It’s time for #3 in my “Ask Me (Almost) Anything” series. One of my Twitter followers “Cas” asked me about my job/career: “What is your chosen career path and how did you choose the path and/or get there? If you are off of work for whatever reason, what was your job, would you go back to it, and why?”
Career path? Well, I had my 40th birthday in March, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! So that might be a bit of an indicator right there…
Well, let me start with what I’m doing currently, and work backwards and around somewhat, and then maybe throw out some future possibilities. Good? OK, here we go!
I am the Fuel Pumps Supervisor at a local business. The business itself combines a state-of-the-art carwash, convenience store (including an outlet for an excellent local butcher, and a deli as well), and full-service fuel. Yep, Full service… we pump your fuel, we offer to wash your windshield and check your oil, and we provide top-notch customer service. The “gas station” part is my area, and it is my domain. There aren’t many things that I can take a lot of pride in, but I work hard to provide consistent friendly service to my customers, and I make sure my team does the same. Most of my time is on the floor, serving my customers, although I also do maintenance and upkeep, train new hires for my department, report any safety or staffing issues that come to my attention, log and report our fuel inventory levels, assist other supervisors and/or advise them of issues I’ve noticed, place orders for any product inventory I need, and assist in parking lot maintenance and upkeep as well.
I also tend to root for the underdog – I’ve had more than one discussion with my GM about a staff member, where the “softie” in me wants to give people another chance, and the “legalistic” rules-and-structure part of me says “these are the rules, they are in violation, thus – we must enforce the rules via disciplinary action. Period!” Annnnd most of the time I’ve got often fairly good instincts on the right way to handle a situation, but I find I’m more comfortable if I can talk to her about it sometimes. Sometimes it’s for confirmation, sometimes for a different perspective, sometimes because I simply feel “stuck” and need help sorting it out
Sometimes, during training, I get to see “the light bulb”. And it feels so good to see it. What am I talking about? Almost any job, the first day of “hands on” training can be intimidating and overwhelming. So much new information, new surroundings, new people, new expectations, and so forth. I often use the analogy of trying to take a sip from a firehose: it’s damn near impossible, and completely pointless to try and do it smoothly or elegantly. Just realize the first day is going to be a little nuts, but stay with it and the second day goes much better. And it’s usually during that second day, where I’m making them do more and more customer interaction on their own, when the information from the training manual, where me talking and explaining and demonstrating, where the steps of “do this, then this, then this, make sure you ask or check that, and don’t forget to do that other thing if you notice X” all suddenly goes from being fragmented micro-steps to try to put together on the fly, and suddenly it starts to flow. And when they start to catch that “flow” is when the light bulb comes on. For some, it’s literally off to on. For others, it fades on. Usually it’s a fairly quick transition from having to think through every single micro-step in the process to seeing how it all works together.
Not only does the lightbulb come on, but so does the smile. The real one. Not the nervous one, or the fake one to cover the uncertainty. I’m talking the real deal. The one that shows they’re getting it and starting to enjoy it.
Those lightbulb moments have helped me so much. Days where I’m struggling myself, and having to face work, and train on top of it, and fighting to catch a glimpse of hope, or joy, or something outside the gloom my brain is trying to drown me in… those smiles of “Aha! I get it! Hey, this is actually kinda fun now!!” have been like a gentle rain on a parched garden.
From a cynical point of view, you could say I’m a glorified gas jockey. And maybe that’s true. But because of what I do, I often have a chance to chat with customers. And if I have a chance I will talk about mental illness, about depression, about anxiety, about my perspective. And because I do what I do, I’m able to just plant snippets of my story in a few minds. They see a smiling face, the guy who always seems so cheerful – say “I struggle with depression. I deal with suicidal thoughts” – and (hopefully) it makes them stop and rethink what their view of mental illness actually is. Because, for some – they wouldn’t know that it’s not like the over-dramatization so common in movies. And it’s not just “being sad”.
So, yeah – I might just be a “glorified gas jockey” but because I am, not only do I get to train people (often they’re half my age, or less!) but I get to try to build into them too, to encourage them, to build some confidence. Not only that, I get to talk to my customers about mental illness when the opportunity arises, to help break down some stereotypes, knock down some preconceptions, to put the “One in Five” statistic together with a face they’ve seen around before. A glorified gas jockey – who is trying to make an impact on the people around me. Not such a bad gig after all!!!
Now, was this a chosen career path? Not really. I’ve done labour jobs, blue-collar gruntwork. I’ve done manufacturing. Ive worked as a security officer. ’ve done minor mechanics, car tire installation, and helped with fleet maintenance on semi-trucks. I was merely “ok” at most, and “mediocre” at others. I always seemed to have a pull or knack for people. So while this wasn’t something I’ve dreamed of since Grade Two or anything, it does seem to be a good fit for me.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot I wish I could do better, even within my job. I wish I was better at staying organized and on-task. I wish I had a better handle on stepping through a project, start to finish. I have a tendency to either
- See so much forest that I forget that the forest actually has trees, or
- I get so intently focused on that one particular leaf, because it’s hanging from that branch in such a peculiar way, that the only logical possibility would be “x”. Or I suppose “f” is a possibility too. Or “h” and “n” now that I think about it. Of course, if “f” and “x” are possibilities, that means I have to have a contingency for that and if it was just “n” as the possibility. But that means I also have to account for “y” and “d”, because I don’t know if they have all day breakfast at Tim Horton’s yet. Or maybe they do. Hmm…a bagel would be really good. With cream cheese. Cheese. Mozza cheese. On a burger. Hamburger. Ground beef. Oh crap… I forgot to take ground beef out for supper. Now I have to figure out what I’m gonna make. wait…I was thinking about work. Wasn’t I? Crap…where was I? Oh yeah, I was thinking how… X isn’t a possibility, there’s no way… WHich means 2 pages of scribbled notes can be discarded…
So yeah, trying to keep my brain reigned in and on task can be challenging, even when it’s not bogged down in negativity from depression. It occasionally sparks some good ideas, but most of the time it’s just frustrating. Anyway…. back to the topic at hand of jobs and careers and such.
Future possibilities? I’ve had a few people suggest that I go into mental health counselling. I might be good at it, but going back to school at 40 scares the stuffing out of me. And so does paying for said schooling. And I could see myself getting a little too invested in my clients which could be detrimental to my own mental health.
I’ve also pondered, ever so briefly, if/how to make some money from what I also seem to have a knack for – writing. Writing my perspectives, sharing them – because ever so slowly I gain a new follower, or new reader. For whatever reason – the combination of what I write about, combined with how I write about it seems to just connect with people in a very powerful way. While it would be nice to be able to do that more and more, I also fear what is now just a thing, a hobby, becoming a job – something I’m tied to in order to provide myself with sustainable income. It’s much harder to be creative when there’s pressure. It’s much easier to be creative on my own terms, and on my own timeline.
Do I have any 5 year plans? Not at this point. In the last few months there have been glimmers of possibilities, but I’m going to keep my eyes open, keep doing what I’m doing, and trust that I’ll have the skills and/or personality to take on a new challenge or opportunity when the time comes.
I hope I answered your question. In typical fashion, I mulled over the question for a short time, opened up my laptop, and trusted that I interpreted what I think you wanted to know and allowed my heart and my fingers to answer.