For Finding A Job To Do

Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell

Labor Day is a holiday that has always been a bit muddled in my mind as I don’t come from family with activist labor movement union members.  Instead this day recalls the extra energy and nerves before returning back to school, trying to decide what to wear the next day, finding the perfect lunch box, watching the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, and sewing all the last minute buttons onto my home made clothing.

Now, as an adult considering the significance of Labor Day, I’m grateful that I still have a job that I enjoy.  I have one less job than I had a year ago on Labor Day due to budget cuts at our local hospital.  As a result of this recent change in my life, I have understanding for those whose jobs have disappeared in this economic recession, and who truly long for work.  I know a number of people who would give anything for permanent employment on this Labor Day.

John Gresham, the attorney turned best selling author many times over, wrote an interesting opinion piece for the New York Times here today recounting his own journey through many varied jobs during his life time.  It got me thinking about my own path of employment over the years.

I started at age eight picking wild blackberries for 3 cents a pound for the frozen food processor down the road.  This company prepared fruit salads for airplane meals, and they particularly wanted hand-picked fresh blackberries to add to other more conventional fruit. A good day for me was fifteen pounds.  It was a very good day for the fruit processor as I found out later, as the berries were worth 10 cents a pound on the market.  But as an eight year old trying to earn money to buy my own horse, I was highly motivated even though my arms and legs were scratched and bleeding at the end of the day.

Primarily I picked the larger Evergreen and Himalayan berries so they formed a pound more quickly.  The highly treasured and harder to find tiny mountain blackberries no larger than my littlest fingernail that grew close to the ground remain a gourmet item that are worth far more.   It would have taken all summer to find fifteen pounds of those so those precious berries were reserved for my mother’s special pies.

From my blackberry beginnings, I moved on to the following:

Blueberry picker
Garden weeder
Dog and cat sitter
Babysitter–several full time summer jobs taking care of children for working mothers
Head Start assistant (volunteer)
Dental assistant and receptionist
Nurses’ Aide in a rest home (evening and night shifts, summers and school breaks)
Part time church organist (volunteer)
Student Adviser in my college major (two years)
Teaching Assistant in four different college classes (two years)
Note Taker in six different college classes (two years)
Research Assistant in Africa (volunteer)
Research Assistant in medical school (stipend)
Internship and Residency at Group Health (three years)
Family Practice at Group Health, private practice, locum tenens (6 years)
Occupational Health, aluminum and oil refineries (two years part time)
Geriatric home visits for home bound elderly (one year part time)
Medical Director for a start up community health clinic (2 years part time)
Medical Director for a family planning clinic (3 years part time)
Forensic examiner for over 1000 cases of child abuse (10 years)
County detox doctor and chemical dependency attending physician (25 years)
Medical Director, University Student Health Clinic (21 years and counting)
Self employed farmer and manure picker-upper (25 years and counting)
Self employed writer (4 years and counting)

I’ve worked as many as four different part time jobs at once because that is what I had to do.  I’m grateful each job taught me something new I needed to know.

I’m also grateful that when I go out to pick blackberries today for a cobbler, I’m no longer working for 3 cents a pound.  But at the time it was as good a start as any young worker with a goal in mind could have hoped for.

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