When I left the teaching profession, I told folks I wasn’t retiring, I was just graduating. “Took me 20 years, but I finally get to walk across that stage!” Cue laughter.
Old me (just kidding). Courtesy George Eastman House
But really, that is how I feel. Who retires at age 49 except Microsoft millionaires? Sure, I have a new “job” as a writer. But I’m backing that up, financially as well as socially, with my job at Holly B’s Bakery.
Everyone I talk to thinks baking is cool. Everyone shows awe and admiration at how early we bakers have to get up (3:45, for me–make that 3:15 in high summer when we get super busy). And everyone jokes about how hard I must have to work not to gain a million pounds from all those fresh, hot, crusty croissants and scones and…OK, I’ll stop.
Point is, they’re right: baking IS cool, getting up early IS hard, and yes, I exercise my buns off (Ha! Pun!) to stay gorgeous.
But lately The World’s Best Boss, Holly B, has an ample supply of bakers on her payroll and not enough counter people. So she’s put me on counter this month, selling all those yummy treats that my colleagues have risen early to bake.
Need I say more?
So the conversation’s changed a bit:
“What do you do?”
“I work part-time at a bakery.”
“Oh, you’re a baker!”
“Well, these days I’m just working the front counter.”
Apparently retail–even in the world’s cutest bakery, the heart of our village–is not cool. More accurately, it is not “professional.” That is the (unspoken) message I get from people who knew me in my old life. Selling muffins? That’s all you do? With a Masters in History and 20 years of teaching? Why…?
The long answer is, Because my boss needs me to, and I adore her, and feel I am more part of a team than merely an employee. Because even though there’s not much skill involved (besides addition, and I’m kind of embarrassed to say how often I reach for that calculator, especially towards the end of the day), I love people and miss interacting with them. Writing is lonely. And because, at the end of the day when I’ve mopped the floor, turned off the lights and locked up, I feel just as much pride in my work as when I tucked a dozen perfectly-twisted butterhorns into the oven.
But more and more I feel inclined to give the short answer: Work is work. I don’t feel any less “professional” selling cinnamon rolls and asking folks how their day is going than I did grading essays. If you care about your job and give it your best attention, you are, in my opinion, a professional.
My esteemed colleague, Diana
I know some of you must have experience with this. Tell me about a time when you felt a huge gap between how YOU felt about your work, and the reactions of other people. How did you–or how do you–handle that? Let me hear!