I moved out on my own when I was 17. I wanted to have my own space and make my own decisions. I took some truly horrible jobs just to cover my bills. Some of those early jobs were pretty funny too. I am capable of polishing the brass pole in a strip club for instance. I didn’t know what the brass pole was used for at that time, but hey, I’m capable of polishing brass. I found a lot of dollars lying around on the floor at that job too. Let’s see… what else am I capable of doing? I’ve shoveled dung from horse barns, planted crops with illegal immigrants, worked in a rubber factory, cleaned toilets at a hotel, planted and sold vegetables, changed diapers, shelved books, sold hot dogs on the street from a cart… I’m not sure why I don’t have some of these things on my resume.
Maybe my best career move in crappy jobs was production and photo retouching at a department store. I heard about the opening after a string of my fellow college students had turned it down for being “beneath” them and because it only paid $5/hour. I wasn’t so proud. I scheduled my hours around my classes and had an actual job on my first resume. In fact, that job enabled me to get my first “real” job. It also allowed me to learn important stuff that I didn’t get from my expensive college education which I’ve used in every job since.
Sometimes people will comment to me that I can do anything. Sure, why not? Can’t you do anything too? Once, a friend made that comment when I offered to fix the drywall in her house after her abusive husband went on a rampage. My remarks were: 1. leave the SOB, 2. have him fix what he tore up, and 3. I’ll teach you how to fix drywall. She said she couldn’t leave him because he made the money, couldn’t get him to fix anything, and didn’t want to learn how to fix drywall. Okay, keep your black eye and the hole in your wall.
Another friend told me she “couldn’t” get to work on time. When I pointed out that of course she “could”, she came up with a string of excuses that I kept swatting away until she admitted that okay, she didn’t “want” to get to work on time. She wanted to sleep in and fluff her hair to perfection in the mornings. The world becomes a lot different when we realize that we are capable of whatever we value. We really do create our own reality.
When I was a child, my older sisters learned how to do most things before I did. Since my sisters were very different from each other, their combined skills covered a lot of ground, but then we went to Girl Scout camp. This was an excellent proving ground for me because my sisters camped in a different area. Bliss! Freedom! Mom dropped us off early, so I got to choose my tent and cot before other girls started creating the pecking order. When my tent mates started screaming about spiders on the ceiling and mice nests in the rolled up tent flaps, I moved the unwanted wildlife outside and earned my place in the social hierarchy. My skills were put to continued good use because the mice and spiders moved back to the tent every day, and I moved them out every evening. I found I was good at a lot of stuff city girls didn’t know how to do. I baited their hooks, took their fish off the lines, did my share of mess tent chores, started the campfire, rowed them around the lake, and explained how to macramé a lanyard. I was a hit at GS camp.
Sometimes, the secret to feeling capable is knowing what we’re good at. Sometimes it’s being willing to try new things. Sometimes it’s just learning from whatever situations we find ourselves in. But mostly, I think being capable of taking care of ourselves is a form of happiness. We don’t have to feel trapped or helpless. We can make decisions towards our goals and bliss.