Editorial: The value of your first job

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Photo by Sadman Sakib Rahman

For many people, a first job is a mere stepping stone in the river of unknowns that begin your journey into adulthood. It provides you with a sense of independence, responsibility, an understanding of how “the real world” works and what seems like the most important aspect — a little disposable income.

In most cases, it becomes one of the many short, forgettable experiences you move through to gain work experience while you’re in school.  I, unfortunately, wasn’t one of those people who got their first job at 16 — I was nearly at the end of high school when I got my first job.

I fabricated all sorts of explanations and excuses as to why I never tried to get one.  I was too busy with school, I didn’t want my grades to slip, nobody was hiring.

At the end of the day, they were just excuses and the truth of it was that my anxieties were holding me back from personal growth.

The longer I waited, the worse it got — this looming fear becoming irrational and all-consuming. Eventually that had to end — I had to have a job eventually.

My first job was a line cook in the kitchen at The World’s Largest East Side Mario’s — but for the love of God please don’t ask me if it “really is the largest.”

What began as awkwardness, anxiety and a persistent fear of failure, transitioned into a comfortable rhythm that left me exhausted, drained and more proud of myself than I’d ever had the chance to be in my life up until that point.

I’ve worked in kitchens for nearly four years now — I took a short break from my first job to try out Wilf’s, and came back again this summer for some extra hours. It made me rethink a lot of things, reopening the bittersweet sadness that I was left with the first time I moved on from them.

You may disregard your first job as just a brief period in your life that doesn’t matter, or probably look back on it and wonder how you managed to keep your sanity.

I never expected to care about the people that I shared this job with as much as I do. They all passed on something valuable to me, made me feel like I was part of a team and more unexpectedly, a weird, quirky little family that I know I can rely on.

Every time I’d go in, I’d see a bunch of smiles greet me and I’d feel a sense of calm and belonging that had been so foreign to me in high school.

People have come and gone from that restaurant over the years, but I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people I would never have thought or had the chance to talk to and get to know outside of it.

Somehow, they all brought out the very best in me.

I’m moving on now, but I won’t be able to forget about the people that took a chance on an awkward, quiet kid with no work experience.

People sometimes write off my job when I tell them about it, kind of smirk at me like it’s something I should be anything but proud of. But joke’s on them, I can make a better seafood linguini than they can any day of the week.

You may disregard your first job as just a brief period in your life that doesn’t matter, or probably look back on it and wonder how you managed to keep your sanity.

And my experience certainly wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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