Summer Jobs. Good, Bad, and Hard to Quit

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On our Facebook page I was talking about handling currency and facing bills all the same direction. This was something I picked-up from a summer job working at a bookstore.  The whole conversation had me thinking of summer jobs, the good, the bad, and the hard to quit.

When I was living at home I wasn’t allowed to hold a job, besides the occasional babysitting. My parents wanted me to focus on my schoolwork and they thought a part-time job would be a distraction.

The Bad

Moving to Toronto for school I had applied for grants to help with my expenses and my parents sent me money when they had it but living in Toronto was expensive, even at that time. It didn’t help that I hadn’t come to terms to my move. I came home often during the holidays and weekends and even during the summer months but I was still paying rent in Toronto.

My high school friend offered to help on the job front. Her mom owned a Molly Maid franchise and she was able to get me on one of the cleaning teams, a mother and daughter team. If you’re like me, more of a tidier than a cleaner, house cleaning probably isn’t your thing. I soon discovered it wasn’t my thing either. Not only did we have to wear these hot polyester uniforms, sometimes our cleaning requirements meant working around house occupants. On my first day I was given a room in the house, a messy teenage boy’s room, with him still sleeping in it. I didn’t see him at first as he was buried under dirty clothes, magazines and sport equipment strewn all over his bed. The rest of the room wasn’t much better, similar to my 6year old’s room or rather war zone, but I had to clean it.

By my standards I thought I had done a pretty good job on my first day, vacuuming the living room, cleaning each key on the piano, even polishing the metal sink so it shined after it had been washed. I didn’t enjoy it and I was glad the day was over but I did it.  Unfortunately the client didn’t agree. My team (without me) has to return to the house to tidy it up at no-charge.

That was my first and last day as a housekeeper, a paid housekeeper, though sometimes I think housekeeping is a loose term for how I keep my own home. Funny enough I wasn’t disappointed to have lost that job though not every summer job was that easy to leave behind.

The Hard to Quit

One of the courses in my advertising program was on creative thinking. Yes, supposedly you need to go to school to learn how to think outside the box. We had a number of crazy assignments (I won’t even go down the path of the sweat lodge discussion) but one project is firmly planted in my brain. We were required to do something outside of our comfort zone, to push the envelope and do something we never thought possible. One girl tried skydiving (I think she broke her arm). A friend of mind decided to try his hand at Yuk Yuk’s open mic night. There weren’t many laughs but we were there to cheer him on (and drink). It didn’t end too badly. I’ll admit both of these tasks fall outside my comfort zone, like ‘across the country’ out of my zone, but no grade was going to convince me to try anything like this at all.

I know the purpose of the assignment was to push us, to think outside of the box and try something new. I talk about that idea within our Challenge Yourself series. It’s good to occasionally push yourself or your own fear can eat in on you but I wasn’t ready to make a huge leap like others in my class.

Instead I applied to sell print ad space in the now defunct Festival newspaper, the movie guide put out every month by the Festival (repertoire) Cinemas for it’s various theatres across town. I’m not one to put myself out there, striking up conversations with strangers, but I was studying advertising so this seemed like a good fit.

I did it, visiting the local businesses in the various theatre districts, adding a few ad spots to the paper. I did it until my class assignment was complete and then I quit. Or rather I tried to quit. I didn’t think I was very good so I thought the publisher would be pleased to loose me but he convinced me to stay. The team liked me and I liked them and he wanted me to try again. I did, until I tried to quit again. This happened three times: work, succumb to frustration, try to quit, agree to give it another go. Eventually I had to part ways for good. I needed some real funds.

The Good

Not all summer jobs were disastrous. It took a year including one summer home before I truly came to terms with Toronto being my new home. It didn’t make sense traveling back and forth. I needed to establish new roots in the city. This meant I needed to work. Like most students I canvassed the local mall for summer spots and stumbled into a position at Coles Bookstore at the Scarborough Town Center.

I loved this job, surrounded by books and book lovers. I worked with moms fulfilling a need for part-time work and students looking for a little spending money but I also had the chance to work with film majors, aspiring illustrators, and closet writers. It wasn’t so much a job but a club with the occasional customer request. Some days I still wish I worked in a bookstore. I wish I had maintained some of those friendships as I moved on. But some people, just like summer jobs, are meant to be temporary, part of a small portion of your life.

My own kids are too young to work summer jobs but I know that day will come. I cringe at these stages that increase the independence and self-sufficiency of my kids but I know it’s a necessary stage. One day my kids will have their own summer job stories, some of which will be good, bad and probably hard to quit.

Do you remember your summer jobs growing up? Did you have a favourite? Was there one you hated but did it for the money or experience? 

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