In high school, I focused on science and art and was heavily involved in a group called Students Against Violating the Environment (SAVE). We collected cardboard boxes, painted them to stand out, and put one in every room for students to recycle their paper. We worked to get large blue tubs in the cafeteria for bottle and can recycling. We took field trips where we planted trees and enjoyed nature without destroying it. We attended meetings to prevent wetlands and parks from being converted into amusement parks and concrete lots. We did many, many things to conserve and help the environment.
Then college came. I chose Physics for my major since I liked designing, planning, problem solving, building, and computers. “Where did the environmental aspect go?” you ask. I ask myself the same thing now. I soon was succumbed by classes, homework, art projects, deadlines, and surviving on my own in a new environment with reasonable help from my parents, but just the right amount of help though. I met new friends and most had no outward concern for the environment since they were just trying to survive college (and most of them partied too much).
Then came an internship choice. On the eastern shore of MD, there is not much in the way of jobs for people with Physics degrees or any strongly science based degree for that matter. There are a few lucky positions out there and the other jobs that might be close are bottom level starters since no one wants to pay a decent amount of money. Luckily at the time, one of my teachers had a connection to a local microwave filter company and got me an interview. Soon after, I started my internship and again, a whole different world opened up.
My internship was with a designer and producer of transmitter and receiver filters for base stations for cell phones. The internship went well given the circumstances. My college classes had no direct application or preparation for the technology that I worked with, but I learned. My problem solving skills and building skills came in handy. While at my internship, I needed to buy a car. I wanted to get something new that held enough for moving time but was reasonable in gas mileage since I took trips home and to see friends. Through my own wants and much coworker influence, I ended up buying an SUV. Not the most earth-friendly choice, but at that point in my life I was somehow loosing my way from my conservationist ideals. At least I can say that I bought a Toyota and with about 21mpg, it was a whole lot more than most SUVs out at that time and still surpasses many today.
After a year and upon graduation, my internship turned into a full-time job. I started designing filters and then I started seeing the waste that was generated. While I did make some great friends and see some amazingly good things happen, over the years, I saw many awful things that ranged from toxic personalities that just fueled dysfunctional relationships to the overproduction of filters that weren’t sufficiently tested by my coworkers. The wasting of metal with this over production was astounding – at least they did start to recycle it eventually. The poor breathing conditions of the machine shop with no safety measures (that I knew of) that prevented people from inhaling small metal fragments was appalling. The constant backstabbing was sometimes too much to handle. And the workload… don’t get me started. As a wise coworker once said “At your next job, you will never have to work as hard as you did here.” and boy was he right on so many levels. I was so stressed out from my working conditions that I was taking at least 6 Advil a day. Then, I got laid off. While I know it was not their intention, it was the best thing they ever did for me. I was so upset and heartbroken at the time, but I don’t know what would have become of me had I been there much longer. Three things helped me at the time – my boyfriend who was completely devoted, my closest coworker who drove my truck around to the front of the building so I didn’t have to walk across the production floor after being laid off who was only the third person ever to drive my truck, and my only supervisor that I respected told me “remember, you did nothing wrong and did a great job here”.
With the looming repercussions of the layoff such as not having any faith in any company, I set out for a new job. I was doomed from the beginning with my poor outlook and lack of trust in anything any possible employer said. My only hope was to find a way to work for NASA, the only place I still had faith in – Why? I am not so sure other than it was always a dream of mine to work for NASA but not as an astronaut just as some supporting person. I had a head hunter calling me from MRI that just annoyed me to no end by calling me at 8am almost everyday with “New! Exciting! Opportunities!”. The chipperness in his voice soon dulled when I wouldn’t take a job that was more than $10K less than I was making and proceeded to try to make me feel guilty which was unsuccessful and resulted in my not answering his phone calls from then on.
I took getting into NASA into my own hands and did manage to get in through the help of my boyfriend’s dad’s bandmate’s coworker who knew someone with an opening and a very successful, challenging interview. The job was nice even though it was a desk job, my coworkers were great, and the working conditions were wonderful. Now, I have to add that this job at NASA was 50 minutes from my home and that is a lot of gas money and pollution, so again, I was abandoning my environmental principals but at least at the time it was for good reasons – a steady paycheck and I was working for the company of my dreams. Unfortunately, the desk job though got the best of me and the working conditions deteriorated. This time the working conditions deteriorated due to building upkeep – breathing in fumes from the hot tar on the roof, mold in the ceiling tiles, a poor ventilation system, and out-gassing of new carpet that was installed. I started to have allergies and was on 3 types of allergy medicines. I was having panic attacks on my way to work in the car. It wasn’t good and I eventually resigned.
While all of this was going on with the allergies and NASA, my boyfriend and I got married, which was awesome. A positive point in my life filled with awful work stuff. I think planning our wedding was the only thing that kept me at NASA for as long as I stayed. NASA really is a wonderful place with so many great people, it just took me driving a total of 85 miles a day to and from work and location specific health problems to realize that a theoretical dream job just isn’t what it is made out to be sometimes. I was now on the hunt for a new job or something. My husband and I brainstormed to try to figure out what I would want to do – sales, secret shopping, administrative assistant, organizing… at no time did I mention anything environmentally related.. what was I thinking?… guess that part had been suppressed for so long it forgot to come out. So, I attempted to get a sales job at Xerox, but the owner was overwhelmingly unprofessional and would withhold information from me until the last minute and thus, I turned down that job. I thought being a Secret Shopper would be cool and practical, but at $5 for a visit to a store and a write up of the experience to their detailed specifications, it felt like a complete rip off. I tried for some administrative assistant jobs, but it always came back with the wording that meant “overqualified” and/or “we don’t want to train you and then you leave when you get bored”. Once many things were ruled out, we decided to start a business for me for Professional Organizing. My goals when helping to get people organized – reduce the items you have, recycle as much as we can, and reuse items through donations and giving away. My Green Reawakening had happened! And with purpose! I had a couple of wonderful clients and one not so good client, but they all were great learning experiences. However, lets just say that the business is closed now due to living in a location where Professional Organization is a luxury that is not pursued and there was growing concern for my safety when entering peoples’ homes to help them get organized.
This brings us to January 2008 when my blog started. Now my thoughts and ideas go on here for all to see – environment, organizing, interior design, stuff to sell… It is again, a whole different world. Now, I just have to figure out how possibly make a little money at it but not loose the fun of it.
I wish I would have been active in enviromentally friendly practices in all that I went through, but that would not make me the person I am today. It is amazing where we start out, how far we get away from the things we love, and how… somehow… we eventually get back to them.