I’ve worked seemingly my entire life. Before age sixteen doesn’t count – so my entire life after that. Except for that year I took off when my oldest was five, but the reasons for that constitute an entire story unto itself.
I’ve never had trouble finding a job. I like to think I’m lucky that way. Sometimes I had to work a little harder to find one when I needed one, and at other times they just fell into my lap. I worked in retail, in secretarial, and various other low-paying jobs throughout the course of my early adulthood.
When I was twenty-seven, I was hired on with the USPS. I was pregnant with my youngest when I got hired and my oldest was about to turn eight. They are about to turn 26 and 18. Having them eight years apart has me referring to each of them as having an only child twice.
I’ve made a career of this employment. Inside the USPS, I’ve worked in data entry, customer services, distribution, and retail. I raised my children on swing shifts, third shifts, six-day weeks, and midnights. On top of that, I spent sixteen of those years as a Union rep for my Local, my State, and my National organizations.
I’ve missed school functions, sporting events, plays, and sleepovers. I’ve had to take time off work for things I just couldn’t miss, and had to prioritize events for when I simply couldn’t take off for them all.
I’ve traveled, lectured, and learned.
As much as I love to cook, and am told I’m quite good at it, I raised my children on hot dogs, hamburgers, and macaroni, with an occasional fast food meal for variety, cooking only on my sporadic days off. I grew to abhor pizza that only had pepperoni because it’s all the kids would eat – so I ate it too.
I’ve slept in shifts as odd as my work hours; in some cases sleeping in two 3.5 hour shifts for months at a time. For one entire year I was only able to sleep for four hours per night until my days off. During that year, I had an hour commute each way, and I chewed aspirin and caffeine pills so I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel. The caffeine did nothing to alleviate my exhaustion, but chewing them kept me awake with their bitterness.
My children were sometimes separated, each having her own babysitter because one was in school and the other a toddler. I’ve hired and fired babysitters for my odd hours, and built and destroyed relationships because of them.
During the course of these nearly eighteen years I’ve been twice divorced and thrice married.
I’ve grown old on these odd-ball shifts of mine. My body is beginning to deteriorate from all the madness I’ve put it through and the manual labor of my job that in my youth I found invigorating.
Currently, I work midnights with split days off. I tell people I get one day off twice a week. When Friday rolls around and my customers say, “I’m glad it’s Friday!” I just want to shake them. My days off at the moment are Sunday and Thursday. Until this one, my position for the last seven years had days off of Sunday and Tuesday. Prior to that it was only Sunday. There hasn’t been a ‘weekend’ to look forward to unless it was a holiday. During those, when I had Sundays and Tuesdays off, I had a three-day weekend. It only happened that way because most holidays fall on a Monday, and that only happens a few times a year.
Explaining my week makes my own head spin. I had two Mondays and two Fridays because Wednesday also served as my second Monday when I had Tuesdays off. Sunday was my Saturday because it was my first day off, and Tuesday was also my Sunday as it was my second day off. Mondays and Saturdays served also as my Friday when they each preceded a day off.
It’s all rather confusing, I know.
A job opening was posted for bid a few weeks ago for a secretarial position across the hall from where I work now. It’s a day shift with weekends off. I applied, and then I was selected. I found out a few days ago.
Finally, after nearly eighteen years into my career, with two grown children and two small grandchildren, and ten years into my third marriage, I will have day shift with weekends off.
I’ve been trying to prepare myself for having two days off in a row (three with holidays), every single week and trying really hard not to get too excited about it. I don’t want to freak out or anything, but I keep playing it around in my head all the things I can do now that I couldn’t for the last two decades. All the little household projects I can actually start and have two full days to complete. The places I can go and not have to worry about an abnormal sleep schedule or being in a hurry to get back because I only had the one night off.
I won’t have to worry about chewing through my vacation time in bits and pieces just to get two or three days off in conjunction with my regularly scheduled days.
I think what I’m looking forward to the most is a morning alarm that goes off at a reasonable 5 a.m. instead of 12:45 a.m. Or maybe an evening meal with my family instead of just a quick lunch because I have to hurry up and get some sleep so I can work that night. It could be that what I look forward to the most is not having to try to sleep with an afternoon sun shining through the bedroom window. Or maybe it’s the idea of spending more quality time with my children, grandchildren, and husband now that we’ll all be awake at some of the same times.
Or maybe it’s just the idea of some semblance of normalcy in my heretofore abnormal existence.