Way before I met my sailor, I started hoarding Oprah quotes about work.
-- "Find a way to get paid for doing what you love. Then every paycheck will be a bonus." -- “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job, and not be paid for it.”-- "Let passion drive your profession.”
I was all ready for the most meaningful work in the world to come my way and I thought I would be handsomely paid for it. (Cut me some slack, will you? I was 21. A diet of Oprah on a youthful stomach leads to nothing but rolls of shiny optimism.)
So when we got married, I was floored by the fact that no one was hiring a girl who was happy to tell the interviewer she was moving in six months. No one was hiring a chick with a bucketful of college classes and no degree.
But WE HAD BILLS. So I took a series of crap jobs to pay those bills while my husband finished his training.
I worked as a phone operator in a closet at a bank. I worked at Joann Fabric and at the Navy Exchange. I got a job at an office furniture supplier where my boss called me the “C” word at least once a week.
I even worked as a guide in one of the historic houses in Newport reciting a nine page script about marble bathrooms. I liked that, but I quit the day before they fired me for inventing new “facts” to tell the tourists. (I’m a natural writergirl and I simply could not help myself. Really. It was a service project for those bored tourists.)
But all of the sudden the quote that applied to my work life was Dostoyevsky’s: “If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely…all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.”
I felt crushed back then. And I meet women who are crushed that way by jobs that just pay the bills all the time. They have a way of shaking their heads while they talk about work. They have a way of shrugging their shoulders as if what they are doing counts for nothing because it is only paying the bills.
But I think that in military life, sometimes those bill payer jobs are absolutely necessary. They are part of paying your dues. They are part of growing up. They are the reality of living in a two-income world with a military partner. They are often part of living in a military hellhole where the employment you want just doesn’t exist. Is there a way to think about those jobs that would make them more bearable?
When I talk to bill paying spouses, I often wish we had more information about how military spouses use these jobs in their lives. So could you help us by telling us something about your experience?
What’s the worst job you ever worked as a military spouse? Why did you take the job? How did you keep yourself going to work everyday? And what did you get out of it (if anything) in the end?