Not Your Average First Job

Not Your Average First Job

How working in a retirement home at 16 differed from the jobs occupied by my peers.

Change can be both a good and a bad thing. As my last day approaches at the first job I ever was employed by, I've been reflecting upon the past year and a half of my life. I came to the realization that this job is going to be something that I will miss, and probably will never find something similar to again. Because my first job was't a teenagers average first job.

Because of my late summer birthday, I was the youngest out of all of my friends and by virtue the last to get a job. But when I finally did receive the "when can you start" phone call, it wasn't from a grocery store or restaurant like most of my peers. It was from one of the local retirement communities. Granted I was going to be working in the dining room so it was a restaurant atmosphere, but the interactions that occurred outside of the kitchen were completely different than in an average restaurant.

Rare is it that I hear the term "customers" used in my workplace. It is always "residents" and we, the dining room employees, are expected to get to know each individual who walks into the dining room and be able to anticipate their needs. To put this into perspective, on an average Sunday, there are in between 150-180 residents who come in for brunch. This doesn't include any guests they may bring, administration, or assisted living residents who don't normally come to the dining room to eat. And if you want to be promoted from Server to Host, you had better believe you are expected to know the name, spouse's name, how many lemons they like in their tea, what section of the dining room they like to sit in, how many grandkids they have and which war they fought in- for every resident. (That's only a slight exaggeration.)

The sentence "I don't get tipped" is a common answer to questions from peers about what my job is like. However, "but I do get a bonus" always follows the shocked look on the questioner's face. This is something that is uncommon among jobs that are (mostly) targeted towards high schoolers.

Working in a retirement home has taught me that constantly being around the elderly is not for everyone. You have to be very patient and tolerant of those who ask you to repeat things multiple times. One must learn how to be gentle and caring, and often very slow. For me, one of the hardest things has been learning who everybody is and tending to their specific needs.

The stories told during meals are not the average stories. I don't often hear the residents talking about current events. There is the occasional political debate or discussion over new technology, but conversations about the past are the most common. In my time working at the retirement home, I have learned more history than I was taught in school, heard more love stories than ABC Family could ever produce and met more grandchildren than Jon and Kate could ever have.

One of the most influential aspects of my job has been the relationships I have formed with the residents. They constantly ask about my home life, promise to come to sports games, give advice about college and ask for updates on anything new. I have become emotionally attached to my job because of the residents, and that isn't something that you can find at just any workplace. Being able to get close with them has made working there easier, and saying goodbye to them will be one of the toughest things I do.

While having a connection with the residents has been an extremely positive aspect, it often leads to heartbreak as well. Death is something that I have had to learn to cope with during my time with the retirement community, and that is by far one of the most distinctive things about my job. Nothing is worse than being told about the passing of a resident before shift starts. I have never been more familiar with losing someone that I care about than I have been in the past year and a half. It has taught me to appreciate every aspect of life and to hold on to those who mean most to me.

For a year and a half I have been around a completely different generation of people. I had to learn how to change the way I spoke and acted, and always have to keep in mind that it is a very conservative, elite society that I am surrounded by. While difficult at first, I found that the way I speak and do things outside of work slowly has changed, and I am a better person because of it. I have grown as a person since I started working there, and have learned so much more about living life to the fullest than I believe I ever would have learned working somewhere else.

So to my first job, thank you. Thank you for being something incomparable and giving me the chance to experience a different lifetime. Thank you for being something I fell in love with, and for surrounding me with a group of the kindest, gentlest, most loving people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. It has been a long ride which unfortunately has to end, but you will be something I cherish, always.

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.


So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?



Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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House Hunting At Its Finest

It's incredibly stressful and takes way too long!


House hunting is hard. I thought at first it would be fun, exciting, and interesting. But now, I'm tired and bored and just want to give up.

I've been looking for a house for a month now and I knew it going in to it, it would take a while. I knew that I wouldn't just walk into the first house and be like, "this is it, this is the one".

But, when you look at 6-10 houses every time you search a day, it gets stressful and tiring.

When I started looking at houses it was because I was planning on getting a house with some friends to rent out for the next 3 years while at UCF. All because I didn't get a spot-on campus with the lottery, I got waitlisted. So, I need to look for housing to secure a place to live next fall.

Now, my dad wants to turn it into a small business. Buy a house, rent out the rooms for a reasonable price, cheaper than some apartments, and make a profit.

It sounds like a good plan.

But then you have to factor in: location and how far it is from campus, the price range in which you could make a profit, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the price per square inch, the property taxes, if the house needs work or not, upgrades, improvement, parking availability, etc. The list just goes on and on.

It's hard to find the "perfect" house.

I want to be able to make it "home" for the next 3 years. I want to make it somewhere where I can hang out, have friends over, and love to live in.

Every time I walk into a new house, I automatically think, "what would I do to this room? Or that?". I think of furniture and décor. I think about how I would design it and make it ours.

I even made a Pinterest board, one for home décor and one for bedrooms.

I feel like I'm going overboard but I can't help it.

I get excited when it comes to the designing aspect, but my parents have to be so nit-picky. They came up over the weekend to search for houses with me and every time we walk into a house I hear: "the carpet is stained, needs to be removed", "the kitchen is outdated, needs to be upgraded", "the bathroom needs work", "the wall has a hole", "not enough bathrooms" and so much more.

It's not like I don't chime in with comments either.

I do put in a fair share of my personal opinions about the quality of the houses too.

But, at this point I wish we could just settle on something. Again, I know this takes time but I just get anxious.

So, we are going into the 5thweek and still haven't agreed on a house. My mom has her picks, my dad has his, and I have mine. And none of them overlap. Frankly, I don't get a "say" in what my parents chose since they will be purchasing the house. But, I get to live in it, my friends are the ones who will be paying them rent. So, I feel like my opinion matters. Whenever I ask questions or give input, they talk over me.

As if, I wasn't even there!

Yet, that is how the ball rolled. Wow, I'm borderline whining over here. It's not like I'm not grateful but, I wish I was valued as an adult helping in this situation.

Well thank you for coming to my "TED" talk! And reading about yet another annoying and trivial struggle of mine. I'll write again soon.

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