identities I’ve inhabited

aka, “work” I’ve done. my own little ad hoc eenventory. some for-pay, some not so much.

extraordinaire, some would say. man, I really miss some of those kids sometimes– grownups with kids of their own now, surely– and wonder where they are now. hedi and shawni especially. such awesome kids.

gopher for a machine parts design company.
summer job in the motor city doncha know. I carpooled with the administrative assistant in the cadillac her husband had bought her. it had very cushy seats and floated so over the road, I felt perpetually nauseated. we listened to bad FM, and then at the office I pretty much made coffee and can’t even remember anything else. it was a sea of drafting tables manned by crusty old michigan guys and young fellas from slavic countries who drove lurid sports cars with “for sale” signs in the window.

food service.
during college I held a string of minimum wage, tipless, glamorless countergirl food jobs (never been the waitress type). favorite was the now defunct drakes sandwich shop. yes, I am a former drakette, it’s true. I rocked the blue smock.

editorial assistant for a literary journal.
I was all about poetry in those days, and checking out the literary world. ultimately, it wasn’t really an identity I wanted to inhabit fully. have I ever found one I did? now there is the real question. but in the end I didn’t feel concretely productive enough doing this work.

field sales rep for a college textbook publisher.
my territory was the south bay area, running as far south as san luis obispo. liked the adventuring around and getting to see california. didn’t so much like lugging the textbooks or wishing I were one of the students again or cold calling on adjunct community college instructors who felt compelled to tell me what a disservice I was doing their students by hawking unnecessary new editions. didn’t like working out of my home and feeling immensely isolated in a new state far from the world I knew, surrounded by apartment complexes and freeways. lasted all of about five minutes, but it got me out to cali, which at the time was a very good thing.

oh you know. receptionist, file clerk, peon, the newspaper that lines the bottom of the birdcage.

video production assistant.
I worked for a guy who had done some documentary work for pbs. his current gigs were videoke!, making home videos for people who liked karaoke. the client, clearly, was a japanese company. shockingly, it never took off. but for a little while I got to run around carrying tapes and getting people to sign releases and fetching coffee. so glamorous.

barista/nightclub busser.
opposite ends of the clock, but these constituted my livelihood, such as it was, for a little while there. I had crushes on boys in bands. I wore striped tights and bustiers. it was silly and larky and dark and kinda dumb.

software technical support/client services.
this thread lasted awhile. I’m good at communicating with people and also solving problems. I did this kind of work in a few different states, moving around with my husband at the time for his chef work opportunities.

web development.
did this one for several years, both full time and as a contractor. messed myself up with taxes as a contractor, incidentally– wouldn’t recommend it. worked with some lovely teams of people in some really great, smart environments. lived through bubbles and layoffs. there’s a lot in here I’m glossing over in the interests of overview. anyway, hit a point where the only path forward seemed to be project management, and my heart just wasn’t in it. then I went to grad school and let my skillz get all obsolete, dangit.

publication designer.
did letterpress work and digital page design through the center for the book in iowa. loved this work, actually, maybe more than a lot of others– felt like it fleshed out and gave soul to the kinds of things I’d been doing with the web– but I also got intimidated by how deeply people inhabited this professional space– book people are Book People. and I just could never really make that wholehearted a leap. I’ve always been a generalist, glossing several different angles and rejoicing in the connections between them. I don’t feel finished with this one, but I’ll have to find my way along it in my own way.

I held this position twice, once for a pretty hip restaurant and once for a food co-op/bakehouse. I did both breads and desserts. tough work, especially on the standing stems. I like baking, love it, really, but in the end I didn’t love it enough to be serious about it longterm.

college course instructor.
as a grad student for eight years (count ’em) I taught literature to undergrads and writing and teaching writing to preservice teachers. in some ways teaching was the hardest work I’ve ever done. it certainly caused me to do some deep, personal evaluation.

research assistant.
worked closely with my advisor on an array of interconnected projects: subsequent editions of an awesome textbook she wrote on writing fieldwork, a web site for teachers and fieldworkers, courses she taught on related subjects. she was incredibly generous with her mind, experience, time, heart, and insights. she was way more than an advisor– she was a dear friend and a colleague and taught me a lot about the real work we can do in this world. I miss her, even though I’m happier out of academia.

phone registerer for a national standardized testing company.
uh huh. had a lil breakdown when I decided to abandon my phd. took awhile to get myself back up to breathing status. this is what I did in the interval. kept myself sane collecting amazing names.

project manager: new products and web resources for a wallcoverings company.
oh look, ended up a project manager after all. ;) this is now. I wear a slew of hats. sometimes I really really miss working in the ethos of a bunch of techie geeks. the design world is a new culture for me. not always 100% sure it’s a complete fit, but, obviously, what has ever been? on the good days I’m learning a lot about sourcing materials and vendors for making concrete things and the juggling act that is project management. I’m primarily responsible for digging the company web site out of a state of languishment and developing a secure site for distributors. so I have some good projects and good experiences. and also I work with some really lovely friends, which any way you cut it is a gift.

5 Replies to “identities I’ve inhabited”

  1. this was really fascinating to read, thank you for sharing! I'm gonna wait till I'm a little older then try my hand at this too, domesticated housecat that I am. maybe I'll just make a list of things i've done before 21, hehe.

  2. This list is excellent. I love that you've added description to each job. I really admire that you were able to do those textbook sales. To me, that kind of stuff takes major balls. I hate asking people if they want something, just out of the blue like that.

  3. thing is, I sort of wish everybody would offer up these little inventories, subjective as they may be. one of the things that has always aggravated me is that I simply knew so little about the working world possibilities. I feel they should be more widely broadcast, somehow, so that young, lovely people such as yourself can get a somewhat sense of the many many odd-shaped things people do to make a paycheck– apart from the well publicized doctor, lawyer, farmer, teacher…

  4. hah. I don't think I really had the balls, just launched into it out of ignorance. you know me well enough to imagine what a really bad fit sales was for me. ;) I took every last little interaction and stray comment to heart. difficult job indeed. and, frankly, I think that adjunct instructor had a fair point about the relentless new editions of textbooks– I just wasn't in any position to shoulder the responsibility for the industry's sins.

  5. Ah, the launching. I know it well. Until I read this I had blocked out my brief time canvassing for MPIRG. I sucked so bad because I could not just ask people for money, not even for a good cause. I did get an offer to teach piano to the kids of one house I canvassed but they could only pay me in Dalotids!

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