minimum-wage1When I was too young to work legally, I pimped my services out to my parents–cleaned the house top to bottom every weekend for a $1, cleaned the garage for .50 and weeded the garden for pennies. Apparently, the wide gap between my work ethic and compensation by others started at an early age.

When I was 15 I got a worker’s permit and started to see some real money. I landed a job as a cashier at the Big Y supermarket.  Later, I  waitressed at Friendly’s and worked at a friend’s family restaurant. I saved enough money to pay for my first year at BU.

When I got to college, I took the work study job that came with my financial aid package. It paid crap, so I set out to find something else on my own. I ended up getting two: laundry mat attendant on Newbury Street and hostess at Anthony’s Pier Four.  Both seemed to have ties to organized crime, but what did I know? I just needed a paycheck.

The summer of my freshman year, I found a job as a house painter. Yeah, that’s right–a house painter. As in, painting the outside of houses. I know how to use ladder jacks and how to power wash. I smoked Marlboro Reds and drank Bud. It was over 100 degrees every freakin’ day and one day the soles melted off our shoes.

About three years into college, my financial aid package and three jobs were no longer enough to pay the rent and bills for my one star accommodations at a frat house  or the books and supplies I needed for my classes (I won’t even get into the feeding and clothing myself thing). So, I reluctantly took a leave of absence.

I filled out a piece of paper, handed it in to some administrative numnut who had no interest in why a good student would be taking a leave of absence, and started the glamorous life of working in the real world (which was pretty much the same as I had been doing all along).

Somewhere along the way, I started waitressing at a Friendly’s in Allston–going back to my roots.  Unfortunately, tips at Friendly’s maxed out at about $5/table, so saving up enough for rent meant I had to work approximately 45 shifts a week.

Around the time I realized the Friendly’s “salary” was not going to cut it, I got a job waitressing at Uno’s in Allston. I stayed there for about five years in total, met my future husband and was fired for credit card fraud in the end (I maintain my innocence).

While there, I had a manager who never finished college and encouraged me to go back. I did go back, took a second job waitressing at Serendipity 3 restaurant in Faneuil Hall (home of the frozen hot chocolate) and worked myself to the bone. I was known as “the lump on the couch” to my roommates and friends who came over between the hours of 1pm and 3pm (my nap time on the couch post-class and pre-work). Caffeine was my best friend and that couch was my savior.

Some how, some way, I graduated from college. All my restaurant buddies came to the ceremony and took pictures. I felt relieved. I was sure the hardest part of my life was behind me. I could finally kick back and enjoy the fruits of my $120k education.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t quite been the case. I had a baby, was diagnosed with RA and live in one of the most expensive places in the country. It’s been hard to get on top of things and life throws a lot of curve balls.

I know now that I’ll always work harder than I should. I just can’t help myself. I’m just hoping next time, I’ll find something I really love doing.  Nothing else really matters, does it?