Sunday, August 20, 2006

The job I never worked

Me as a paperboy, circa September 1987 Regarding the poll that I posted last week, the job from that list that I've never held (although it does sound like fun) is "newspaper technology reporter."

Back in the days when kids still did it, I delivered newspapers. The photo shows me in September, 1987, looking rather unexcited to head out on my daily route in Everson, WA. A decade later, I spent a year delivering office supplies in Seattle. And, during my brief healthcare phase, I even spent a few months working as a nurse's assistant in a nursing home.

The duties at the nursing home were...not particularly pleasant, to put it mildly. And the pay was terrible. It didn't take me long to notice that I was the only nurse's assistant there who hadn't recently emigrated from an African or Asian country. One of them expressed surprise when I told her that I had a college degree. "Why are you here?" she asked.

Why, indeed? During my 20s, I was driven by an experimentalist urge. Ever-flickering in the back of my head was the notion that a wide variety of experiences leads to increased wisdom. I also thought that I could distill these tales into a novel someday. That idea may still come to fruition, in a decade or three.

Instead of philosophy, I could have majored in computer science in college (as some folks advised me to) and stayed in the same line of work over the past decade. In that scenario, I'd be in a pretty lucrative position by this point.

But, I don't regret my own multi-faceted employment history. Although it didn't pay much or lead me to a glamorous job, the nursing home experience gave me empathy and respect for the people who do this sort of work for years. As an added bonus, a Kenyan coworker taught Swahili pick-up lines ("na kutaka" translates as "I want your thing" -- she advised me to be judicious about using this one).

Travelling through a unique panoply of jobs, I’ve hammered out a deep sense of identity, vocation, and compassion. I doubt I would have developed this outlook (which I'd like to think is an initial step towards wisdom) in a more traditional career track. Now, ten years out of college, I'm ready to explore career options that involve more responsibility and allow me to make a positive net impact. It's the ideal time to get an MBA, and I'm looking forward to starting the program at UW next month.


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