Your Own Lemonade Stand

Milo & Eliot's lemonade stand

Your Own Lemonade Stand

Have you ever known anyone who does badly on every job they ever hold, but does great when self-employed? Are you that person? Do you take an unfair hunk of criticism for it, feel attacked for a failure to adjust? Does this somehow not feel right to you?
When I was looking for my first full-time job, I was heavily criticized for not wanting to work as a secretary. Because I was good at it, too many assumed I should look no further–as if I couldn’t possibly succeed at anything else. Today I worry that many others are brought down emotionally by trying to fit into the lock-step of some corporation, someone else’s pre-ordained decision about which of the countless potential jobs that person should focus on.
Clearly, it is not problematic to enjoy routine work in large companies; we couldn’t survive without people who do. Can you imagine a world without anyone to do paperwork, or packing and shipping, or countless other somewhat routine and but extremely critical career paths? (Next time we ask for that documentation or receive that properly-handled package, let’s give a nod of appreciation for the people who took the trouble to honor that job by doing it diligently.)
When I tried to do secretarial work, it was such a bad match for me that I found myself getting too bored to fit in the way I was expected to. That experience served me well, though, now that I am responsible for my own record keeping. My job in a yarn shop lasted four years, and was an excellent fit. I especially enjoyed the teaching, a joy that carried over years later when I taught at a community college. These were all jobs that gave me a great deal of independence, with some of the same benefits the self-employed enjoy.
For some of us, our earliest jobs lead to becoming more entrenched, finding our niche in the corporate structure. For others, they serve as training for striking out on our own. Some utilize more of a hybrid approach, holding a full or part time job, while building a side business after hours.
How has this worked for me as a counselor? Very well, thank you. Like most professions, there are regulations I have to follow, so the idea of totally doing as I please is folly. But I do set my own hours and rates. I picked out, furnished, and decorated my own office. And, within the limits of the rules established by the Board, I make my own choices when it comes to solving whatever problems come up along the way.
Some people enjoy the good fortune to know early in life what career path they will pursue; others take longer to find their niche. But once that niche is found, those people find themselves doing their very best work. And the joy they bring to that work is contagious. It’s kind of like having your own lemonade stand.

Givers and Takers

elderly man helping woman on walker

Givers and Takers

There are givers in the world and there are takers. People who give freely without expectations, and people whose first question is always “What’s in it for me?” Most of us aren’t totally at either end of the spectrum, but the analogy can simplify one’s word view. After a few too many personal experiences with takers, I came up with my own little fantasy: If only (how many sentences start with “if only?”)–if only the givers would hold out for other givers in their relationships, the takers would have no one left. They would have to put up with other takers, or change their ways a bit.

If you are a taker, cut that out.

If you are a giver, please pay attention: Do you ever find yourself totally exhausted by the demands of some perfectly capable adult who demands more of you than any child ever did? Do you feel powerless to do anything about it because–well, if you don’t take care of the _______ (fill in the blank) it won’t get done? You do have choices; they just aren’t always the most pleasant ones. You can sit back and let less get accomplished. Okay, you won’t leave a baby screaming in hunger. But those dishes can sit for another half hour without anyone calling the health department.

This can feel impossible, but it is a choice. I dealt with a person who wouldn’t take care of some child-related issues I felt were important. These were not things that would get him charged with neglect, but they did contribute to the children’s feeling of well-being. I angrily and resentfully stepped up to the plate. And I complained to a mental health counselor who said “You are choosing to not let those children suffer.” I do feel it was the right choice. And regarding it as a choice distinctly improved my disposition.

I am still a giver. Because I choose to be. But I now have a better recognition of my limits. My life is primarily filled with other givers these days. I don’t have the time or the inclination to pander to people who don’t contribute their fair share–whether it be effort, time, or resources. And if every giver followed the same path, those pathological takers among us would have such a shortage of victims. At least that’s my theory.