Jill of All Trades (or How to Turn Manic Depression and A.D.D. into a Plus)

As someone with bi-polar disorder, and a master’s degree, plus 18 SH special ed certification, I’ve held at least 25 jobs in my working life (I’m now 64), which began at 12, and continued, pretty much uninterrupted, until I was in my 50’s, when I was in a rollover car accident.

Positions (in chronological order):

babysitter (being the oldest in a large family gave me “experience”),

egg-candler (& self-taught egg-candling machine mechanic) on a chicken farm,

bowling alley snack bar waitress & fry-cook,

free-lance sign artist,

grocery store checker,

holiday gift-wrapper,

volunteer macrame & art instructor for an inner-city outreach program,

high school & adult art & English teacher (during which, I co-designed the expansion wing of the newly-expanded art department, and served as the faculty chair on the committee to rewrite the school’s philosophy and objectives for the regional accreditation association) 

vacation condo cleaner,

short and long-term substitute teacher,

chemical lab tester and lab foreperson at a plastics plant,

needlepoint artist,

sitter for the elderly,

grocery store floral clerk & checker,

teacher certification specialist I and II,

another stint as a chemical lab tester,

commercial sign artist,

K-12 special education teacher (learning & behavior difficulties),

an unpaid stint as a state congressional lobbyist,

workforce development specialist,

unemployment claims specialist,

commercial sign artist and sales representative,

diner waitress (& self-taught breakfast & seafood restaurant cook, when the one on my shift walked off the job),

free-lance logo & publications designer,

another commercial sign position (where I lost the last knuckle of my left index finger in a metal sign shear),

more free-lance work, & finally

another stint as a restaurant waitress! Phew!

After a 6-year lawsuit, then blowing through the settlement, I had to go back to work part-time to help my daughter get through college. (She graduated after 10 years, at 31. We come from a long line of mood disorders, and she was also injured, as a passenger, in car wreck.)

As a result of my distinctly varied working life, I’ve discovered a few things about work and myself:

(1) I like variety. (Staying twenty or thirty years at one job would be inconceivable to me.)

(2) I thrive under bosses who recognize my extreme dedication and over-achievement. Conversely, I used to wither under the mildest of criticism, until I finally realized that..

(3) It’s wasn’t likely (and never happened) that occasional screw-ups on my part would result in termination.

(4) Trying to be “perfect” made me HATE what I loved. I learned to relax and have fun with my working goals.

So, my advice for those who grow bored and want to (or do) frequently change jobs:

(1) Think twice. Times have changed. Land that new job BEFORE you quit the old one.

(2) Leave on amicable terms. You’ll need references from your employer(s), and you never know when being “eligible for re-employment” might be critical.

(3) Try to stay at one job as long as you possibly can, to build up as stable a work history as possible.  Sometimes, just getting a new assignment or position at the same company can help to challenge and re-energize you. Don’t change jobs on a whim. Future employers might be uncomfortable hiring you, knowing that you don’t plan on being there long.

While I enjoyed the stimulation of pursuing multiple career adventures, I also felt very stressed much of the time. And, when I had to retire early, due to my rollover car accident, I felt depressed and ashamed that I hadn’t reached the career summits of my some of my peers, whose accomplishments seemed to fill the alumni magazines that arrived relentlessly, year after year, to taunt me. 

But, after lolling in those doldrums for about a year, I finally learned to feel more comfortable with and appreciative of the uniqueness of my life experiences. The many work and life-related skills that I have developed have served me quite well, both financially, and in a very practical sense, in knowing how to deal successfully with many of life’s difficulties, over the years.
Besides, it makes for interesting storytelling at family gatherings!

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