Mud. Lots of mud. And mosquitoes.
Foremen who stole from the company. Welders who smoked pot in the weld-out yard. A warehouse worker who bragged about being high on Vicodin. A co-worker nicknamed "Moo Cow", who carried a gun in her purse before it was legal and had a tattoo when they were still edgy.
Port-a-potties so nasty I would call in sick if I thought I couldn't hold it for my 10 hour shift.
I only worked construction two months, but the impact was indelible, as you can see. I learned what I didn't want to do the rest of my life and what kind of person I didn't want to be and who I didn't want to associate with, and had clear reasons why.
But without those two months, my scholarship in chemical engineering and handful of semesters in college alone wouldn't have landed me my next job at DuPont as part of the start-up team of plant technicians.
For me, that job was supposed to be temporary - I always planned to go back and get my degree - but somehow thirteen years drifted by.
And then I quit. I stayed home with my kids, intended to publish essays and articles and books, go back to school and get my degree. Instead I wrote a little here and there, mostly for local papers detailing the Cub Scout Pack's latest accomplishments. I volunteered at the schools and for our church and our community and the kids' organizations. I did go back to school off and on, taking only one class a semester so it didn't interfere with being a mom or building our house or my volunteer work.
And I discovered that intoxicating and addicting world of part-time jobs, full of flexibility and diversity ... a trade-off that was worth the low hourly wages to me.
But twenty years, exploding property taxes, and three kids through college later, it's time for me to find an actual steady-paycheck, paid-time-off kind of job. A real career.
So I've spent hours and hours over the past couple of weeks thinking about where I'd love to work, filling out applications, trying to manipulate my eclectic work experience to fit the position at hand, coming up with creative ways to say "Although I've never..." and "Despite not having a degree..." and convincing arguments on why I'm the best one for that particular job.
And I can't help but believe something will pop up, something that I've been preparing for my entire life without being aware of it. Is that naive, to think so?
I hope not. But I don't really care.
(Would you believe I made more money when I was twenty than these 'dream' jobs I'm applying for offer? And some of them even 'prefer' a four-year degree. Ah, the things we take for granted when we're young...)