My first summer job may have had the most impact on me but all of them were learning experiences. I spent two summers working at a shop in Southampton - I think it was called "The Sample Shop" - which was an old-fashioned women's clothing store. There were racks of dresses on one side facing racks of pants and jackets on the other. Racks in the middle of the shop held blouses and there were "seasonal" racks for bathing suits or winter jackets and shelves and glass cases for accessories. In those days it was one-stop shopping for women and you could get everything but your shoes on one place - dress, scarf, hat, purse, underwear and stockings all in your small local women's shop. Now you have to go to a large department store for such luxury! It was great experience working in stores like that because you learned about everything from marketing, window dressing, stock rooms and customer service. We even did "layaway" which is something I haven't seen signs for in a long, long time!
The older women I worked with were a wealth of information. While my friends were hanging out with other teens, working as beach attendants or life guards, I was learning about life with experts and discovering that not every adult thought like my parents. In retrospect I'm so glad I had those summers - I think they prepared me for real life in ways nothing else could have.
The only summer job I hated was the one I spent as a chamber maid at a local motel. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to go there with my best friend and apply for that job. I hated housework! And the messes people leave behind at hotels are not to be believed. (As my husband will tell you, I've been a "neat freak" at hotels every since - and I always leave a nice tip behind!) The only advantage to that job was that my friend and I were done early - by 2:00 every afternoon - and headed right down the street to spend the rest of the day lounging around her back yard pool, usually followed by a cook-out courtesy of her parents who surely must have wondered what they did to inherit this additional daughter for the summer. I barely went home to sleep that year. (My parents actually invited them over at one point that summer so they would know I actually did have a home of my own.)
Summer jobs are one of the best things that ever happened to me. They pulled a shy small-town girl out of her comfort zone and taught her that there was a big world out there with lots of promise and that we have more control over how we face life than we realize. I reminisce about those summers, sitting with my mentors who were more than happy to pass their life-wisdom along to me, and I always smile.
I learned that I could do things I never imagined. And I learned that I never wanted to clean another toilet the rest of my life and planned to have someone else clean my own house in the future. Well....not every dream comes true in life!