When Mom Said, “Get A Job”


I grew up in the Great Lakes region where I loved summer and the beach. My parents were hard working people who taught me to be responsible and detail-oriented. Dad was a machinist in the manufacturing industry. Mom was a business bookkeeper. They seemed to be always tired and edgy from on-the-job stress. I called it ”the 9-to-5 grind.”

When I started high school, Mom insisted I learn accounting — she said I’d need it. I didn’t see the logic in that since I hated math. Still, among the necessary college prep courses, I did excel at office practice. What I thought was a curse, keeping the books became one of my greatest strengths.

When sophomore year ended, Mom insisted I get a job. She warned me I had to start somewhere, do something to earn money if I wanted the senior class trip a year from next spring. I was convinced that j-o-b spelled disaster. However, trolling the classifieds, I found an opening close to home for an office assistant.

You have to start somewhere, do something…

It was early June. I was 15 years old, longing for the lazy days of summer. Standing in the rain at a bus stop, drenched and dreading that interview, I saw myself growing old in a dark little office, longing for a sunny day at the beach.

Suddenly, thunder and lightening struck. I made up my mind then and there: I would never surrender to a 9-to-5 job. I blew off the interview, much to Mom’s dismay, but the Universe spoke, “Not yet.”

I settled for part-time employment at a grocery store where my best friend worked. I figured we could get the same days off and still make a weekly pilgrimage to the lakefront. What a surprise! That never worked out.

Doom and gloom hung over my head as months flew by and graduation approached. I earned enough for the class trip, but I didn’t have a plan for my future. I couldn’t see myself bagging groceries and weighing produce forever, so I enrolled in junior college hoping to find my purpose.

Then a friend suggested I try Cosmetology School. She made it sound like a lot of fun and playing with hair appealed to my sense of creativity. I count those 1500 required hours of education and practice to be among the most important of my young life.

You have to stick with it

Many times I cried, “It’s too hard, I can’t do this.” But Mom wouldn’t let me quit. “You have to stick with it. You paid good money for the lessons and you have to see it through.”

Once I became licensed, life took on new meaning. I was a Professional Hairdresser. Of course, it meant long hours being virtually chained to a salon chair, and I worked hard at my craft. But, it elevated my self-esteem and made me feel quite accomplished. I really enjoyed my work.

I was employed at a beauty shop owned by a young married man who served in the military reserves. Shortly after my hire, his wife had a baby and he had to go on a 2-week training leave. He saw my potential and was confident I could manage his clientele, another stylist, and inventory control. I remained his manager for six and a half years, until circumstances led me to open my own shop.

Do what you love and the money follows

I loved my career, working in the neighborhood where I grew up, and I was very successful. Still in my 20’s, I dreamed of a salon in Chicago’s trendy Old Town area. I probably would have achieved that goal, if not for the bitter cold winters.

One January, the snow was so deep and everywhere business was stopped. We took a trip to California and fell in love with the climate. Fifteen minutes off the plane, Mr. Roby announced, “This is God’s country. This is where we should be!”

After a week, we returned home, sold all our property and businesses, and moved to California — to the beach, where I was meant to be …

Next time:

I’ll tell you what I learned from my new career.