She's Going Up The Ladder, I'm Coming Down

Renae Brabham

During her summer visit, my oldest granddaughter (a senior this year) told me that she didn't know what she wanted to be or do with her life. I answered "I don't either, isn't it exciting?" As my mind skimmed through the plethora of occupations I've had over four decades and what I took away from them, I briefly considered not giving her ANY advice. 


Bean picker: I had a darn good tan that summer.

Red & White cashier: Worked this job for about one year after I ran away from home.

Waffle House: I only lasted two days. I poured coffee on jerk and quit.

Manager at horse ranch tour farm in Florida: That was a fun job for two years. 

Carnie: For one night, I did this while on a hitchhiking trip down the Florida panhandle. Let me tell you, when the ferris wheel turns off, it's time to get the hell out of there.

Tomato picker: I only lasted one day, I was slow. I can't remember if I quit or if they fired me.

Shrimp boat mate: I worked on the boat for three years, this was my favorite job ever.

Wal Mart inventory receiving: About one year, my manager was a biatch until she found Jesus, after I left…naturally. 

Check printing factory: I worked here for six monotonous months, I think I fell asleep while standing.

Sewing room: And another six monotonous months spent here until I put a needle through my thumb.

Country store clerk: I loved this little store until a crack head robbed it and tried to kidnap and kill me. 

Waitress: for six years I loved this job. I loved the customers, management, and co-workers. Still do! Restaurant manager: Same restaurant, new location. Loved these people here too!

Herb shop owner: This was my second favorite career. Unfortunately I was 15 years ahead of the alternative lifestyle curve.

Self-employed, start-up answering service: Had a six-line switchboard. This was before mobile phones. Eventuallyl I felt too tied down.

Secretary auto brokerage: They went bankrupt and tried to tell me there was no money to pay me, so I started packing their office equipment and they found the money somewhere...  

Group Home Habilitation Tech: This was a great job, besides the pay and management.

Residential paint contractor: NC, economy wiped us out.  

Roper St. Francis Healthcare: In food and nutrition, I worked with some of the best people I have ever met to this day. 

Starbucks barista: You can teach an old dog new tricks. 87,000 variations to be exact.  

Residential paint contractor: I enjoy the cabinet painting, the paperwork gives me a reason to drink.

Artist: When I want to to do my floor cloth paintings, I love this and being a starving artist. 

Writer: Eternally. 


Why all the jobs? Work really wasn't that important, living was. A good friend and employer had a term for my malady. "Damn gypsies." he'd spout.


Note: This philosophy does not a pretty retirement portfolio make. I may be living in a van by the river in the end, and actually, that may suit me fine. Although I may have walked a crooked mile with a crooked stick, I’ve seen a lot, met a lot of wonderful people and had phenomenal experiences. 


So what do I wish for my granddaughter's career? Considering my own illustrious list above, should I even give her advice??  Let's see, what are some of the old standbys?


I just want you to be...happy? Nope, happy is overrated.  

Content? Well...only sometimes. 

Adaptable?  No, too flighty and non-committal. 

Everyone starts at the bottom and works their way up. Uggh. I hate fridge magnet philosophy.

You have to start somewhere. Hmmm...I kind of like this one, but let's just redefine here.


So, I told her:


"You have to start somewhere, but don't let other’s expectations of age, sex, or life circumstances define your starting point. If you feel like you have the capabilities to do better and know that you can do it, bypass the protocol and start on the rung a little further up the ladder. Be true to yourself and aware that this is your path and your time spent sojourning here." 


I was elated about a month later to get a text from Abby, “Grandma, I applied for a job at the veterinarians office nearby. They didn’t have a sign up or advertisements. But, I knew that I would like to do this, so I went and asked them if they needed help. I start next week.”


Ummmm…proud grandma, mopping the keyboard here.   


Advice is a tricky thing. But, I don't think a good lick of confidence and individuality ever hurt anyone. Plus, I'm grandma...I'll catch you if you fall. 


Now, about me? What do I want to be and do when I grow up? Let me get out that kaleidoscope and look through it again.