The following memoir will be posted in three parts, one per day.
Careers are an essential part of most societies. In America, we are taught from elementary school that we will grow up and become a doctor or a lawyer, a veterinarian or a firefighter. All throughout our primary education we’re encouraged to figure out “what we want to do when we grow up”. Then when we get off to college, we’re encouraged to “follow the American dream” and pursue an education to help us become a doctor, a teacher, or even a professional pancake maker.
Yet these are not the only important jobs we take on in life.
The first job any human being is given is to learn how to function on this floating rock. Most of us take our entire lives to figure out the meaning of life and spirituality, but by age five we know mostly how to function physically. We still rely on a knowledgeable adult to take care of us until we feel we are old enough to go out on our own and venture into “the great unknown”. Until then, we eat spiders or dirt and laugh, or we fall on our faces and cry.
Even with help, some of us manage to skip developing certain characteristics that help us keep the days of the week straight and remember which left is right and which right is wrong..er, wait.
I managed to skip some sort of memory development. To this day, I will forget where I have just placed the keys moments before, or sometimes the day I met someone is a bit fuzzy. I’ve lost many hours trying to find my wallet tucked at the bottom of my backpack. And for anyone but Jacob, I have a very difficult time remembering how I met you. Sean and Kieran frequently bring up memories from our first ward camp together, but the only thing I can remember from that weekend was the tent their family used. The tent was grey on the outside and big enough to fit a handful of yaks. I swear they fit their entire family in there, as there was a partition that created four rooms, each a decent size. But aside from a clear recollection of the tent, I draw a blank when I try to think of that time.
The next important job we are bequeathed with is learning the language of the country we live in. Granted, I learned English and speak it fluently, but to this day I don’t naturally think in it.
I don’t remember events well. I remember what I felt like when something happened, but as for the particulars…you’d be better off asking someone else. My early journals don’t help either. They tend to be about the boy I liked at the time, or me asking my journal why I was sick and going to the emergency room all the time. My frequent doses of morphine and hours of hospital TV made holding a regular job difficult in my teenage years. To this day the doctors don’t understand my problems, but I believe I have a combination of ovarian cysts, Menorrhagia, high stress and anxiety and chronic depression. The first two I am successfully treating with hormones. The last two…I’m still trying to treat.
My first responsibility was picking up the mail and watering the plants for my neighbors when they went on vacation. They always paid me a few dollars for my trouble and would tell everyone in the neighborhood how wonderful I was and that I could be counted on for anything. If it wasn’t for my mother reminding me to pick up the mail every day, I think I would have been fired after my first gig. Even though at the time, I left with a sigh and a slammed door, looking back I know she saved my career.
After that I did a lot of babysitting, lawn-mowing and house cleaning, typical of most LDS teenagers (at least the ones I knew). By far my favorite job was watching the Broadbent family. The girls, Abby and Kate would demand my tragic death and I would moan and groan as I fell to the ground. I still miss them, but by now they’ve grown up.
When my dad was called to serve as part of the Young Men’s presidency (the local LDS youth group for boys) I got to officially hang out with the neighborhood boys. I usually joined them in service projects; it gave me a reason to avoid the Young Women. Frequently, only two boys would show up to help shovel the driveways of the elderly, so my dad told me to come with. I never understood the girls, even from a young age.
My first real job?
A junior lifeguard at the local rec center. Junior because technically that’s all I could be at age 15. I could only sit at certain stations and I couldn’t work past 8 pm.
I think I got this job because everyone at the rec center already knew me from the swim team. But I didn’t get along with the other lifeguards. They would always play dirty rap in the locker room and talk about things I didn’t understand. Even though most of the lifeguards were boys, they didn’t play Zelda or Paper Mario like the boys I were used to playing with. They were more into Halo and seeing how many girls they could get into bed with.
I guess I didn’t mind it too much, at first. I didn’t have to be around them except on my breaks.
I worked as a junior lifeguard for eight months, biting my tongue every time one of my co-workers would comment on my outfit or ask me incredibly personal questions.
I finally got to work a shift alone. The pool was closed for cleaning and I only had to be on call to watch over the pool. A nice old lady called and asked if I had seen her husband and I told her no, but that if I did see him I would tell him she had called.
Then one of the supervisors came in and told me the family dressing room was locked. We opened it to find a frail man halfway inside the garbage can. My supervisor and I performed CPR on him for what felt like hours before the paramedics showed up. I can remember my supervisor pumping away as the man threw up inside the mask and I pumped oxygen using a hand pump.
The woman who had called on the phone earlier would never see her husband come home: he died on the way to the hospital.
To be continued…