Having different jobs and careers is a great way to know a little about a lot of things. My first after school job was in a deli at a grocery store. From this I've been: a waitress (haven't we all!), a vet nurse, a dental assistant, a curtain estimator, a retail assistant in a wedding gift shop, a student of osteopathy, a bookkeeper (which led to a degree and work as an accountant), a health and wellbeing consultant (I never thought I would fall for Multi-level Marketing!) a bursar, a teacher, a website copywriter and a project manager.
Putting together a cheese board still takes me on a nostalgic journey to my deli days. The weird and the wonderful. Such good memories of sneaking very expensive brie and gruyere, olives and sundried tomatoes. But also challenged as I remember a gelatinous meat called braun - cartilaginous animal parts dressed up as a delightful sandwich meat...wtf? I may not have been ready for blue-vein cheese as a sixteen-year-old, but in a way the experience taught me so much about the flavours of the world, I started to yearn to travel to.
Registering with a gift register was an absolute must if you were married in the nineties. I'm not sure if these things still exist - I think there is more of a 'wishing well' version now, where guests put a few hundred in an envelope and 'pay for their seat'. I was working at a department store in the homewares and manchester departments, so when I was asked to take up the part-time role in the gift registry I was in! What young woman, totally unjaded by love, and of the belief that weddings equaled romance, wouldn't sign up? I would walk the 'happy couple' through the departments of their new future life together. Starting at fine china - the agreed pattern of a dinner set. Noritake, Royal Albert, Wedgewood and Spode. Something for everyone! In those days a dinner set was always complimented with a sugar and creamer and gravy boat of course... did they ever use them? Most likely never. But, it was about having the whole kit and kaboodle, not using it. And after a glide through kitchenware, with suggestions about saucepans, electric items (why stop at a food processor, when you can have a stab-mixer and a blender as well??), and utensils (yes, they actually put spatulas and slotted spoons on their list), I would steer them to manchester. Let the games begin as I explained to the now bored-as-hell groom-to-be the difference between a European pillowcase and a standard one. Or, the benefits of 70/30 duck down doona, over a 50/50 one. Oh, and the peace-de-resistance - what doona cover and matching sheets would they select? Sheridan was the aspiration, but there were so many options, that by the almost two-hour mark, the groom was praying someone would call in a bomb threat. Anyway, all jokes aside, I have carried my knowledge of stainless-steel heavy bottom saucepans, and wool blankets with satin trim blankets through life. But, do you want to know the irony? I actually live very, very simply now - and all of those homewares have been given away over the years. The memories of being a gift registery consultant though are bloody priceless!
I recently had to say goodbye to my beautiful furry family member after twelve years of dog walks and adventures. She was a rescue dog, who chose me. Without any intention of bringing her into my life, she became my best and most loyal companion. And one of the most amazing things about her was that she rarely went to the vets. After working at a veterinarian, I was acutely aware of the many ways pets get sick, or simply are in the wrong place at the wrong time. A snakebite, a car accident, a ratsack snack. It's first heartbreaking but later uplifting to witness an animal pull through from the brink of dying.
But, the procedures and tests that help to identify the cause of an animal's illness - from x-rays and ultrasounds; to bloods and biopsies; and everything else in between - have one thing in common. Dollars. Lots and lots of dollars. So, I was completely prepared for the day when I would be weighing up my options in the event that something disastrous happened to my pooch. In the end she went quickly - a splenic tumour was diagnosed from an ultrasound and xray. Poor thing didn't stand a chance.
But, when the diagnosis came, I owed my early vet nurse training for the difficult decision I had to make. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, saying good-bye to her that day in the consulting room, but also the most compassionate.
After studying osteopathy for two years, I held a great deal of knowledge about the internal workings of the body. In my first week of the course, I was introduced to a cadaver that I would get to know personally - through the art of dissection. I glazed over at that first incision into the skin. Someone in my group actually fainted. When I saw the colour of the subcutaneous fat, it was all I could do, not to be sick. But over the weeks and months I got to understand the gift this person had given to science, and to me. To be honoured to have a real body to learn: the position of muscles and their attachment points to bones; the journey of arteries, veins and nerves snaking to the periphery of the limbs and back again; and to see inside a heart, a lung or any other major organ. It truly was fascinating. Would I say this particular knowledge is something I open with when I meet new friends...um, no. But, is it useful - for sure! I really do have a head-start when it comes to wrapping my head around an illness or condition that a friend or family member might be experiencing. And, after my stint at a dentist's, I can even tell you all about a root canal! (Not that anyone wants to know any more than is necessary about this uncomfortable experience.)
Anyway, I could go on and on: I'm having a fabulous trip down memory lane. But, my real reason for exploring this in a post is to show how jobs shape us. How they contribute to our lives in so many ways, not just financial. They enrich us, through the knowledge we accumulate, both purposely and unintentionally. The bits and pieces we carry away with us, after the job has finished, are thought to be forgotten as we move on to the next position. But, as I've shown, the lessons we learn, and the knowledge we hold, are still there. Lying and waiting for our mind to turn inwards and retrieve something that has meaning for the situation we find ourselves in. Aren't brains just amazing! And the best part for me now - as a writer I get to turn all of these job experiences into story. Because ultimately story is just stepping through a life.