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Why I’m Thankful For Jobs I Hated

November 26, 2015

After the first week, I didn’t even need an alarm clock. Out of bed at 1:30AM. At the distribution center by 2:00. The papers arrived about 2:30. Then race like mad to get them folded, bagged, banded and loaded into my Suburban. 

If they weren’t on the doorstep by 7:30, the complaints would start. Most days, that wasn’t an issue. Even with a few hundred to deliver, I could manage it. Sundays were tight. That Thanksgiving paper? Just plan on getting calls from the last couple dozen people. 

It’s easy to say, I hated that job. It had no real redeeming features. I was strictly working for a paycheck, and delivering papers was a pretty thin paycheck. Considering this was 2006 when gas was $4.00 a gallon and much of my “profit” got eaten up in gas for my 12 mpg Suburban, the thin paycheck didn’t go far. 

But, looking back, I am grateful for that job. In fact, I’m more grateful for it than the $80 / hour consulting job I got at Microsoft a few months later. 

I’m naturally a lazy person. Not sit on the couch and eat chips kind of lazy. But, I tend to put things off. I tend to look for the way to make a job fun so that I can trick myself into doing it. I’m also very, very good at my job. I’ve been involved in computers since the dawn of the PC age. I understand a lot about some parts of computers and at least a little about most parts. 

Computer jobs are perfect for me. Regardless of the role I’ve been in throughout my career, I’ve had the chance to teach people about interesting things. I love teaching and especially helping take complex computer concepts and simplify them. I get to write. I get to travel occasionally. I get to work with passionate people who are also really good at their jobs. And I get paid well. 

My newspaper job had none of those advantages. 

I didn’t get to teach anyone anything. The most complex aspect of my job was figuring out the optimal route to get several hundred papers on doorsteps as quickly as possible. There was not only nothing to write, there was no time to do it. My only travel was navigating darkened streets at insane hours of the morning. The people I did interact with were mostly people like me, doing this because they absolutely had to have the money. Motivated? Not so much. And I got paid almost nothing. 

So, why am I grateful for that job? Even more than the $160,000 per year job that I eventually moved to? 

That job taught me things that I never would have learned any other way. 

There were some practical things. I learned that my mirrors folded in after I banged them by steering too close to some mailboxes. I learned that people steal other people’s papers in the morning. I learned that just because there’s no rain forecasts doesn’t mean it’s not going to rain. (Put the papers in the bags anyway.) I got really good at driving with my knees while tossing papers out the window. 

But, those were lessons that I probably won’t use a lot in the future. I also learned that all jobs have dignity. I watched single moms drag their young children down to the distribution center at 2:00am because they needed the job and had no one else to watch them. I watched affluent parents drive their teenage children around on their paper route to give the child a chance to hold their first job. I met people who were on the brink of going under financially. I saw the fear in a father’s eyes as he desperately tried to keep his family afloat. I met people who had very little who were generous with their time and their talents when another driver had a problem completing their route one day. 

I learned humility. It’s easy when life is good, money is sufficient, to think “I earned this,” “I deserve this.” No, we are all one bad decision away from losing it all. I learned that I can do hard things. I gave up my love of playing basketball because I had to go to bed at 7:00 pm. I gave up TV because we didn’t want to pay the cable company. I gave up eating out. I gave up things that I thought were, if not necessities, at least really imporant. 

And the most important lesson of all, I was able to set an example for my children. The younger ones don’t remember, but the older ones will never forget. They realized that their dad was willing to do just about anything to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. 

Yes, I hated that job. I hope I never have to work that hard again. And I am eternally grateful for it.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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