Neither my husband nor I went to college after high school. He didn’t actually finish high school. He tried a technical high school and that didn’t work out either. He got a job as an electrician’s helper at the age of 16. We were 18 when we started dating. Between encouragement from his mom and me, he got his GED. He signed up for a math class at the community college, but I think he gave up on it. He just never liked sitting in a classroom. As a kid, he’d missed a lot of school from allergies and all the accompanying headaches and congestion and sinus infections and generally not feeling well. His mom would get a visiting teacher from the school district to help him keep up with his lessons. He was a smart guy so he managed pretty well, but missing so much school took a toll and a couple of elementary school grades were repeated. Being a couple of years older than his classmates was probably another contributor to not enjoying school as much as some kids.
When he was there, he got a reputation as a tough guy. Being older, most of the kids looked up to him, but the bullies saw him as the guy to win over or beat. They first tried to enlist him as their leader. That didn’t work, so they figured they needed to beat him up and knock him down a notch or two. Well, that didn’t work either. The main bully was a year younger, having been held back a grade himself, but he had at least 10 pounds on him. My hubby has always been a lean, mean fighting machine and it only took one punch in the bully’s gut to knock him on his rear.
How did I get so off topic (from education to how to handle the playground bully)? I guess it could be considered the school of hard knocks, so that fits the education topic.
So, anyway, I was talking about how neither my husband nor I went to college. We got jobs and worked. During our first year of marriage he got his Electrical Journeyman’s card. I was doing office work, first at a law firm and then in a Custom Broker’s office. Before doing office work, I had been a checker at a grocery store. While in high school, I had worked at an auto parts warehouse, a printing shop and I had done 2 weeks at a fried chicken joint. In junior high, at the tender age of 14, I had gone to the local mall (one of the first in our metropolitan area) with two of my friends who were 15 years old (yes, one of our moms had to drive us job hunting, actually I remember it was my mom and it was her 50th birthday.) The plan was for me to lie and say I was 15 and the other two were going to lie and say they were 16. Our first attempt was at a Mexican food restaurant. Restaurants have such high turnover rates and we were lucky enough to plead for jobs on a day that a few of their employees had up and quit. The manager asked us how us how old we were and the oldest girl caved and said, “Fifteen.” The next followed suit and said, “Fifteen.” So of course, I had to tell the truth, too and admitted I was only 14. He told us all to go home, put on white clothes and report back at 5:00, which we did. He said to bring our social security cards with us and if we didn’t have one, we’d need to apply for one right away. We were officially employed as “water girls.” I lasted the longest out of the three of us, working nine months until just after my 15th birthday. I was starting high school and figured I should focus on my education.
See, I brought it back around to education, after all. Truth is, I learned a lot from working at such an early age. I learned how to check my check stub for the hours I got paid (making sure it matched how many hours I put in.) I learned how to manage my own money. I got my first paycheck on Christmas Eve. That was the best Christmas I remember from my childhood because I got to go shopping with money earned from my first real job. I stretched that $35 (2 weeks of pay) to buy gifts for my parents and my seven siblings. Working in the mall had its advantages; I asked my mom not to pick me up until I called her that night so I could get all my shopping done. I stayed up late that night wrapping gifts anticipating the joy of watching everyone open their gifts on Christmas morning.
I learned how to wait tables even though that wasn’t my job. I learned how to work the cash register and make change before the days when machines told you how much change to give. I learned how to get along with coworkers and supervisors. I learned how to roll silverware and bus tables. I learned how to work the commercial dishwasher and I learned how to sit customers at different stations to balance out the workload of the waitresses. I learned how to be valuable by learning many jobs besides the one I was hired for.
One thing I didn’t learn until I became a parent myself was how much work it was for our moms to get us to and from work so that we could learn all those valuable lessons. I appreciated it then and thank her for it, but I appreciated it even more when it was my turn to shuttle kids to and fro.
This photo is in memory of my mom. Irises were her favorite. My irises came from my mother’s garden and have made it through two transplants. They always bloom on the anniversary of her death. It’s very bittersweet when the first one blooms each year.
Ok, back to education. What lessons did you learn from your first job?