I believe in specializing in everything.
My restless spirit has blessed me with the opportunity to work many different jobs since first joining the workforce at age sixteen. I’ve moved seventeen times since leaving home at age eighteen. I’ve earned paychecks across 200 miles from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. Only once did I relocate outside of Michigan, moving minutes from the Mexican border in Southern California, where I held six jobs in a single year.
Some jobs were short-lived; one in particular lasted only a day. (I just couldn’t get comfortable in a safari hat and apron, sampling organic ice cream at Costco) but each one is significant in shaping the man I am today. I learned what my threshold is, what makes me anxious, satisfied, content, bored and afraid.
My first job was delivering flowers. I learned how good it felt to give someone something when they weren’t expecting it, that loneliness and despair have a scent and that my pre-conceived ideas of gay men were completely wrong.
At seventeen, I worked maintenance at a campground. I learned that $4.75/hr. for laying sod was ludicrous, that cleaning public restrooms would scar me for life and that the smell of dozens of simultaneously burning campfires was awe-inspiring.
At 21, as a Youth Service Worker, I learned that a sheltered white boy from small town, Michigan could become a role model to Multi-cultural, at-risk youth in the roughest neighborhoods of inner-city San Diego.
At 22, while working as a front desk clerk at a seedy bayside motel, I learned that many wealthy, married, businessmen spent their lunch hours meeting prostitutes for a half hour rate dubbed “The Fisherman’s Special.”
That same year I also learned that MTV productions are cheap and unorganized as I subjected myself to the hilarity of participating in a reality dating show.
At 23, I learned the culture and importance of eating and living organically while working as a crew member at Trader Joe’s Market.
I landed a print modeling opportunity at 24. I learned that large health care companies are frugal with ad dollars and that very few people pay attention to billboard advertising. My head was pasted onto several across the Detroit Metropolitan area and not a person I knew that commuted on those highways noticed my face. Maybe people actually DO pay attention to the road.
At 25, as a Personal Trainer, I learned that it’s near-impossible to instill a passion for health & wellness in someone who’s never exercised a day in their life and is addicted to Ben & Jerry’s and Taco Bell.
Currently, at 29, I’ve learned that the music industry shift from CD to digital may soon put me out of a job, but that’s ok, I’m ready to continue broadening my pallet anyway.
Would I have more money in my pockets and a more reputable resume’ if I’d have focused on specializing in one field and committing to one job? Maybe…but I’d also be far less open-minded, adventurous and experienced.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.