Confessions of a Job Jumper
Confession. I was a job jumper. I had tried everything from life guard and swim instructor, to kennel assistant (which translates to cleaning up tons of dog/cat shit and stuffing their dead bodies into trash bags in a freezer… hard pass); I worked at a big orange box store selling blinds and paint; I worked a three month stint at a day care (also a hard pass); I sold pipe markers and valve tags; I slung ice cream and fried chicken; I worked as an instructor in various art camps; I served high end lobsters and low end steak burgers and my god… that’s just the beginning….there were many, many, more. It wasn’t that I was lazy, far from that. It was that I never felt like I fit in. Sure there were jobs that I had really enjoyed and plenty of coworkers that I loved (it wasn’t all just dead dogs in bags and belligerent women ripping toilet seats off the crapper and threatening to fight me at 11:30 am on a Wednesday morning – which is another story for another day); but nothing ever felt quite right. And not only did my career choices never feel quite right, but there was another problem. As a teen and an early twenty something, I lost two cousins. One of whom I was very close to. We were all close in age. So for me, there was this very early realization that you can drop dead at any point in time. And although I really didn’t need any more affirmation of said realization, the point was further driven home when my seventh grade teacher, a guy that had talked about his retirement, then four years away, all the time with such longing, because he had “big plans and would have the time to do them” died of cancer on his official retirement date. Now I don’t mean to get ridiculously heavy because death is just as much a part of life as well… life itself, but my point here is that I decided early on that I was going to find something that I loved so I didn’t spend my life and whatever time I was given waiting until I could retire (If I was lucky enough to live that long). So for the next fourteen years I looked for something that didn’t make me want to consider throwing myself down a flight of stairs to get out of work for a couple weeks… which was a whole lot easier said than done. Oddly enough it wasn’t until I was flung about in a vehicle and had to leave my desk job that I took on a flexible job as a painting instructor and slowly… ever so slowly, fell in love with acrylic paint (a medium I swore I had no interest in ever getting into).
Over the years my relationship with painting has evolved from: flexible, well paying job I took to something that I absolutely LOVE and work on daily. Recently I joined a program called the Artist Initiative, which helps me grow not only as an artist, but also as a business owner. 90 days in and it has become apparent that not only have I found something I love doing, but something that I can make a living… a good living, doing. I’m almost forty and I finally know what I want to do when I grow up.
In my early twenties my grandfather had made a comment about me being a job jumper… how I couldn’t stick to anything and how I reminded him of himself. I never got that last part though because I had really been hurt by the comment leading up to that part. I tried so hard to do what everyone (with great intentions but doomed results) had told me I’d be good at, or paid well, or would be the perfect fit. Only to walk away feeling lame af. I was Tommy. I was trying to do what others wanted me to do to get the result that I wanted for myself. Spoiler alert, attaining your desired results by following the path of others didn’t work. One star. Would not recommend.
When I sat down to watch Tommy Boy a couple of months ago it was cathartic in a way. I had just started my Artist Initiative Program. I now knew that working and more importantly, creating a steady income as a professional artist, was a very attainable goal that I was on my way to achieving. As I watched Tommy light a model car ablaze on a prospective client’s desk; hilariously not closing the sale and then later “closing” on some chicken wings when he quit trying to be his dad and connected to “Helen” while being his true self, Holy Sh*t did that resonate. My grandfather, like me, had been a job jumper, but my grandfather finally found his groove and settled into a company that he later owned and operated for years before in his mid forties, he passed the torch… his company was valued at 2.5 million dollars when he retired (way back then). Not too bad, eh? I think what my grandfather had been trying to say, although not well received at the time, was that I was going to be fine once I found my niche… my groove… my place to exist as my authentic self. And that is what this triptych is all about: this piece is a reminder to be true to oneself and to follow your own path, not the paths of those who came before you. Success is attainable when you fully embrace who you are and what you do well. I smile as I think of 18 year old lifeguard me, using a gloved hand to fish used band aids out of the YMCA pool after just having to have a conversation with her fully nude boss… “Don’t worry, Kiddo,” I’d say, “Fourteen more years of this, and you’ll finally figure out what you want to be when you grow up… And holy sh*t are you gonna hit your groove when you find it... *then pointing to an errant band aid* oh… and you missed one over there.”
So what do you want to be when you grow up?