I got a job the day I turned sixteen, and until this fall, I’ve held one job or another (sometimes more than one) ever since. They weren’t all great. Here is an incomplete sampling of jobs I’ve had:
- Pet food salesgirl (my first, but not worst, job)
- Abercrombie model (briefly, and yet somehow this does not make it less embarrassing)
- Grocery store courtesy clerk/cart pusher
- Horse groom
- College campus catering intern, and, later, Queen of the Catering Interns (I was a tyrant)
- Shoe salesperson at sport-store (they did not care that I did not sport)
- Waitress/bartender (of course)
- Indentured servant for large climbing-focused non-profit (this lasted another nine months after my semesterlong internship technically ended, and taught me how valuable my inability to say “no” is to the non-profit industry)
- High school teacher
- Kindergarten teacher
- Teacher of hippie-dippy class at a school we literally called “Farm School” (we mostly Nordic skied)
- I am counting graduate school because it took up SO MUCH TIME
- Avalanche safety instructor (kind of—mostly for kids, but sometimes adults took me seriously, too)
- Whitewater raft guide, also kind of
- Backpacking instructor
- Horse groom, again (these things always come full-circle)
Okay. So. I’ve had a lot of jobs. The first ones mostly sucked, especially waiting tables—when I finally quit I swore I’d never wait tables again, and so-help-me-god I’ll keep that promise until the day I die—which is why I moved to Alaska: I was sure if I just had a master’s degree in something cool, preferably from a tiny and very expensive liberal arts school, I could get any job I wanted.
That did not turn out to be true. My present self is painfully aware of this.
Between the time I gave up on being a raft guide in the middle of June and last Monday, when I started my new job (more on that in a minute), I set aside a few hours each day to apply for jobs. I had a routine: peruse job boards, modify my dozens of existing cover letters to suit the position I was applying for, tweak my resume, hit “send.” I went through this process for about a hundred jobs. I probably heard back (like at all—I’m counting politely worded rejection letters here) from one in five, and got interviews for maybe half a dozen positions in total. I accepted the first job offer I got.
This was fairly demoralizing, but because I’m blessed with an endlessly sunny disposition (ha!), I remained ever stalwart. Actually, it wasn’t all bad. I had plenty of time to do pretty much whatever I wanted: write, go for long runs, take naps in the middle of the day, take off for the mountains with Bix whenever he was off. I made looking for a job my job, but my boss was pretty flexible.
Fast-forward to this Monday, when I started my new job as Viceroy of Office Affairs (I suppose you might say I’m an office manager) for a well-known outdoor nonprofit in Denver. Our office is literally in the middle of Wash Park, which is very convenient, should you feel like risking your life in the daily onslaught of migrating geese to go for an afternoon walk.
In all seriousness, it is really nice to have a beautiful park to run (or, in my case, pathetically shuffle) around on my lunch break. And it’s really nice to have a job, in no small part because my dog was starting to wish he could just nap on the couch instead of assuring me of my self-worth every time a “We regret to inform you that you have not been selected for an interview despite your ‘impressive’ qualifications, you worthless, steaming pile of mule dung” arrived in my inbox.
Still, as I navigated the light rail all week, I’ll admit I felt a little like Country Mouse in the Big City, like on Friday morning, for example, when someone asked to buy my used socks, “no questions asked, please.” The last time I commuted to a job in the city, that city was Anchorage, and the greatest danger to my well-being was the possibility of being kicked by a moose as I cross-country skied to work. Amazingly, this is not an exaggeration.
Things are a little different at this job.
I’m getting into a routine. It’s happening in baby steps. For example, today at the station where I transfer from one line to another, I looked at a map for the thirty-seventh time and realized that literally every train passing through the station was headed to my next stop, and why had I been waiting ten minutes for the C Line every morning?
I texted the news to Bix: “I’m so urban.” He kindly did not point out that it took me a week to make this discovery.
I am, admittedly, not used to spending so much time in the city, let alone inside—or perhaps, more accurately, I’m not used to having to manage my free time so carefully. It’s hard to set goals like “Run a thousand miles in 2016” or “Learn to paddle Class IV rapids in a packraft” or even “Go to the gym three days a week after work” when I’m learning how to be a normal person and go to work eight hours a day, five days a week, in an office that isn’t a converted chicken coop. (This is a real thing I did.)
It was terrifying to move to Alaska, but I’m feeling just as bewildered by the transition back to a city that was once so familiar. It’s not all bad; it’s just new again.
My evenings and weekends feel more precious than ever, which I think might be a good thing: with my corner office (that’s right, I have my own corner office—no more jokes about grad school being a waste of time) ready to swallow me whole when the work week comes around, I refuse let a single weekend go to waste.
I don’t mind being exhausted and a little sore on a Monday morning.