Last summer, I had the opportunity to clean bathrooms in New York City for 4 weeks over the summer. I was considered a "day matron" and was responsible for nine bathrooms on nine floors in the UBS building in Manhatten. This experience while may be hard to believe taught me so many life lessons, and I am so grateful for the experience.
Here are four reasons why cleaning bathrooms in NYC was the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life:
1. Never take the opportunities you are given for granted.
While I honestly, in the beginning, wanted nothing to do with cleaning bathrooms, I never took the opportunity to make some extra money before college for granted. I was thankful for the opportunity, but it never occurred to me that this was something I was given. I just had to ask my dad for a job with one of his clients and that's all. But the people who had to work so incredibly hard to get that job and then, be there for so many years really appreciate the opportunity.
2. Learn something from every person you talk to.
In this job, I met people from all sorts of walks of life. Some old some young, some with masters degrees and Ph.D., and some with nothing more than a elementary school education. But from every single one of them, I learned something new. My favorite life lessons were from the individuals with the least schooling ironically enough. The best thing I learned was that you can make anything of yourself no matter where you start out at if you work hard enough and are willing to put in the effort to get yourself there. You chose your path and while some individuals have it easier than others somehow, everyone can get there.
3. Respect every job you have.
While cleaning bathrooms in my light blue mid-calf polyester dress wasn't the ideal job, I had learned to respect it because there were women who I worked with that did this day in and day out for 30 years straight. I was lucky to be done in 4 weeks, but for some, this was the end all, and I respect them so much for doing these jobs.
4. Respect the people who do that job full time.
30 years going up and down on the freight elevator with your cart of toilet paper, refilling paper towel and soap dispensers all day long. I have the utmost respect for the individuals I met at this job. For some of them, this job was the most amazing opportunity for them and they are genuinely grateful for the experience and opportunity it has given them to provide for their families.
The man who worked the fright elevator in this building was the sweetest man. If there is anything that is worth taking away from this, it's that every morning for these four weeks when I would get in the elevator he would say "Today I am so grateful for this job, isn't it the best job, I've had this job for 40 years." While in my mind all I was thinking about was the beach days I was missing with my friends, he was grateful for this job every single day for 40 years, and it made me always take a step back after these four weeks and be thankful for what I have.