If I were to write a resume detailing the work I’ve done for the past two weeks (for which I was actually paid), it would read something akin to the ramblings of a crazy person: editor, book reviewer, trip planner, dog walker, editor, editor, packer, dog walker, homework helper. If actually listening to a crazy person utter these seemingly random, non-related things, you might be inclined to tell the rambler, “Okay, slow down, make up your mind, one thing at a time.” Truth be told, I don’t like to make up my mind—about anything, really. I typically place a high value on frequent change, non-conformity and spontaneity, desires that have led to some awesome adventures at times, and frustrating amounts of indecision at others. For better or worse, my yearning for freedom, flexibility and change—lest I get bored and no longer feel challenged—has affected, and continues to affect, most aspects of my life.
My work life may be the biggest indicator of this. Since my first “real” job at the age of thirteen, as a housekeeper for a Bed & Breakfast, I’ve had at least twenty-one additional jobs, not taking into account the numerous different clients I’ve had for various freelance work.
I’ve sold gold nuggets and oosiks (defined as “large, bony supports in the penises of certain mammals”) in a jewelry store in my hometown; I’ve led a book discussion group while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and had guests throw me a “Friends of Alaska” party while working as a cruise ship librarian; and I’ve been dressed in the clothes of Fergie (of the Black Eyed Peas) by her stylist while she sometimes looked on (probably wondering–as I did–how, at nearly five inches taller and considerably smaller in the chest and hips, I was able to fit into her clothes). I’ve also held more typical posts like cocktail waitress, senior caregiver and clinical trial participant. Okay, so maybe being paid to have needles stuck in your veins for blood extraction isn’t all that typical. As random and odd as this list may be, it doesn’t even include all the “sales jobs” I had as a kid.
In my younger days I sold Girl Scout cookies (though in their defense, they practically sold themselves), $100 raffle tickets for Ski Team (which most certainly did NOT sell themselves), magazine subscriptions and wrapping paper for school, calendars for softball, lemonade and brownies (yes, brownies, and on the side of the highway no less, where motorists passed by at fifty miles per hour), and things I’m not even remembering. You name it, I probably sold it. I even went door-to-door selling toilet paper to help raise money for my high school track team. Admittedly, it wasn’t the apex of my saleswoman career, but it was actually a pretty successful endeavor; who doesn’t need toilet paper?
One of my favorite money-making gigs was re-selling candy I had bought (most likely with my lemonade earnings) to my sister, who had a much bigger sweet tooth than I had and almost always ran out of the sweet stuff long before I did. I especially delighted in setting hours for my “store” which was really just a book shelf. That way I could open up shop when I knew she was really hankering for a treat and would pay top dollar to satisfy her cravings.
Suffice it to say, over the years I’ve done a lot of different things for money. Clarification: legal things, and things my mother and father wouldn’t be ashamed to tell their friends about—though they probably have never bragged about my days selling toilet paper.
As most kids do at some point during their youth, I (still) often ponder various careers and “dream jobs.” This list is the result of my frequent musings—eliminating factors like time, money and health.
1) Actor – one who actually gets paid
Am I desperate for fame and fortune? No, not particularly. Well, maybe just a tad of the former, and then a smidgen of the latter to help me escape the former when I would like. And to provide me with the ability to be a generous donor, and spokesperson—whose voice may actually be heard—for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which rescues and rehabilitates orphaned elephants and rhinos.
The real reason being an actor has always greatly appealed to me is not because of the potential for celebrity or wealth, but rather for the chance it offers to be someone else–temporarily. While it is certainly true that some days I’d like to step in someone else’s shoes solely because mine are smelly, or uncomfortable, or just plain falling apart, I think it’s more often the case that I desire to don another’s footwear because of the experiences I might have traipsing around in them for a while. I’d love to venture into the world of a Wild West Homesteader or go inside the mind of a cracked-out junkie because I’ve never had experiences like theirs. As previously noted, I love variety, spontaneity and randomness. I love the idea that acting can offer a frequent change in hair color, wardrobe, co-workers, work environments, body composition and more.
2) Astronaut – one of the lucky few who go to space
I took my first flight before I was a week old. Granted, it was more of a get-this-baby-to-a-hospital-in-Seattle-because-she’s-having-seizures flight than one for vacation, but still, I started flying and traveling shortly after coming into this world and essentially haven’t stopped since. While I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to a few places ON planet Earth (evidenced in the countries I’ve visited), I would be over the moon (I couldn’t resist) if I got to travel OFF this great planet!
In 1995 one of my now-favorite movies came out. You guessed it: Apollo 13. I’m not sure if my adoration for the film was a result of the casting of one of the few “stars” I’d actually be ecstatic to meet (Tom Hanks), or if it was purely because of the subject matter, but I instantly became mesmerized with the idea of going to the moon, or at least space, and I haven’t lost that strong desire. But, given that I’m pretty sure my brain is more wired for understanding the basic written word, as opposed to the crazy-complicated formula with words I’ve never even seen (I’m just guessing here and realize I’m probably light years off on the kinds of things astronauts must know), I’ll probably have to continue living vicariously through Ron Howard’s idea of space, or one of Buzz Aldrin’s memoirs.
3) Professional Athlete – a runner, to be specific
Thanks to parents who focused on being active and healthy, and wanting the same for their children, I started playing some sports before I even remember doing so, almost before I could even talk—which isn’t necessarily as much of a testament to how young I was when I started playing sports as it is to how old I was when I finally said my first word. I’ve no doubt more than made up for those first couple years of silence.
The list of sports I haven’t tried is about as sparse as the list of things I haven’t sold. While I’ve tried my hand at bowling, water skiing, racquetball, basketball, gymnastics, softball, soccer, ski racing and more, my favorite sport has always been running–competitively. Not just the Sunday-jogging type, which is all well and good, but not my preference. I wasn’t too great at running while simultaneously dribbling a basketball, or kicking a soccer ball—I was the kid who tripped up and down the field—but get me out on a trail and I can go for days. Or at least I used to be able to go for days. Sure, I still can, but not without the almost-guaranteed onset of pain. Yeah, running is painful; that’s why I don’t like it and that’s why I think you’re crazy for being obsessed with it, some say. Okay, not that kind of pain. The kind of pain you feel when you know a serious injury is in the near future if you keep doing what you’re doing. The kind of pain that leads to simultaneous tibial stress fractures, which, trust me, are not a joy to deal with.
Given that I’ll consider myself lucky and happy if I can one day get through a marathon without severely re-injuring my poor shins, my dream of being a professional runner will most likely have to be supplanted by watching others achieve their dreams on an Olympic track and keep it what it is: a dream.
4) Taste Tester – of ice cream
If health, cavities and the fear of an expanding waist-line weren’t issues, I’d eat this job up with a spoon–pun most definitely intended. While my parents set a great example of fitness and health for my sister and me, I grew up in a house that always had ice cream in the freezer. If it wasn’t in the freezer, it was out on the kitchen counter being delved into with a scoop. If it wasn’t in the freezer or on the counter, someone had to make a trip to the store–that night. Seriously. In fact, I’m sure my mom and dad were some of the few parents excited about their children becoming licensed drivers because it meant they could pawn the ice cream-getting task off on them. Or, rather, us. And, being the youngest, me. No bother; always having ice cream to eat was fine by me!
Though I don’t eat ice cream now (see the aforementioned health, cavities and waist-line considerations), I would delight in being one of the first to try Tin Roof Sundae, Peanut Butter Cup or Ben & Jerry’s ‘Late Night Snack’ (Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with a Salty Caramel Swirl and Fudge Covered Potato Chips), and offer my opinion and have it be taken seriously. Imagine eating ice cream every day! Oh wait, I did that my entire childhood. Okay, imagine getting paid for it! You wouldn’t find me complaining. But, considering my teeth have other plans, in that they get cavities just thinking about sugar (or maybe it’s adult-onset from the countless bowls of ice cream I ate as a kid), I’ll have to be satisfied in judging ice cream flavors by their names and list of ingredients. Of course using that method, I’m sure I’ll always be biased toward Ben & Jerry’s ‘Lemonade Stand Sorbet’ as an homage to my former roadside gig.
5) Jeff Corwin’s jobs – the whole experience
I recently finished reading 100 Heartbeats, a fascinating, interesting, and admittedly depressing book by Jeff Corwin about “the race to save Earth’s most endangered species.” While Corwin is most well-known for hosting (and producing) Animal Planet’s The Jeff Corwin Experience and Corwin’s Quest, he is also a conservationist, wildlife biologist, documentary filmmaker, herpetologist, museum founder and anthropologist. I’m sure I’m even leaving a few jobs out.
Basically, he gets to work with animals, a lot that many people will unfortunately only ever see in zoos, and still others most people will never see at all. He has traveled to Kenya to be a mahout (elephant keeper) at my beloved David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where he snuggled all night with a baby elephant who was orphaned at the hands of poachers; he has visited a conservation ranch in Namibia to help rehabilitate a cheetah who suffered a run-in with a rancher; he has held three-week-old red wolf pups that were born in the wild; he has trekked through the Panama rainforest in search of endangered amphibians; and he has filmed the rare Indian rhino while riding an Asian elephant through Chitwan National Park at the base of the Himalayas.
I can’t imagine anything more adventurous and gratifying than traveling to magnificent places to help preserve threatened and endangered species, and then writing books, producing and hosting TV shows and documentaries, about the experiences–though selling toilet paper door-to-door might run a close second.