Life Lessons from my Wacky Summer Job

So my boyfriend will be living abroad next year, courtesy of his Fulbright scholarship to study in England.  Last night, he started talking with me about how he was unsure of how much money he will need while he is abroad.  He wants to be able to take advantage of opportunities such as traveling.  He asked what I thought he should do.

“I know it’s not ideal, but you need to look for a summer job.  You should apply for some retail or waiter jobs,” I told him.  He has had a lot of seasonal jobs, but they have only been white-collar jobs (something I would have been insanely jealous of a few years ago).

He sighed, and his face fell a little. “Oh, I suppose you’re right. I guess I should apply to Target and Olive Garden, places like that.  I’ll have to start sending my resume out to some places.”

I stared at him. Sending out his résumé to places like Target and Olive Garden?”You don’t send them a resume,” I said.

“Oh okay, a cover letter then?”  He looked so genuine as he said it that I couldn’t help it, I laughed.

But once upon a time, I had never had a job that wasn’t intellectually-based and in a nice air-conditioned building either.The summer after my freshman year of college, I needed a job. My parents were insisting, and to be honest, I wanted something to do. So I sent out applications to about 10-15 places where I thought would be fun to work at and were nearby.

Surprise, surprise, I never heard back from even one of them. I was frustrated, my parents were frustrated, and even though I sent out more apps, I didn’t get so much as a nibble.

About a month in, my neighbor came up to us after church, and said that he could use some help at his company. He owns and runs a Fire Protection company and likes to hire teenagers he knew as temporary summer workers in his warehouse. He said he only needed help for a week or two, and as he would be driving me into work every morning, buying me lunch, and paying me so well that I couldn’t refuse. (And the fact that we left for work at 6:30 in the morning? It was only a few days!)

The first week was on of the hardest weeks of my life. Every day held a new challenge, and what shocked me the most was that they were physical challenges. My parents never even really made me do yardwork, for goddess sake! I had sore muscles, an aching back, blistered hands, and I was exhausted all the time.

One week turned into two, two into three, and before I know it my whole summer was filled up.  Gradually the work got easier, but not too easy—I still struggled.  And not to mention, I almost tipped over the forklift once.

But anyways, I got used to it.  I hated my blisters and getting up early, but it made me appreciate the things I have in life a whole lot more.  For me, the job doing manual labor was a summer job.  It was temporary, and it really helped me get over my thought that dirtying my hands was beneath me (though having greasy, blackened fingers still grossed me out!).

The second summer back, I had travelled for a few weeks in Europe with my choir, and I was too late for getting a retail job.  So once again I found myself piling myself into the car in my grungy clothes with my iPod with books on tape loaded onto it to entertain me.  But my boss was entertaining too, as were my coworkers.  I always had stories to tell when I came home. (Though I’d rather not talk about the time the toilet overflowed after I had used it…)

And I hated to admit it, but I kind of liked it.  I struggled often with the physical tasks, but looking at my work, I was proud.  (And not to mention, the wiring I did looked pretty cool).  I never filled out an application for the job, but I certainly learned a lot from the job.  And for that, I will always be grateful.

And when I still don’t have a permanent job in a month, I’m sure I’ll be back begging for my summer job again!

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