Finding Self Value in Small Jobs

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Summertime always reminds me of the long list of "small" jobs I've had throughout the years. Small jobs such as babysitting, working at a juice bar, gardening for neighbors and doing odd jobs for a couple around their old, barely inhabited lakeside mansion in high school. They started as the typical addendum to any potential allowance I'd receive (few and far between) and continued throughout summers in college and still bleed into now. Although I've now let go of these smaller jobs, for the most part, as I transition into "bigger" jobs (like this one!), the habit to retain these smaller jobs is a hard one to break.

The irony is that I've always felt shame surrounding my small jobs. I was always babysitting during the summer, not working that big-city internship and retreating back to small jobs after I quit my first real job felt like a major step backwards. I felt safe in these "small" positions because I was good at them, they were low stress and, well, there was no real commitment, no huge life direction decisions required. Yet, I couldn't shake the shadow and shame. Was I wasting time? wasting my smarts? missing out on opportunities?

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I'm about to embark on two weeks of nannying in Cape Cod and although I am beyond excited to be reunited with this family I've known since my first few days at college...I still found myself sulking in insecurity and leaving out the words "nannying" or "babysitting" when mentioning my trip to the Cape. 

Since I'm always very self-curious, diving deeper and deeper into the work to understand my impulses and shadowy aspects of self...I thought I'd take a magnifying glass to this one. 

I took this trigger through the Daily Reprogramming Exercise (DRE) and was seriously impressed by the insight and remedy I received nearly instantly. My parents are pretty lax when it comes to career. My mom taught aerobics, modeled, traveled and held other small jobs until her later 20s. My dad is a writer, and in his 20s, worked as a bartender, volunteered for Vista Corps for a year in Atlanta and coached basketball at the Boys and Girls's club in LA. I wasn't programmed to climb some arbitrary ladder straight out of school, but what I did absorb was the idea that whatever I was doing had to be of some value. My mom loved her years teaching aerobics (she still teaches) and met close friends through her classes. It also influenced her mid-life career change when she went back to school for nutrition. My dad was able to work on his passion for writing and prioritized giving back to his community (he still does!). Me? I felt as though I was just twiddling my thumbs behind a juice press and wasting afternoons chasing after children.

But the real revelation was that it was solely my perception of the lack of value in these small jobs that was causing me so much shame and unease. 

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So, I began to reprogram my feelings surrounding these jobs. My job at the juice shop provided an avenue to share my interest in nutrition with patrons, as well as explore it deeper on my own (also got a hella lot free juice). All of my years babysitting introduced me to amazing families and GREAT expanders. They taught me patience, provided me the money I needed to travel around Europe, allowed me to exercise my creativity and storytelling. My time spent with the family I'll be seeing in Cape Cod gave me the home and comfort of family I desperately needed in college. I'll never forget the card the mother wrote me when I moved to LA. In it, she thanked me for allowing her to be a better mother.

It's moments like these that we tend to forget or ignore in the distraction of feeling as though we need to constantly be getting somewhere or doing something our society denotes as "worthy" of success.

What I'm learning is that there is potential for value in absolutely everything you commit yourself to. You just have to open your eyes and your heart to receiving it. It helps to have a goal, or an idea of somewhere you would like to be in a few months or a few years. How can what you're doing now help you get there? Perhaps for you, these small jobs provide you the supplement income you need to live in a city that excites you. Or, they're the bridge to quitting a job that's making you small, or to starting your own business. 

If you share in this small job shame, take it through the DRE and see what comes up for you. But take a note from what I've learned. There is no shame in small jobs. Every moment is a teachable moment and every action has the potential for personal value. Just pay close attention to why you've chosen these jobs. If it's simply to stay small and safe, then it may be time to reevaluate. 

I'm dancing off to Cape Cod in a few days...to nanny and I'm beyond proud and grateful to have such a loving family want me with them.

Tips For Finding Value in the Small Jobs

i. Take what's triggering you about your small jobs through the DRE and begin to reprogram.

ii. Make a list of what you're learning and how what you're doing is enabling you to grow (from very small to very big!)

iii. What more can you learn from this experience? Squeeze as much value as you can out of whatever you may be doing.

iv. Set a goal of where you'd like to go or what you'd like to learn to keep accountable. Don't stress about needing to go somewhere, but it's important to not allow yourself to become small because of fear or insecurities. Reach for the moon.

v. Find ways you can contribute back to whatever you may be doing. Perhaps you work for a juice shop and you dream of being a photographer - can you offer your services to photograph their products?

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LILA SEELEY • EDITOR

A California creative with a passion for travel, art, frothy lattes and extra cinnamon.