She’s Off to the World of Work

2005 GymnasticsShe’s off – into the world of work and I’m torn between despair it would never happen and sadness that it has. “You’re not supposed to wear yoga pants, but everybody does.  I’m the rookie, so I can’t”  She had just given me a sideways glance, now she stared straight ahead as she talked in the car.  “I don’t want to go” she said flatly.  “I haven’t been paid yet so it seems like I’m working for nothing.  Maybe it’ll be better once I get paid”.   “What is it?” I asked. “Is it you don’t want to work, or you don’t want to be a rookie at work?”  Even though she thought it was rookie anxiety, I could sense it was more than that.

 

She had just graduated but school hadn’t prepared her for work.  Her loyal girl circle had acquainted her with the idea of work, but at the age of 18, she had never really experienced it first hand.  Cleaning one’s room and doing one’s own laundry were paltry facsimiles offering up no pay and little reward even if your mother insisted on the minimum of standards.  Years of advice on how to dress modestly, how to express your own opinion and be kind, how to follow something through to the end had not given any motivation for finding employment. In fact, from the eyes of a teenager, it was far more logical to ask your father to cover extracurricular expenses, knowing he would always come through.

 

I was instructed to pull the car up to the back parking lot, behind the building, facing the staff entrance.  We were early.  Like the guitar lesson that began on the hour, a ten minute margin of punctuality was deemed ill-timed as one cannot arrive that early. I instructed her on the laws that govern parents driving children to jobs.  “Joe says not to put my backpack in the lockers ’cause all the geeks do that.  She says I should put mine in the bathroom cubby.  But when I opened one of the cubbies, it was filled with all this junk and what happens if someone’s in the bathroom and you need your backpack?” Advice from a trusted source didn’t make it trustworthy advice. I told her to use her own common sense and to trust she could make choices based on her sense of right and wrong.

 

She was smart enough to realize that university wasn’t what she wanted right now.  I wanted her to take a leap and leave home, trying out life in another city.  I tried to convince her that an arts degree could help her find her way.  No, it would not necessarily assure her of employment, but life is about more than employment.  So I guess that makes me to blame for her sitting in the car on the drive to her first official employment trying to convince her that her attitude was all she had.  With the face she made, standing there in her new black dress pants that she claimed were too big, she did her best to promise she wouldn’t be hard to get along with.  I knew she wouldn’t be.  But it was more than just that.  She knew she needed to get going.  Get her life going; step out, find out what working was about.  It was time. As she held the car door, I leaned over from the driver’s seat, squinting up at her.  “You can’t control what comes to you.  All you have is your attitude, how you respond.”  I hoped it was enough. I watched from the car as she approached the staff entrance. Backpack complete with lunch – amazing in its own right. 

 

For a moment I was transported to the airport where she met up with the other members of the gymnastics team for a cross country competition.  I was the interloper then, watching as if it would confirm she would be safe. Now I sit in the car, making sure they open the door for her before I leave as if she needed me to wait.   She had pronounced her shift ended at 4:30 as if to impress upon me the importance of punctuality.  I think my heart went in that door with her. I know it will be waiting for her in the parking lot after work.

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