Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Is There a Light at The End of The Tunnel, or Is This a Cave?

I’ve never been a stranger to hard work. I don’t mind it, and in some instances I actually really enjoy it. I like the sense of accomplishment, knowing I’ve overcome obstacles I’ve never faced before and done so successfully, and the payoff—if any—isn’t bad either. It’s that last part that I haven’t seen much of lately.

I’ve always done odd jobs. I was the kid with the lemonade stand (who forgot to add sugar), I was the founder of our neighborhood “club” who wanted to charge dues to the other 7-year olds, I even helped out at times in my dad’s office.

Being in an office was always more fun than work, because as a kid you’re almost never in an office, unless it’s a doctor’s office or dental office—you get my point. We should be so lucky to have had the foresight that the majority of us would wind up spending much of our adult lives in this mysterious and fun place we call an office. I digress.

I remember the first time I went to help my dad out in his office. They set me up in the conference room, with folders and various colored papers laid out on the conference table. I got to stuff the marketing packets.

“This must mean I’m important,” I remember thinking. I also remember being incredibly overwhelmed, because I’d never been asked to perform a task like this before, and although I was afraid I was going to mess it up, I knew I had to try my hardest, so I could come back. I was 8 years old.

It took me all day. The office manager would come in and check on me every so often, taking me to the break room to get a snack from the vending machine, or escorting me to my dad’s office for lunch. At the end of the day, I completed the project. I was relieved.

I knew I received some “congratualations” and “good job”s from my dad and his staff, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what was said and who said it. What I do remember is the office manager meeting us out at the car as we were leaving for the day. My dad rolled down his window.

“You forgot this,” she said and handed my dad an envelope. In it was $46 and some odd cents. “It’s your pay,” she said, “Come back any time.”

Wow, I thought. I never expected to be paid! And even as a kid, I knew my dad wasn’t behind the payment, because he looked as surprised as I did when the office manager delivered the envelope.

“Where did that money come from?” I asked my dad.

“Petty cash,” he said, which would confuse the hell out of me for years to come. It left me thinking that “petty cash” was how everyone got paid…

I guess the point of this story is that although the kind words and praise fade, the memory of having been paid for a job well done remains. It’s sick, I know. I should do things for the sake of doing something good. And I do.

Truth is, I do a lot these days. A LOT. And I get paid for very little of it.

“When are you going to start making the big bucks,” J asks me every now and then. Last time he did so, I snapped at him.

I may not be making any money doing much of the work I do now (associated with roller derby and sponsorship), but I’m learning skills that I think will help me get ahead in the future. The question that remains is: when is the future going to get here?

I wouldn’t trade the experience I’m getting now and have gotten in the past 3+ years for anything – not even money. I honestly think I’ve learned more about business and working with others than I would have in the next 25 years of my life had I never been involved with the business of roller derby.

I suppose I’m just impatient. I have stayed in the same job (real job) for 4 years. I haven’t been promoted, and I haven’t applied anywhere else, because my heart lies in derby. Yet, I see friends of mine moving up the ladder, getting better jobs that pay better, and I find myself dividing up what little free time I have to either do more derby work or make a plan on how to cut my grocery bill because my pay can’t keep up with rising prices.

I’m a smart woman, and I love what I do, but I need to catch a break. I suppose I should follow my own advice, and not just wait for something to happen – I need to make something happen. This is going to mean setting aside time for me to think about this, which I normally wouldn’t do because I have no free time, but, in this case, I’m the most important thing in my life, so I’ll make time. Wish me luck.

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