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Work Life

October 9th, 2006 at 12:45 pm

I'm now 48 and I've worked almost consistently since I was about 12. Newspaper route, grocery store clerk, retail clerk, newspaper ntern, law firm intern, freelance editor, bookstore manager, writer/editor for a business publisher.

I come from a large family and working was just expected from everyone. Being a boy in the 70s, there were a few more opportunities to start from. I inherited a paper route from an older brother and then got my own. When I was 15, I got a job at a small local grocery store.

The grocery store owner had dropped out of third grade to sell fruit and vegetables from a cart. He worked for annother man for a while but eventually opened his own store. He catered to an upper middle class clientele in a suburb.

I worked every day after school and all day six days a week during the summer and school holidays. It's still one of the best jobs I had; I worked there until the summer before my third year of college.

The owner would make light fun of my academic interests -- he had made it without formal schooling and thought anyone could, with the right attitude. But going to college was what did in our community.

I worked there at a time when pay envelopes were actually cash in envelopes. I remember the feeling of joy I had getting that envelope every week -- all that money was mine.

I don't remember having a particular savings scheme back then, but I must have saved a lot. ihad only two vices in high school -- books and music. so, i saved a lot, and when I went off to college I had a few thousand dollars saved.

I went to an expensive college, although the cost compared to college prices these days seems quaintly inexpensive. My parents paid most of the cost for the first two years. Between my jobs and student loans, I paid for most of the last two years.

I suppose that one turning point for me and my relation with money was the summer betwen my junior and senior year of college. I was renting an apartment with friends and, when summer came, instead of moving back home, Istayedin the apartment with friends. As it turned out, though I didn't plan it this way, I had moved out of my parents' house for good.

I come from a large family and all of my siblings, except for me, moved back home for a few years after college. But I, with no real plan in mind, had effectively moved out when I was 20.

I had roommates and we lived in typically unluxurious surroundings (for students) but still, I was paying rent and paying utilities and buying food, all while working just a little because I was still in school.

The longest period of time that I lived without a paycheck was the six months after I finished college. I was done with classes in March and graduated in June. I got a job as a clerk in bookstore that September. Well-educated, loaded up with college debt, I took a minimum wage job in the city.

I worked at that store for as long as I worked in the grocery store in high school and college, and it was my second favorite job. I barely squeaked by, but I loved it.

Why is it that the two favorite jobs I had in my life were the ones that paid me the least? And why do I feel, in retrospect, that I was so much wealthier and connected then, when I was so financially poorer, than I am now?

1 Responses to “Work Life”

  1. Susan Says:

    I've experienced the same thing, happiest when I was virtually not even squeaking by. I'm not for certain why that is, but I have a suspicion that it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with our interests and passions in life. Maybe that is the key, get back to the things that really have merit and steer clear of the superfluous and meaningless stuff that only money buys.

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