Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Paycheck Collection

When my mother was my age, she interviewed for a teaching job at an all-girl’s high school. She sat across from a sister in a wide habit, who said, “I see you’re single, Margaret. Do you date?”


“Oh. Well, we can’t hire you, because then you’ll probably want to get married, and then you’ll have to quit to have a baby.”

So my mother gathered up her Kennedy-administration pocketbook and left to interview at a grade school, where she taught for nine years until she got married and quit to have a baby.

“You girls are lucky,” she would say to my sister and me. “I’m so jealous. You can be anything you want to be. All I had to choose between was being a mother and a teacher.” And we’d agree and hug her and tell her thank you, and then proceeded to honor her sacrifice by… becoming a mother and a teacher.

But my sister first became a CPA before taking on the world’s most important job—the lifelong process of undoing any influence I might have on her children--and on my way to teaching college, I moved a thousand miles away from home to alternately bodyguard Jimmy Buffett and type thousands of words about sewage pipelines before truly putting my Master’s degree to work by selling roses in bars. My offices have been the runway where the shuttle lands and the walking ring of Tampa Bay Downs and now, as a freelance writer, wherever I set down my unlaundered underwear.

It is a phenomenon with which Generation X is painfully familiar. According to the U.S. Labor Department, the typical 32-year-old has held nine jobs. Nine. That’s not including flipping burgers or driving golf carts during college—that’s full time, big-girl, sit-at-a-cubicle jobs we’re leaving and applying for again and again. And since the life of a freelance writer is by definition a patchwork quilt, I am Princess Day Job, Ruler of the Plastic Nametag. The fact that I can do so, in my own apartment, with my own checking account and own colony of bathroom mold, is perhaps the greatest legacy my mother has to offer. I cannot imagine the incredible sacrifices motherhood entails; I get resentful when my students need to borrow a stapler.

My life now is primarily occupied with ramming Seabiscuit and proper MLA citation down the throats of eighteen-year-old pilots who would rather be calculating weight balances or air-to-fuel mixtures or whatever it is they’re doing when they’re not meeting rough draft deadlines. And good for them, male and female—they are doing exactly what they want. May their children barf infrequently and their rose customers tip high.

Form W-4 at:


Carrie said...

Wow, I suddenly feel below average, since at the ripe old age of 29 1/2, I am only on my 4th company--ever.

MB said...

Anything can happen between now and 30, you slacker ;)

Josh The Pilot said...

Being the over-achiever that I am, I've held 17 jobs in my 25.5 years, not including two different one-day temp agency assignments, my college internship, and other jobs held during college. A small sampling includes:
Truck driver
Garbage man
Flower shop delivery driver
Factory worker (I made rubber widgets, literally!)
Daytona Int'l Speedway fan tram driver
Bobcat operator
The last, of course, is Air Traffic Controller. I think I'll keep this one, but I'm going to add another job soon (which I'll keep, too!), Flight Instructor!

Carrie said...

I sincerely hope I don't go through 5 jobs in the next 6 months! That would suck. A big part of the stability comes from the fact that I did an engineering co-op with a single company throughout my junior and senior years of college, and they hired me full time upon graduation. I'm now two jobs removed from that company. And I worked at the local theme park in high school. Woohoo.

On the other hand, I had 9 different addresses during my college years. That's a lot of packing.

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