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Friday, March 26, 2010

Bringing home the bacon

Yesterday I was feeling kind of bad for making fun of the self promotion I have to do for my job. What I realised is that I take my occupation for granted sometimes. Doing things like marketing on facebook and twitter, or going to awkward trunk shows, is like presenting your resume to people-I just have to do it all the time because I am always trying to "get the job".
But the job I get to do is so fulfilling and creative, I get to stay home and sew things for people all day. Sometimes I forget that I'm lucky to have it-that I could be wearing a hairnet somewhere. I don't say I'd be in a cubicle-because when I was working for other people I never had that kind of job. I worked at grocery stores and coffee shops and daycares-minimum wage jobs-before I started my own business. I dropped out of high school to become a technical welder, but after four years of training I was still a terrible welder. I studied Fine Art-which will not take you very far up the corporate ladder, in case you're wondering. No one ever mentioned getting a job when I was in school-it was as if we lived in a magical fairyland of critique and artists statements. Making money someday was almost a taboo subject. Pure academic art theory had no space for real world concerns. So when I got out of school I was again faced with a choice between checker and bagger.
Looking back, had I not been the world's worst employee I don't think I would have had the tenacity to hang on to making my little business work. By the time I started making dresses I'd been hired and either fired or quit 32 jobs.
I worked for a bakery where the employees were so bitter that they licked the croissants each morning before the doors opened. We all stole from that place, they never gave us raises. Dishes, silverware, chairs and tables, bags of coffee and croissants(unlicked) were stashed and taken home by everyone there.
I worked at a clothing store with Jenna Bush, who despite her piggish father is the nicest most unassuming person you could ever meet. We worked together for 3 months before I knew who she was because she never talked about it. She was just "Jenna".
Since I worked in the store's tiny childrens section I got to fit 200 dollar jumpers onto the chimpanzees that women brought in. It was a fad among rich women in Austin to have a chimpanzee as a pet that year.
I worked for an artist who sandblasted glass vases in a studio out in the Hill Country. Devout Christians, he and his wife met while he was in prison. She wrote him letters and when he got out they started etching glass together. They prayed before every etching, but i still dropped and broke a lot of glass.
I drove a miniature train full of children through Zilker park. I watched other people's children at three daycares. I quit the last one after I heard the director lean into the ear of a screaming two year old and tell her that if she didn't stop crying "The clown is going to come and chew your ears off." I'd always wondered why so many of the children at that place were terrified of the clown mobile that hung above the changing table.
Several grocery stores, countless coffee shops, I was a hostess at a few restaurants, a faux finisher, mural painter, flyer distribution specialist, art gallery clerk, graphic designer for a hip hop night club in New York, art supply clerk, the worst waitress in the world(I am so sorry for upending that full glass of iced tea into your purse, Mamm. Yes, I will go to Hell now, thank you")and a nanny.
So i think that it was only the sure knowledge that there were no other options for me that kept me from getting a "real" job in the beginning when things were hard starting my own business. It's what keeps me from doing it now-as i have a hard time self-promoting, or when things get slow, or I get bored and lonely at home by myself. I like to joke about taking naps and being lazy, and a good deal of that does go on, but most of the time you work all day, all night sometimes, without knowing if you will end up getting paid or not.You make a hundred dresses for a big festival-you could sell them all and end up with fifteen grand or sell nothing and lose money. you just never know-but you have to keep working anyway-and just hope for the best.
I have this fantasy that I could be a normal person with a "real" job. Mostly, it involves what clothes I would wear, since I have no idea what people with real jobs do all day. It seems really appealing to get dressed every day in a little, stylish All McBeal suit and heels, and go to the "office" and type stuff into the computer. Beyond that-it goes blank-because I really don't understand what people do all day. I imagine I would drive a jaunty little car( in my dream it would be perfectly clean, not filled with papers and starbucks cups like mine is right now) I would go to Happy hour with my coworkers and bitch about the boss. I would enjoy my "benefits" and my "retirement", which would not be kept in a cookie jar under the bed but in a "fund" that someone was matching every month.
It stays a fantasy because, after 32 jobs, I know better. Eventually Ally McBeal would call her boss a douchebag, or sleep late too many times or accidentally set fire to the couch in the employee lounge-something would bring about my downfall. I have a hard time containing myself.
Which brings me back to the best part about my current job(besides the naps)I get to be myself. I was reading about a woman who got fired because of what she wrote about her boss online and it dawned on me how lucky i am to be able to write about anything without repercussions from anyone.
It occurred to me that i should stop whining about having to advertise what i do, because I'm lucky to have it. So today I am appreciating my life-glad I am not currently failing at job #33, and thankful that the most annoying part of my day is self promoting on stupid twitter.
Send me your worst(best) job stories and I will post them on the blog. Entertain me.