Searching for the Soul Job

23 jobs, I think; some repetitive.  There were, and always have been, multiple jobs.  I love seeing my dreams from when I was 14, beginning my first job, I wanted to be a writer, a journalist, a musician.  Now, 13 years later, those things are all part of my life and everyday are becoming more so.

To some, my resume looks flighty.  It says, this girl can’t stick to a job.  For me it has never been about commitment problems but about trying to find my dream.  I still believe that a person can achieve a big dream and sometimes that means trying every path to make it come true.  For me, it took 23  jobs in 13 years to start to see something that fits.  I feel like I’m ebbing closer every day to fulfilling today’s dreams.  And yes, dreams can, do, and should change!

When I was 14 I took a job at the Strasburg railroad as a cashier and server at the dining car.  It was my first official ‘on the books’ position (I had previously babysat for several families in my hometown, and yes, I had taken the American Red Cross babysitter course – highly recommended).  I worked there for nearly two years dealing with tourists and their children.  I enjoyed my coworkers and can recall a time, when walking through Strasburg after a shift at work, flashing my first car.  Yes, these were interesting and developing times.  I wanted something more challenging, with more hours during the off season, so a friend recommended me for a position at Ganse Apothecary in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

While continuing work with the railroad as they needed me, I began at the Apothecary by running the cashier, then helping out at their mini U.S. Postal desk in the back, and eventually even counting pills!  I worked there for several years throughout high school and also one summer after graduation.  I mostly worked during the summer when I could work full time, but also some after school hours as I could.  I felt very grown up, especially when I could finally drive there in my own car!

The unfortunate demise of those two jobs was due to the scheduling: although I did continue working sporadically for the the apothecary, the railroad was only seasonal work and I needed something more sustainable.  I needed more funds to pay for my car and a place where I could work between marching band practices, football games, and competitions.

My brother, as well as many of my friends, worked for a local retirement home, Willow Valley, and soon I found myself working in the assisted living residences as a server after school.  The schedule was great, but the boss, not so much.  I despised her but, admittedly now, it was probably more out of the stories I heard of her than my actual interaction with her.  Within 6 months I was desperately looking for a job that paid the slightly-above-minimum wages I was making.

I saw an ad for Secret Sneaker and figured that a retail sales job would be great.  I got the job, but I also got an even worse boss.  After just 1 night, and my new co-workers telling me they felt bad that I had to work here, I quit.  I didn’t know what else to do but go back to Willow Valley, but I did not want to be in the same area as my old boss.  I looked for a more desirable position, and found one as a hostess in another section of Willow Valley.  I loved it.

Some people from my youth group worked there, I met new friends (one whom I lived with for nearly a year when I was 25 and who is now dating Kevin’s best friend (set them up), and another whom I set up with her husband!) and enjoyed the residents and their stories.  I felt I had more of a position of authority as a hostess, and to be quite honest, I enjoyed that too.  I worked there for nearly 5 years (on and off).  When I graduated high school I decided it was time to find a job where I could secure more hours.

I went to retail as a bedding and bath consultant at Linens N Things.  The pay was decent, the hours significant, but besides the rockin’ clearance and discount promotions, it wasn’t something I loved.  I worked there while attending Penn State York as an Advertising/P.R. major, but quit when I decided to pursue a different college degree at a different school, out of state.

With New Jersey came coffee.  I said cahfee, they say cawfee.  It was distinct.  I worked for the small, no longer existent, Coffee Club in Montclair, NJ, one of the most rich zip codes in the United States.  Also home to my then school, Montclair State University where I began studying Music Therapy with a focus on Tuba.  I was still the little menno girl from Lancaster, and I felt ignorant.  But, I stuck to the job while I was there.  Tips were crappy and so was the pay, but my boss always took care of us.  Let me tell you a little about the coffee club.  It was owned by a very Jewish couple.  She was a speech pathologist who ran a dating service out of the coffee shop (Maybe this would work for Square One?!) and he was a Psychotherapist, and, the Rabbi.  They were vibrant and strong personalities and VERY intimidating to someone like me.  Someone still figuring out life outside of Lancaster County.  I knew nothing of coffee, but they taught me, and soon, I was a Barista.  We had a chalkboard filled with roughly 50 different drink combinations.  Think Milkyway.  We had fresh teas.  We served food, HOT food.  We had breakfast book clubs, Gay and Lesbian Valentine speed dating night (oh yes, the Menno in me was freaked at the time), open mic, live music, and everything.  It was fun. The chics were worldly and one would work alternate nights working in Greenwich Village in NY just a few miles away.  I was being taught by the sole tuba player for the New York Philharmonic during the day and listening to folksy artists trying to make a buck by night.  It WAS the most interesting job I have ever had.  But, I left Montclair to go home that summer nearly sure that I would not be returning.  I was going to “take a year off”, aka, drop out of college.  I knew I had an amazing opportunity, I just wasn’t sure that opportunity was for me.

I returned home, and through connections with a local Saturn Tuner Club in which I was the P.R. gal (yes, I was a car tuner geek…for Saturns..insert jokes now), I was able to interview and receive a job as Service Assistant for Saturn of Harrisburg.  It was, really, my first adult job.  I drove 1 hour + to work from Conestoga every single day and enjoyed what it felt like to have my own benefits, pay all my bills on my own, and be a college dropout.  It wasn’t as peachy as it sounds.  Before I knew it, I had racked up 30,000 miles on my 2nd used Saturn between dating a guy in CT and commuting.  I hated it.

I sought out another job and soon I was interviewing for a position as the Recreational Therapy Assistant back at my old haunt, Willow Valley.  I connected immediately with the director and soon I met the assistant, who happened to be the friend of my former high school tuba instructor.  Lancaster is such a small world most times!

Let me just begin this phase by saying I LOOOOVEEEEED THIS JOB.  I loved the director.  I loved the assistant.  I loved the residents.  I loved leading baking, exercise, field trips, and one to one visitation.  I began working some nights back at the old dining room I had worked in high school for some extra hours.  I bought a tuba and gave lessons to keep my love of music alive.  But then, the crap hit the fan.  My Director had a falling out with her boss, and the director gets “fired”.  Assistant goes on maternity leave and I am left there, by myself, with the new (but formerly worked there and no one in the building could believe they hired her back so they must be desperate) director.  I was to lead all the activities, do all visitation, come up with everything at just 6 months in.  It was overwhelming.  I hit the end when I was given a violation when a resident fell when I left the room to take other residents out in their wheelchairs and my director was not paying attention (she was in the room).  I was apparently the one in charge and supposed to be supervising, yet, also supposed to get the residents to and from the room.  I quit.

Right around that time Saturn of Lancaster was hiring and was happy to receive my resume for Service Consultant.  I left my residents with tears in my eyes and was quite sad- I had wanted to go back to school for that job, but not under those conditions.  So, I went back to work for Saturn.

I actually enjoyed my job at Saturn except for the crude dudes in the shop.  I worked 11-7 full time and enjoyed good bonuses, benefits and time off to see my new boyfriend (Kev) whom I had met online.  It stressed me out at times, especially being a woman, but honestly, it was a good job.  I loved the training and being involved in a company I believed in.  I bought my first new car (and my 3rd Saturn), moved out on my own, and became my own woman.  I sent myself back to school at HACC and, insanely, one semester, worked full time while attending school full time.  I was doing it all.

My friend asked me to join her team of makeup consultants, and soon I was making my own money on the side as a Mary Kay beauty consultant.  I loved the girliness of it all in comparison to the shop talk I was used to.  I loved winning things, the makeup, the camaraderie with the women.  But, still, something was missing.

About 1 year into my job at Saturn I was yearning to be more involved in the outdoors.  I was still missing the recreational aspect of my job at the retirement home, but also missed traveling.  I kept thinking back to my 3 week post-H.S. graduation roadtrip with my best friend.  I remembered Montana.  I missed my girlfriend whom I had visited in Montana just the year before.  I felt Montana had stolen a bit of my heart both times I had visited.  No one understood this yearning.

As I continued my studies at HACC and worked my ass off, I also began researching schools in Montana.  While I wanted a degree, I mostly just wanted to get out of town.  The guy I was dating (before I met Kevin) had turned out to be married and I was heartbroken.  I wanted to be independent and successful and away.  I found that a cool town in Montana that I had never been, Missoula, had a University (University of Montana) with an Outdoor Recreation major.  I could use it to work in parks.  I could travel, be outdoors, recreate with others.  I applied, and I was accepted.  I began planning my move and paying off as many bills as possible to have some financial freedom.

Then I met Kev.  It didn’t stop me.  I quit my job at Saturn, my well paying job (I still don’t make as much as I did there, but now that they’re GONE I see I made the right choice) and moved out to Montana with the help of my parents and sister,  without a job, and never having visited the town or the apartment where I would live.  I was running, but to or from, I wasn’t quite sure.

Within a few days of arriving, I was unpacked, settled in, with my parents and sister heading back home, and with a new job courtesy of a local employment agency.  I began work as a Sales Assistant at Spectrum Aquatics.  I was in a WHOLE NEW LAND and I was freaked, yet excited.  I kept working my Mary Kay business, and within 3 months, I had quit my job at Spectrum to focus full time on Mary Kay, was engaged, beginning immigration processes to get Kev into the country, and unsure of what was ahead.

What was ahead was a decision to move back home after only 6 months in my dreamland.  The choice was determined by lack of funds, few jobs for Kevin and I in the future, homesickness, and uncertainty about our immigration process and the delays and financial commitment involved.  In August 2006 I had a garage sale and sold everything that wouldn’t fit in my Saturn.  I headed home.

I returned home to live back with my parents and took the first job I was able to find as a receptionist for Faulkner Body Shop.  I lasted only 3 months before the disturbing office setting (ex-con manager and an “it is what it is” hard ass boss) before I quit after speaking with a family friend whose mother had just passed from cancer.  I began watching her children and caring for her father’s home immediately.  Immigration finally worked out, Kev and I married, and though we had no money, we got by with the help of everyone around us.

That Summer after determining we could no longer financially make it on my Nanny salary, I took a job at the County Courthouse as a receptionist for Juvenile Probation.  I enjoyed my coworkers and briefly thought about going back to school to be a court reporter.  It looked to be good money, but I had trouble seeing how anyone could be promoted there.

A more lucrative opportunity came the following Spring at my brother in law’s place of employment, and soon I had talked myself into a job at Prosource Wholesale Flooring doing their sales.  It was a tough environment, but I was finally bringing home the bacon that we needed.

I also began working with Associated Content (now Yahoo! Contributor Network) writing freelance articles about things I knew.  Kevin encouraged me to write, even if it was about “nothing”.

I had worked hard with Mary Kay and had won queen of sales that year.

Then Kevin got sick.  I had to become his full time caretaker.  Mary Kay went on hold, the classes at HACC I had registered for in the Fall were canceled, and my new sales career was gone because I simply could not be there.  I wrote when I could, but most of my writing energy was spent on the blog.

The following January, after Kevin’s death, I got a call from my family friend.  The nanny that had replaced me was pregnant with complications – could I come back to work for them part time?  Yes.  Then she told me about a second part time job with her aunt and uncle at their architecture firm.  They worked together and between the two I had nearly full time hours, but no benefits.  Soon I switched my duties so that I could work full time and receive benefits at the firm, while still watching the kids one day a week and this continued for two years.  The firm gave me additional duties working for their storage facility and with their newly acquired campground.  I watched the kids and continue working for the 3 companies the firm owns.  I sent myself back to school.  I gave up Mary Kay after 5 years and focused on the tangibles.

I discovered a travel writing gig with Visit Pennsylvania that opened up doors for more travel writing.

I wrote an article about U.S. Healthcare and won a writing award without a degree.

I graduated from HACC with my degree in business.

I won a travel writing gig with Wyndham Women on their Way because I had a story, and I have believers…in me.

I quit my job nannying.

I am writing a book.

I tutor others in creative writing and joined a writer’s co-op to promote our freelance services.

I give piano and tuba lessons and duet with my boy.

I wear nearly a dozen hats throughout the day, but my life has seemingly continued to revolve around a love for people, a passion for music, a drive to write, and a goal to find and complete my variety of dreams.  That search has not yet been completed, but there are many indicators that I am finally getting there.

I don’t feel that I have had too many jobs.  Each one was an experience that led to the next that put me where I am now.  I could have taken the regular route.  I could have gone to school and be working a normal 9-5 right now like many of my peers.  But would that have been any fun for me?  No.  I got my degree, but I also got to live in a variety of ways that no one else has ever experienced.  That is a credit to my commitment for adventure and for the soul search in life.






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Comments 5

  1. Brenda,
    I love this! I’ve been through over a dozen jobs since high school and I’m about to make that change again. There have been times where it really bothered me that I’d moved around so much. I felt like I wasn’t reliable. But you’re right, without going through those jobs I wouldn’t have the experience I have now or the drive to write that I have. It can be so easy to get caught up in what we think is expected of us. Keep pushing forward and pursuing your dreams and I promise I’ll do the same.

  2. Thanks for sharing Chris. It has taken me a long time not to be embarressed of my resume or experience. I grew up in a home in which my Father has worked for the same job for over 40 years, and my mother for nearly over 20! However, I know that today’s 20-40 somethings are not able to have that advantage with such a revolving door in business. Good luck in your next career step!

  3. Holy hell girl! I have had only 9 or 10 jobs my entire life. I don’t count babysitting. I am a long term type of employee. I hate changing jobs. One of those jobs though was TJ & I owned a crane service together for 11 years. I have done lots of stuff on the side to earn extra money and still do, but I don’t consider those to be jobs because they are things I truly, truly like doing. But as far as main income earners, yes, only about 9. Different positions within same companies but I count that as one job.

  4. As for major jobs, I’ve probably had about 4-5. But I’ve always had TONS of side jobs…hard to know where to fit it all in!

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