The other day, I listened to someone express concern that his 19 year-old niece's new job at Panera "seemed a little beneath her." I laughed out loud and told him I couldn't disagree more.
  1. Babysitter:
    What did I learn? Patience. Sweetness. Selflessness. Structure. How to change a diaper, take someone's temperature, and buckle them into a stroller. And that if you eat all the cookies, the parents will probably notice, especially if the child you're watching isn't on solid foods yet.
  2. Server at Bill Knapp's Restaurant:
    I learned that after serving an undercooked pork chop, it's better not to make a trichinosis joke.
  3. Operator at Red Roof Inn Reservations Call Center:
    I learned about loneliness, as the number of pervy calls I received was astounding. 1-800-THE-ROOF, for some people, was a pretty hot number.
  4. Barista:
    Making the same drinks for the same people, day after day, I learned the importance and beauty of ritual. I also came to appreciate the micro-interactions we all have with each other and how much sweeter life is when we are kind. When we smile.
  5. Intern at Student Health Center:
    Here is where I learned to talk frankly about sexually transmitted diseases. I also discovered that I could endure extreme embarrassment and survive, after being told to retrieve a giant purple dildo from the supply closet and deliver it to a professor who was teaching a safer-sex class on the other side of campus. I did put it in a brown paper bag, though.
  6. Secretary at National Office of a Fraternity:
    I learned about copiers, and printers, and proper address formatting, and office politics, and Pitney Bowes machines, and that if you aren't poised with your fingers hovering over your keyboard at exactly 8:00 am each workday, sometimes a woman named Donna will start a file on you wherein she documents your daily arrival and departure times for reasons that remain unknown but you suspect are related to her own misery.
  7. Activity Assistant in Hospital Alzheimer's Program:
    I learned how to be present. How hard it is to care for a loved one with dementia. I learned how to reach people, how not to be afraid of death and decay and all the ugly parts of our human-ness. Also, practical things like Universal Precautions. How to lift with my legs and not my back.
  8. Overnight Pie Baker in Large Bakery:
    My first exposure to the night shift, with a crew of Ukrainian women. Woah. Lots of life lessons there. I also learned how to use an industrial pie press, a top-crust crimper, and that the "homemade" pies everyone raves about...were made with canned filling.
  9. Personal Assistant to Entertainment Person:
    Not my official title. I learned to wait on someone. I became a better writer. A better communicator. I endured lots of boring conference calls. I learned that yes, it IS possible to get a passport in three days. I met some interesting people. I traveled. I got bedbugs at the five star hotel. It happens.
  10. Greenhouse Owner:
    Everything. Starting with the art and science of growing plants. I came in with zero knowledge and somehow learned to keep seven greenhouses-full of flowers ALIVE. Plus all the skills that come from owning a business. How to sell. How to plan. How to work when you can't work anymore. How to dream. How to fail.
  11. Proofreader for textbook company:
    Oh, gosh. This is somebody's job. To listen to the audio of this book and make sure it matches up to the text. Okay. I'm learning that maybe sweating it out in a 115-degree greenhouse wasn't so bad. Also learning how much my mind wanders. Learning that ALL work has meaning. Somebody has THIS job. EVERY job. Nothing is beneath you. I am learning to be thankful. All the time.