Photo: Trevor Dennis, Flickr Creative Commons
In the summer of my 7th-grade year, I started working at an uncle's metal shop. He had a huge order of rolling tobacco wagons that year and I spent a significant part of my summer working friction saws, hydraulic presses, drills, and cutting torches. I actually loved the work. It was kind of cool to be able to be a part of building something like that and come home black from the carbon that came off of the steel rods we cut and bent into hooked spears. Besides, what young teen boy wouldn't revel in being handed a tool that can melt steel and then have all of the adults turn their backs and walk away? Luckily for my uncle, I've always been a very trustworthy person, although I do have a scar on my foot from playing around just a little and ending up with a small glob of molten metal burning through my shoe. The next year my uncle's business was a little slower and I ended up unloading semi-trucks of used office furniture into another uncle's warehouses. The summer after that I spent weeks cleaning up one of his rental properties by myself. As soon as I turned sixteen, I started working regular part-time jobs, first as a janitor at a trucking company and eventually as a bagger and cashier at a grocery store.
I'd love to say that all of that work made me a better person, but I doubt it. My mom wouldn't give us an allowance and the few times she tried, she'd get angry and cancel allowances for good when we'd remind her that she'd forgotten to give it to us. If I wanted money, I had to work for it. I kept it up through college, working several part-time jobs throughout. Despite this willingness to hold a paying job, I'm a lazy fuck. Last fall, just cleaning up the brush from trimming the giant overgrown shrub-trees had me fuming. Nothing was going wrong; it was just infuriating to me that I had to spent more than five minute doing the work. I get this weird grumpiness from just doing the dishes. I actually hate this part of myself. If you're paying me to do it, I'll show up, do the work, do it as well as I can, and I won't complain, even to myself, usually. I won't even hate the work, but for some reason doing the same for myself taps into some source of anger whose source I have never been able to find.