When You Go Back to Your First Job
Life Can Be Unexpected
My mom plopped down an application on the dining room table in the summer of 2003. Looking at the paper, I saw the words ‘job application’ and the order from my mom to fill it out. My teenage brain searched for a reference point, hadn’t she said something about getting a job since I was 15 and legally allowed to work? I promptly filled it out, submitted it and soon after I was working at my first job.
Before this story progresses, I should state that my first job wasn’t in retail or food, but at a newspaper. Before you think ‘oh you wrote!’, I didn’t. I worked in the mailroom which meant putting inserts into papers, folding papers, mailing papers and doing a lot of lifting (paper is heavy!) I would go on to work there until I left for college and even afterwards I picked up side jobs from time to time.
The last time I worked for them was before my first full-time job, which I accepted almost a year to the day after graduating college (working 2-3 part-time jobs is not fun). I left the city I was in and progressed up the career track for the next five years. I became a Special Education Teacher after two years as a Teaching Assistant, for three years. Everything was on the up and up.
Then I Was Laid Off Unexpectedly
Which is why I found myself sitting in the old blue knobbed chair that I did on a recent rainy Tuesday. I was in the office of my first job, ten years to the month after I left it to attend go to college. After completing paperwork, I was ushered into the mailroom and I found myself gazing around at the printing press, rolls of paper and stations set up for independent jobs.
It felt strange to be back, but not much had changed. The mailroom itself carried a familiar scent and I swear the spiderweb in one of the corners has yet to be touched (judging by its density) in the ten years since I last saw it. Some of the people I worked with were still there, but most of the people were new.
Within minutes of arriving, I was put to work on a machine that I remembered very well. I sped through the independent jobs that I was given. I was thrown into the frey with no training, but I knew what I was doing. Despite not running the machines in ten years, it was like no time had passed. By the end of the night, I swear I’d traded in a pound of scrawny for a pound of muscle. There is a lot more lifting and carrying than you’d expect, oh and paper is heavy, did I mention that?
The sole person on the crew I was working with that I used to work with called out later in the evening, “feels like old times right?” I laughed and said it did. I felt like a high schooler again or a younger version of myself who was taking college classes before starting college at a university.
Therefore as the hours passed, I had to remind myself I wasn’t that dreamy eyed teenager who was saving up for college. To counteract it, my subconscious began to play “…let me tell you what I wish I’d known, when I was young and dreamed of glory,” from the Hamilton song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” I also found myself counting up what I was earning and what bills I’d be applying that money to, just like when I was a teenager. I never have done that at my salary jobs, since the money seems to instantaneous.
At the end of the night, a coworker stopped me and asked “where have you been all this time?” She was complimenting me on my ability, speed and quality of work over the course of my nine hour shift. I smiled and said that I was a teacher, but that I took this job due to being laid off (and accepted a home-based education job in addition to this job). She sighed and shook her head in sympathy, relating a story of someone else she knew that had experienced that too.
When I left at midnight, I was exhausted and my muscles were aching. I had worked hard and had a decent chunk of change in my pocket. Additionally, I enjoyed the work itself and the hours never felt slow (except when they machine was breaking down every minute for the first 30 minutes of work). I finally went to bed at close to 1, knowing I had to be up at 7am and working again at tomorrow evening. It will all be worth it, I told myself, this is only temporary.
I may not be a starry-eyed teenager with big dreams, but I am a 20-something with realistic, big dreams. I have plans, big plans.
© 2017 Alexis