Elephants & Ham

The other day my dear mother called to wake me up at 7AM with great news:

“Rosie! I have great news. I met a guy who can get you a job selling ham! $11/hr plus commission. Here’s the website. . .” I hung up the phone, grinned ear to ear, and said aloud, to myself,

“Why not.”

This is where I am in life. Ham sales? Why not.

I have an interview with Honey Baked Ham tomorrow. What I’m saying is. . . that I will be attending an interview, to attempt to acquire a job—selling HAM.

Currently, I wait tables at The Little Hills Winery & Restaurant. Before that? Before that, my life looked like this:

·      Nanny
·      Hostess
·      Fire technician/disaster relief
·       News and Editorial Writer
·      Copy Editor
·      Help Desk Assistant
·      Day Camp Counselor
·      Waitress
·      Summer Intern/Disaster Relief Team Leader
·      Bartender
·      Live-in Youth Care Specialist
·      Volunteer Humanitarian
·      Fundraiser- clean water wells
·      Freelance Photographer
·      Mental Health Para Professional
·      Psych Tech
·      ESL Teacher
·      Volunteer demo/roofer- Oklahoma Rebuild
·      Waitress
·      Production Assistant-#Killing Poe

 This does not make for a very fabulous resume. Lots of experience? Yes. But experience in 37 different career fields doesn’t help much when on the job hunt. Employers want to see consistency, which is obviously something I lack.

This list also proves a problem when I am asked (as I often am, as of late):

“So, what do you do?”

I do not know what I do. Do I say I am a server? A photographer? A writer? A humanitarian? A ham sales rep? All of the above?

Since returning to the States, it has been my goal to secure a career in Fundraising and Development with a nonprofit organization. I thought this would be easy, given my experience in national and international fundraising and my natural flair for convincing people/employers I am exactly what they are looking for.

It is not.

But I have learned something of great value in the 4 months I have been stateside. And that is this:

I don’t need a career.

At least not right now. Not this moment.

Not yet.

I just thought I did. I thought I needed one and more than that, I thought I wanted one. Turns out I don’t. The last four months have been a crazy mix of love and loss and heartache and depression and highs and lows and inspiration and lack thereof. But more than anything, it has been 4 months that I have felt more alive than I ever have.

And it is because I am free.

It is because I am seeking Truth and going crazy and living intentionally—and  learning to bake, damnit.

I learned how to shingle a roof in Moore, Oklahoma. I roofed from 6am-9am with a group of total strangers I had met the night before. I roofed while watching the sunrise over the train tracks and the debris of a tornado ravaged city.

I drove to Chicago—twice—to work as a Production Assistant for a feature film (#Killing Poe). I worked alongside SAG actors and actresses. I worked 12- 18 hour days. I was eaten alive by mosquitoes. I watched the sunrise over Lake Michigan and then swam nude in the oceanic freshwater with not a soul in sight but a new dear friend.

I kayaked the Buffalo. And Creve Couer Lake. And the Sac River. And the Meramac. And I’m about to hit up a The Big Caney in Nashville.

I received a 115% tip. I made friends with my other ‘customers’ who may not have tipped incredibly generously, but whom left me with phone numbers, e-mails, job offers, words of encouragement—and mailed me a book.

I came up with 29 things I CAN DO.

I saw the Redbirds play twice—both times in box seats—both times for FREE.

I used my photography from India to advocate for the slum children I met and loved. I found someone to help complete my Uganda sustainable farm project funding video.

And most recently? Most recently I fed the entire ER waiting room at Barnes Jewish hospital in St. Louis. There were 50+ people. All waiting. All hungry. After sharing peanuts, grapes and beef jerky with 5 year-old Reejanda sitting next to me, I realized everyone present was eyeing our feast.

So I went to the cafeteria. And I came back with $37 in fritos, dorritos and funions.

If I had a 9 to 5 job in development, I would have done none of the above. I would have been working. I would not have been able to go to Oklahoma for a week here and there. To Chicago for a week here and there. I would not have had the time for random advocacy projects and spending 13 hours in the ER with a friend. I would not be able to get up and go almost whenever I please.

My dear old dad told me a story about a time when he was 5 years old and on set of a famous Charleton Heston movie. He was an extra, and one of the producers asked his mother if my dad could get on an elephant (The Greatest Show on Earth). She willingly volunteered my dad, but he was too terrified and began screaming at the top of his lungs.

“I could have been the boy on the elephant,” my dad said to me, oozing with regret.

While chatting over ice cream a few days later, talking about my recent part in movie production, my dad y jokingly—yet somehow very seriously—turned to me and said,

“Just remember, if you ever get the chance to get on the elephant, make sure you do.”

I smiled and said I would.

Later, while driving to the city and pondering my father’s sage advice, I realized something.

I realized that I have.

I got on the elephant.

In the jungles of Northern Thailand, I got on the elephant. And I rode it bareback for hours. And I gave it a mud bath. And I swam with it in the river. And I fed it bananas and sugar cane. It was expensive, and in a hard to get to place, but I specifically remember turning to my boyfriend while discussing the elephant opportunity and saying, “When will you ever get the chance to ride an elephant through a jungle again? No matter what, we have to ride the elephants.”

I think my dad was referring more to a metaphorical elephant—but still. The point is that I suddenly felt so hopeful, upon realizing that I had. I had got on the elephant. Not only in Thailand, but in traveling India. In teaching in Korea. In snorkeling in Malaysia. In drilling a well in Africa. In serving in New Orleans. In writing and editing in college. In building homes in Oklahoma. In producing a movie in Chicago. In playing ultimate frisbee and joining the couchsurfing(.org) community in order to meet people in any way I can. In instituting ‘baked good Saturdays’ at Little Hills. In feeding the entire ER waiting room.

So what if I don’t have a career. Or an accurate job title, for that matter. So what if my response to “What do you do?” consists of , “Ummm. . . Korea . . .teacher . . .photography . . . . some humanitarian aid . . . wait tables . . . ham sales? Not sure . . .”

I got on the elephant.

If you ever get the chance—get on the elephant.