15 October 2023

work work work

With the end of my working life approaching (the official end of the official one that is, in other words: I shall be paid a pension and must give up my official job at the university), I was thinking of writing about the various ways I have earned my living - barely or insufficiently incl. - in my life, but halfway through I realised that this would be a very long post, too long really.

But for the sake of record keeping, one never knows how long the mental capacities remain intact, here it goes in chronological order with short info on pay scale and work satisfaction:

  • German tuition, first ever money earned at age 16, I was suddenly rich enough to enjoy sex and drugs and rock and roll etc. but essentially a very boring couple of hours every week.
  • Dairy order processing office, the summer between school and uni, now rich enough to include travel in my life, sent 100 litres instead of 10 litres of full fat milk to a tiny shop on my first day.
  • Waitressing, on and off while at uni, who hasn't, not a good way to make money but excellent training in how to handle awkward social situations.
  • Language tuition, summer camp supervisor, general contact to teenage emigrants/refugees mostly from eastern Europe/Asia (families of German origin, a big thing during the 1980s), lots of work, lots of fun, lots of hard human experiences to cope with, too hard at times, good pay,
  • Milking goats, mucking out stables, chopping wood, making bread, yogurt, cooking with and for 12 people on a daily basis, communal living, excellent life skills, minimal to no pay, supposedly on sabbatical from uni.
  • Cleaning hospital wards while contemplating my university career, quite decent pay once I was promoted to assist the night nurses, supposedly (but not really) writing my master's thesis.
  • Manufacturing hard cardboard rolls, e.g. for use inside toilet paper rolls or as soap containers in a small factory in Dublin, one of the physically hardest things I ever did, lousy pay, amazing co-workers, passed out from glue exposure in the second week and quit. Ireland in the early 1980s, dark times economically.
  • Childcare, cooking and feeding, playing, school pick-ups etc. of wealthy family's children, holding hands of distraught mothers who wanted but could not get a divorce in catholic Ireland at the time, barely enough pay to survive.
  • Chair caning, after a crash course from a visiting American furniture restorer, irregular but excellent pay from the rich owners of the fancy manors of south Co. Dublin. Enjoyable working hours while listening to Irish radio, my English language skills improved beyond all expectations.
  • Co-founder, co-organiser of a workers co-op, cooking vegetarian meals, catering for everything from anti-apartheid, feminist, miners strike solidarity, AIDS hotline, you name it rallies. The night before the unexpected onset of the birth of my baby, we had made a massive vat of black bean chili with brown rice for a concert/party to raise funds for Greenham Common peace camp and we danced into the early hours. The money was almost non-existent. We were all in it together.
  • Having a premature baby, feeding, sleeping, feeding, sleeping, learning and so on. No pay, much love.
  • Setting up a "radical bookshop" (i.e. non-profit) at the workers co-op. Long hours, miserable pay, excellent contacts, meeting many international authors, organising readings, getting lots of rewarding recognition and feedback, always well-stocked supplies of children's books, my daughter's private library.
  • Selling expensive ceramics at a posh gallery, burn-out recovery, pay was tied to sales and could be amazing.
  • Implementing co-operation, administration and accounting frameworks in various semi-state small industries in a very small African country against a stiff wind of nepotism and corruption, wonderful co-workers, generally pleasant and memorable superiors, life skill expansions beyond all expectations, decent pay, still the best job I ever had.
  • Bookseller in a large Dublin bookshop, long hours incl. weekends, good pay for the times just before the onset of the Celtic Tiger years, a year that went in a blur with R's mother's rapid decline and death due to pancreatic cancer.
  • Selling whole foods in a German food co-op while going back to university for a translation degree, making new friends, new networks, new everything for the three of us.
  • Editing and translating for medical research projects at the local university, suddenly I am a civil servant, my job is protected even during long absences after I am diagnosed with a serious chronic illness, my pay is regulated by collective bargaining between state and trade unions, I have arrived in the world where my parents wanted me to be. I have never not enjoyed my work.

And now, we will see. 



Pixie said...

You've had an interesting life. My life has been pretty boring in comparison. I've spent the last 37 years nursing, raising kids and Miss Katie. I've been tied to this place but I wonder if I would have done anything differently, given the chance. I am not a risk taker really, I guess.

Thought might find these ideas interesting.



ellen abbott said...

wow. that's a lot of different jobs and life experiences. I did a post long ago about the jobs I have held. it's a much shorter list ending with starting my own etched glass studio. maybe I'll re-publish it.

Steve Reed said...

You have had a long and varied working life! I love that you improved your language skills while chair caining. :)

Ms. Moon said...

My goodness! You have done a bit of it all! So interesting. I have a feeling you won't be completely happy just sitting on your butt for the rest of your life. I will be curious to see what happens next.

am said...

A full life. That's for sure. And more to come.