Monday, June 20, 2011

For about ten years, my mother was a carpenter, swinging a hammer like a champ building houses in New Hampshire and Maine.  They didn't go in for anything fancy like naming the company, but some hilarious plumber or electrician christened them Honey and Dear Construction and they penciled the name on their tools for a lark.

When it was school vacation I tagged along, busying myself with such quixotic pastimes as string-and-safety pin drop line fishing, dowsing (why did I know about dowsing when I was 6??), and building eensy weensy stone walls from wayward wads of mortar and chips of slate.  If I was really lucky and no one was around, she'd let me snap the chalk line, which was inexplicably magical to me, and even let me hang a shingle or two.  I liked the construction sites and I took for granted the freedom and family time that their self-employment provided.

Memory is very a strange animal, and independent sources confirm that mine is particularly arbitrary and specific, and I have a very vivid memory of my mom's job search when she left building.  She applied haphazardly to whatever jobs seemed even marginally interesting, including a print shop.  But when the shop called her for an interview, she declined.  "One of the questions on the application was, 'What did you enjoy most about your last job?' and I realized it was being outside, being my own boss, working on my own...pretty much the opposite of the position they're hiring for," she told me.

Since I quit college, I've worked two jobs, both of them more or less by chance and both of them satisfying, unlikely, and slightly embarrassing relative to expectations (mine and others') of my potential.

I took a job as a line cook at a popular diner ("no experience preferred," ooh, that's me!) and was promoted to baker when the previous one quit in a fit of pique and I confirmed that I had, in fact baked cakes with my mom as a kid.  I had total control over the menu and worked whatever hours I deemed necessary at whatever time I felt the urge.

The next one was the one I work now at a ferry company where I made a meteoric rise from souvenir girl to ticket seller to full-time union employee, supervisor, and office mommy.  I like the work.  I schedule crews, I drive a forklift (which will never stop seeming weird), I council, coddle and occasionally chastise the peevish, petty, often rageful masses that are islanders, captains and coworkers.

Lately, though, I've developed a restlessness that I haven't felt in a long time, a deep and abiding desire to shake things up, attended as usual by its doppelganger, fear of the unknown.  In my twenties I made some big decisions on the back of this desire, always managing to whip up a perfectly reasonable rationale for moves that were bold at face value but hollow at their heart.  So this time around I've taken a quick inventory of things that I like about my job (strangers! I love talking to strangers!, variety of tasks, the combination of hands on labor and tedious administrative tasks. I love tedious administrative tasks, so zen!) and dislike (the nightmare of hierarchy, unreliable coworkers, representing backwards policies, lack of nuance) and realized that it's time to stop fiddling around betraying my ambition.

I have, over the years had about a million ideas for businesses I'd like to start, but every time I let comfort trump my modest dreams.  Today I started a fact-finding mission to see if it's feasible to actually carry one out.  On the one hand I feel inclined to tell everyone I know about it, just to put some pressure on me to follow through, but on the other, I'm feeling hopeful and slightly superstitious, so for now I'll keep the details under my hat.

For now it'll have to suffice to say that I'm ready to risk comfort for the greater reward of satisfaction.

1 comment:

  1. Funny you say that about your secret project. I do the exact same thing with my writing- try to tell enough people enough that I'd be embarrassed if I don't end up following through... but not telling them enough that they can hound me about the details. It kinda works. : )

    Another fun-to-read piece.