Since then my work life has been not more than spotty at best, never staying for long at any one job, and moving about the country with ease and enthusiasm. In college at Michigan I gave tours at the Exhibit Museum of Natural History to the local school kids. It was a good job, and right up my alley. But I didn’t stay there too long, as I graduated a year after getting the job.
One summer in college I worked in a Whole Foods Bakehouse in Wisconsin. It was pretty fun actually. I made cookies, muffins, brownies from before the crack of dawn until afternoon, and did my best to learn the tricks of the trade from the charismatic French pastry Chef.
After college I forwent paid work, and took volunteer positions with the Student Conservation Association. This organization led me to two fabulous jobs where I learned incredible amounts about coworkers and work environments, social life, and the natural world. I was given a small stipend and a place to sleep, and was put to work for the establishments I was employed by.
Mixed up in there somewhere was maybe one of the best jobs I had, as a ridge runner for the Appalachian Trail Conference (Now ATConservancy). I was paid, not poorly at that, to heft my backpack and hike the mountains of southern Virginia imparting ecological and safety related knowledge on passers through. I camped at night and joined the Konnarock trail crew on days off. It was probably the closest I’ve ever been to mixing work with pleasure, and having it end up positively.
Eventually I ended up in Ithaca, after a volunteer stint at the Farm Sanctuary in upstate NY. I was taken by Ithaca’s charm and community and made my way into this green valley with plans to stay for a while. I immediately found a job nannying a little girl named Lily. She was 18 months old when I met her and I fell in love with this child. Not to mention her family took me in with welcoming hearts, and I felt I had found a good place. Taking care of Lily got me through a lot of personal struggle, as I for the first time in my life, learned to live alone in an apartment, pay my own bills, grow my social network, and maintain an adult life. I felt emotionally stronger by helping this child grow up.
I was paid decently taking care of Lily, but it still was not quite enough, so I filled in the gaps with random work here and there; I served food at a local grocery deli, I worked at a farm stand, I started a dog walking business, I assisted at a pottery studio, I substitue taught at all levels of the school district, and I babysat more kids than I can count.
A few years later, with Lily going to school, and me making other choices in life, I ended up working at Eastern Mountain Sports in Ithaca. There I had perhaps the longest, most normal and stable work I have done. I started off as a part time associate, and by the time I left, 3 + years later I was a manager who knew how to run the store on my own. I did not make my way into either of the top two managerial positions at that store, but for a time we had neither of those positions filled, and I was the one with the most seniority and knowledge to be left in charge. Sadly I got passed over when push came to shove. And after Cedar was born that made it very difficult for me to want to return to work there.
I did go back to EMS for a season during Christmas, to get out of the house and make a few bucks. That was followed by taking a babysitting position for a close friend who had a child Cedar’s age and was returning to work herself. In that year I spent my days with my baby and my friend’s baby, losing my mind parenting the two of them and forcing them to eat peas.
The most recent paid work I did was perhaps the least dynamic when it comes to resume building. When Cedar was a toddler I worked extremely part time for minimum wage at the local stay and play kid’s place run by the Ithaca Youth Bureau, Tot Spot. The work was perfect for a mom with a baby, and entailed setting up a gym full of plastic structures and baby toys, greeting and accepting payment from guests, and then cleaning up the gym two hours later and counting the cash. It was simple, easy, and I got to play with my kid during the time I was a work. I did this for three years I guess, and it was all well enough.
I never stayed in any job very long, I never went back to a job that I had left. I did not know why or how to create a career. I was running. I was searching, experimenting with life, trying to find a work that compelled me, writing about it all as I went. I wondered when I would find the real work, the meaningful work, the fulfillment.
To me, in my so called resume, I see the confusion I was feeling for all those years laid out ever so clearly in who I have become because of it all. Yet, I realize that if I were to write all this in resume format it would look crazy, long, and patchy. It does not lend itself to direction, to a sense that I am a wise or educated adult, or to the possibility that I am or can become an expert at any one kind of work. On paper it all points to exactly, nothing. Or perhaps too much.
Never once did I imagine that it was all just fodder for a later fire. But now, I think it might just have been exactly that.