Monday, August 24, 2009

So What Do You Do For a Living?

I have worn many different career hats in my life: waitress, animal trainer, business owner, program coordinator, volunteer manager, grant writer, museum technician, archaeologist, teacher, and now historian.

This past week I was in Death Valley National Park doing a research project for a former colleague. If I hadn’t met her for the short year and half stint that I worked with her, I wouldn’t have been asked to participate in this most recent job. Each and every job, no matter how small or short-lived, has provided me knowledge, experience and contacts to take me on more adventures and journeys than I ever believed possible.

Job hopping isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t always look so great on a resume. As I tried one job after another, some just to pay the bills, others with the intention of being my life’s work, I heard mocking jabs from many that I was flaky and unstable. To me, however, my tapestry of jobs is a source of pride and fulfillment; each and every one of them a stepping stone to teach me something new and open the door to opportunities I could never have imagined experiencing.

I consider the in-between jobs such as waiting tables, office work and business owner as basic training. I learned how to be organized and efficient, but I never once considered those positions to be my life’s work. No, it was the animal caregiver, the teacher, the nature lover and the storytelling parts of me that drew me to the career choices I have made.

As a child I knew, after watching the television movie Born Free that I was going to work with animals. That determination took me from my small town life in western New York to southern California where I got my training and experience in the animal field.

Training a wolf in Moorpark College's Exotic Animal Training and Management Program

A move to Las Vegas came about because I got a job working in an animal care facility. I lasted only one year at that job where I couldn’t tolerate the working conditions, namely the boss who was an egocentric tyrant.

From there my husband and I opened a business, one of two we would try, but hopefully not our last.

Acres of Animals Pet Shop, Las Vegas, NV 1989-1991

Signature Cafe, Attica, NY 1999-2001

Then it was back to college in order for me to have a degree which would enable me to get a better paying job. That’s where I got the training and contacts to work as an archaeologist. By the time I was academically trained I was almost too old and too settled with my family to live the life of a wandering anthropologist and archaeologist.

Trekking up mountains for 10-12 hour work days was too much to ask from someone used to a daily shower and a home cooked meal, not to mention how much my late-forty-year-old bones protested.

My "home" during field excursions

Recording prehistoric Rock Art, Nevada

It was that job and that gave me my first real experience as an oral historian. Where some people relish people watching, I am drawn to their stories. That, along with my hobby of researching family genealogy is what made me realize just how much I love research and the reason I went back to college for a degree in history.

So here I sit in front of my computer with a mountain of research material to tackle and I couldn’t be happier. I can see this work taking me into my golden years, which isn’t a bad gig.

I do, however, continue to yearn for more. I have often wished that reincarnation were true because there are so many other careers I want to try: geologist, biologist, dolphin trainer, animal behaviorist, world traveler, published author, motivational speaker; the list could go on and on.

For now I am content to enjoy the work I am blessed enough to have. But, who knows what’s next? I’ll just have to wait and see.


Alan Burnett said...

Fascinating post. I share your love of historical research and love to just explore anything from family history to old newspapers and archives.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, you are a sum of all of your life's experiences. Those experiences, what you call jobs, are just opportunities for learning and for growing.

Pain and joy are part of the journey, as is wonder and delight!