of these animals until it was too late. That’s when I decided that I wasn’t interested in being a vet. I was glad I tried enough to know when to pivot another direction.
Job #4 – Bookkeeper/Front End Manager at a craft store
A store where absolutely nothing is necessary. Perhaps it spurred my minimalist mindset. I went from a cashier to a bookkeeper because my till was never off. Then, they promoted my high school self to be the front end manager, in charge of all the cashiers alongside the bookkeeping.
While I didn’t agree with the idea of a store full of excess I sure liked the people. The coworkers but especially the customers. Everyone in that store is happy. We had a college linebacker who loved to knit, clever moms entrenched in scrapbooking, always eager to share, and the dedicated florists. I loved the interactions and the relationships formed and especially, teaching new cashiers about work ethics!
Job #5 – Zilog Fab Worker
This MAY have been my least favorite job, but I worked with my mom so it was ok. I worked 12 hours a day in a cleanroom, full bunny-suit garb, manning my station. My entire job was to manage a quality control machine. It auto loaded wafers, when there were enough inconsistencies it would trigger an alarm so the guys upstairs could look at the assembly line and fix what needed fixing before it got too far off. The thing was that the alarm had to be manually reset. Instead of the guy upstairs getting on his suit and going in to reset it, someone had to be in there to push a button. So, about every 3-4 hours I had to push a button. That was the entire job. It wasn’t fulfilling in any way.
I got to go to lunch with mom often, I got a taste of a direction I didn’t want to go down and it informed my decisions going forward…
Job #6 – Baker/Fish Gutter Winco Foods
I LOVED the baker part of this job, I was the afternoon shift so I got to decorate cakes every night. I kept things cleaned, prepped the food for the morning shift and got to smell fresh bread all evening. It was everything I needed while I went to college.
When I moved north to transfer colleges I transferred my job up there too. It turns out the bakery was already overstaffed so they had to switch me departments. They didn’t tell me where but I told them that so long as it wasn’t seafood I’d be ok. I figured I’d be a cashier for sure. Nope… it was seafood.
The thing is, I was a full time student in a very demanding path. I took 20-21 credits every semester to catch up on some classes that didn’t transfer. It kept me at school from 7am-5pm every day, then after class studies. Pretty much the only department they could fit me in around my hours was the seafood department. Seafood shared space with the butcher who started work at 7am so the seafood needed cut and cleaned up by then. 5 days a week I would go to work at 2am and fillet fish, sometimes as big as me! Nothing helps you make friends in a new town faster than having to find some poor stock-boy to help lift an 80 pound halibut onto a butcher table in a freezer at 2am!
I did enjoy that it paid my bills and allowed me to graduate college with zero financial debts!
Job #7 – Integrated Design Lab
This was an intern position I went after. It had the potential to introduce me to every architect firm in town before I graduated. It was a strategy for me, one I enjoyed though. I got to know the various offices and was able to peek into their office culture. In the meantime I got to hone my skills in sustainable design. I helped apply daylight and glare studies to various designers works. Sometimes I impacted the design, sometimes it was purely theoretical. It built skills and definitely introduced me to many firms and designers which helped make it easy to enter the architecture field.
Job #8 – Johnson Architects
All of my jobs impacted me, this one the most. I had pretty much decided that I was going to move away because of disinterest in the local architecture scene. I figured I would have better luck elsewhere. Then I saw a job posting that peeked my interest. There was no harm in checking it out. I went into the interview with confidence knowing it was just for practice. I asked genuine questions and listed genuine concerns. Turns out that, and my portfolio, peeked their interest too. I got the job. More surprising for me, I took the job.
Before I could go to work they had to put the whole office through sexual harassment training. I wasn’t the first woman to work there but they hoped I would be the first to stay. I have too many stories of how unnecessarily challenging it is to be a woman in a male dominated field. This was later complicated by the divorce I went through. It was very uncomfortable for a while. I got to where I really liked the people I worked with, and the culture. Ultimately the recession struck (2008) and people started getting laid off. There were three principle architects (owners), aside from them, I was the last to be let go. Eventually I was though.
I was out of work and licking my emotional wounds when I started building my tiny house to keep me busy. A little less than a year later I got a call back from the last owner who was trying to keep the company afloat but he was overwhelmed. He humbled himself to me about the realities of his situation and that he couldn’t really afford to hire anyone but that he couldn’t really afford not to either. He paid me one of the best compliments of my life by telling me he recognized how adaptable and adept I am at anything I do and we tried to work out a situation that was ok for both of us.
I was a pretty broken person at that time. This man, Walt, showed me what integrity in work looks like. I’ll always admire him for it. He genuinely cares for his clients and his employees. We continued working for a little over five years together running a two-man architecture firm. He always gave me opportunities I didn’t feel ready for and then coached me through them with patience. It was an incredible experience for me and was exactly what I needed while I rebuilt myself.
Then I had my daughter, Hazel.
Job #9 – Mom
Easily the most challenging job for me. There is too much to list here, and this is too long as is, so I won’t. To be continued 🙂