Family Practice: The meaning in menialWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m not a huge fan of the word “menial” being idly placed in front of the word “job.” I’ve personally held a number of jobs designated as such, yet their long-term influence on my day-to-day life has been anything but lowly and insignificant. In direct contradiction to being defined as “unskilled,” the “menial” jobs (I prefer just the term “jobs”) I have held over the years have actually provided me with a vast and varied skill set that I no doubt utilize on a daily basis.
Newspaper Delivery – My first job, which was highly aided in the manual labor department by my parents and our station wagon, was delivering newspapers. At seven years old, I was learning about my neighborhood, money, customer service and problem solving. Beyond just figuring out who gets a paper which day and what to do when the wind blows 20 newspapers down the street, I was also learning to interact with the world around me. As I performed my monthly money collection duties, I would listen to stories about the house that is now our historical museum back when it was just another stop on my paper route. In fact, I experienced many a wonderful visit with many a wonderful person along the way.
Umpire – Long before I started my homemaking empire (OK, it‘s actually just the one home), I was a tee ball umpire. Even though I was only bound to calling “safe” and “out,” and not yet balls and strikes, the challenges associated with producing fair judgment still became rather obvious rather quickly. The realization that it is a difficult job also brought to light the importance of respecting authority as I took my first turn as a person in such a position. Accurate record keeping and dressing properly for weather conditions also came as quick, albeit less interesting, lessons.
Grocery Store - I wasn’t physically a grocery store, of course, but I did end up with a plethora of jobs within its walls. I started out on the register, where I honed all of those minor math skills and major interpersonal skills I had been practicing since childhood. As I moved into the bakery department, I learned that sometimes your life’s work demands you get yourself up and ready to face the world at 3:30 in the morning. This insight was especially helpful as I began my nine years and counting of not sleeping through the night, aka child rearing.
Pizza Delivery - From newspapers to pizzas, delivering things around town, sometimes even out into the desolate unknown, was always a good complement to my main academic squeeze, geography. Perhaps no pizza place lesson was as great, however, as the morning my manager decided five minutes into the day that pizza-making might no longer be for him. What do you do in life when pizza orders are coming in, you’re the only person in the joint and you’ve never made a pizza before? You teach yourself to make pizzas, my friend, and fast.
Child Care – Although it was obvious early on that it would take at least a good lifetime or so to make my first million by taking care of children, it really didn’t matter. After a stint in child care followed by a stint in college, I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – a mother. As much as I enjoyed it, all of the geography and computer programming and philosophy and anthropology couldn’t compete in the least with aiding the growth process of another human being. As much as I enjoyed studying what academia thinks life might be about, it couldn’t hold a candle to experiencing the actual meaning firsthand.
As my children dream about what they might like to be someday, I can’t help but be most excited for their foray into those earliest jobs, the ones they will likely toil the hardest in, take the most away from and build the broadest foundation for everything else they will ever do in life. My wish for them is that they find meaning it that which is considered menial, for anything you do that you can learn from and carry with you is a worthwhile pursuit and time well spent.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.