2019 – Two days away from graduation, I’m reflecting on the steps I have taken and why I’ve taken them. As mentioned in part one ( check that out here https://broadstew.com/2019/05/14/bookshelves-part-one/) , it was a bizarre, off-chance encounter that put me here but more on that later. There is still reflection to be done.
2013, Sometime in December – I’ve been without a job for a while. For months I’ve been trying to find work. And when I say trying, I mean that because I’m so unqualified, I’m kind of just waiting to see what opportunities fall onto my lap. In the meantime, I’m working landscape with my dad. You ever ask your dad if he needs help with something at home and after he says yes and you start to help, he proceeds to scold you excessively for not helping him the right way? This is my day to day, and although I curse under my breath at times, working with him is something I’ll treasure forever. Because in the calmer moments, him and I will share conversations we wouldn’t share otherwise and develop a bond we didn’t have before this. My dad is the best co-worker I will ever have because he makes a job I find unbearable, bearable, even with the weird son/employee blur of disciplining that ay or may not have led to emotional trauma.
2014, Early January – A job has fallen onto my lap. Through a mutual acquaintance at church, I have a job working with a contractor out of the Gas Company. Every day I walk door to door and put wax pads on gas pipes. I get paid a wage higher than anything I have any right getting paid, and I have a truck and a gas card that the company pays for. The only problem is, I hate outdoor work and I’m still not very good at it. I don’t realize I’m not good at it until one day, at the end of the day a co-worker will share with the group how disappointed he is in himself because he only finished 28 houses, that is, he only waxed 28 gas pipes. Until hearing that, I’m very proud of myself on this day, I pat myself on the back for waxing a whole 16 gas pipes. I am bad at my job, and not only that, I hate doing it. Also, I almost cause a pile-up at a freeway entrance ramp that lead to a woman flipping me off and calling the number on my “How am I driving sticker”.
2014, Mid- January – I reflect on the first half of a day’s work. I think about the man with an NRA sticker on his windshield that told me he almost shot me after heard someone creeping along the side of his house. I think about the old woman who yelled at me for shutting her gas off even though I have no idea how to do that. I think about them and them bite into the sandwich I’m eating alone in my company work truck. I spend every lunch alone, but today it just feels different. I wish my dad were here, or anyone for that matter. I really hate this job and almost have a breakdown while I eat my sandwich because of it.
2014, Last week of January – The company doubles in workers. Six more people to do the same thing I’m doing, making the total number of workers 12 (not including 2 supervisors). I partner with one and show him the ropes. At the end of one day, I run over a cone and my boss yells “That could have been a child!”, I think he’s overreacting and think “They were cooones!” a la The Wedding Singer. Regardless of my shortcomings my bosses remain adamant that I am doing a great job.
2014, Last day of January – It’s Friday, the last day of the month and the week that is coming up is a non-work week. I’m ecstatic about not having to work the coming week and it’s all I’m thinking about as I walk up to the last house of the day. I walk up to the homeowner who is vacuuming the inside of his van and try and get his attention. When he finally notices me, he pokes his head out of the van and shuts the vacuum off. I tell him why I’m there and he tells me to go right on ahead and do what I gotta do. I finish a short while after and as I begin to walk off, I turn around and wave at him. Instead of waving back, he shuts off the vacuum and calls me back. The conversation, at least the important parts, we have goes something like this:
(keep in mind this man is wearing a white turtleneck and waves his arms enthusiastically as he talks to me. He’s like a cartoon mad scientist that doesn’t know how to control the volume of his voice either.)
Him: You look young kid, how old are you?
Him: Do you like this? This job that you’re doing.
Me: It pays well.
Him: But do you like it? Are you happy with it and doing it for the rest of your life?
Me: I guess not.
Him: You gotta do something you love doing kid. You’re young, you have all the time in the world, world is at your fingertips and all that nonsense.
Me: Yeah, I guess you’re right but I’m just going to see how this plays out, I guess.
Somewhere during the conversation, he goes inside and comes back out with 2 root beers.
Him: The only beer a kid like you should be drinking. Listen, if you’re not happy, I understand this pays well but like I said, you’re young kid, you should go to school.
Him: I’m a lawyer and every day I wake up I get to help people and every day I do a job that I love doing. It’s important that you do what you love doing. Enjoy your life!
And as I leave, he waves his arms in the air and screams
“Disfruta la vida!”
It’s the last thing he says, and that shout is what I’ll remember the most about this conversation. Throughout my life, I’ll replay the incident in my head because of what comes next.
2014, Beginning of February – On my week off I get called into our office and told to come in ready to work. In the office however, I, sit quietly while more employees filter into the room. We’re told that at random, having doubled the number of employees a week before, the company has now decided to cut it in half. Six other people and I are fired, along with a supervisor who had just relocated to California for this job. I look around the room and see the people around me at a loss of words, unsure of what they’ll do next. I feel a strange sense of relief and am only worried about how I’ll get home, because I drove the work truck to the office, and I am now having to hand over the keys. The boss (who is the man from church that got me the job) gives me a ride home and on the way apologizes. He says that if they re-hire I will be the first person he calls.
I think about the last interaction I had while I was on the job.
Disfruta la vida!
I say thanks but no thanks and tell him that I’ll probably go back to school and stay away from full time jobs for a while.
2014, Fall – I am now a student at College of the Desert. Not waiting for opportunities to fall onto my lap anymore, I choose instead to chase my goals and find something that I love doing, but this journey has only just started.
End of Part 2. Part 3 coming soon!