My parents always had to work jobs in high school, so they missed out on the many common high school activities that are normally associated with the typical, American, high school experience. They made the most out of it with each other, marrying instead of graduating and starting a family a few years later.
They wanted my sister and me to have a different high school experience. As long as we were involved in school activities and earning good grades, we didn’t have to get jobs. Thus high school, for me, was some of the best years of my life, full of new experiences, unfamiliar adventures, and social challenges.
The summer after I graduated high school, my parents informed me that it was time to get a job. And when you’re an 18-year-old with no previous job experience and no employment connections, you don’t get to be picky.
I spent the early days of my summer as a high school graduate driving around in the increasing heat in a long sleeve dress shirt and tie, dropping off resumes at any and every place that looked tolerable.
I recalled my nanny and papa telling me how my dad used to make the best pizzas when he was a teenager working at a pizza parlor when dating my mom. He would bring them over on the nights he closed after loading up the pizzas with the best combination of cheese and toppings.
I can still hear my nanny say, “Best pizza I ever ate!” as she sat on his couch reminiscing back to the past as my papa nodded in agreement.
Following in my father’s footsteps, I drove to a pizza parlor near my house. After introducing myself to the manager and asking about employment, I was turned away with the common “We’re not hiring right now.”
After a few days of more rejections all around town, I decided to go back to the pizza parlor again to ask if they were hiring now. This time the manager said, “We’re not hiring right now but maybe later.”
A few more days went by with no luck on my job hunt, so I went back to the pizza parlor again. This time the manager asked, “Why do you want to work here so bad?”
I explained I thought it would be a neat job. And that’s how I got my first job. Or that’s how I got the worst job I ever had in my life.
I learned quickly that my dreamy idea of making pizzas while cracking innocent jokes with a new community of friendly faces was far from reality.
I was the joke.
The workers there were not what I would describe as people of high character, and I didn’t belong.
And they knew it.
And they wanted to make sure I knew it.
I seldom heard my name without profanity attached to it, and I was yelled at for questioning their disagreeable procedures, such as making salads with their bare hands directly after handling money and crushing the ice down with their foot when too much was placed into the soft drink ice machine tray. One of their favorite moments was when some kids set off a cherry bomb in the toilet, and they laughed hysterically as they watched me mop off the filth from the walls and ceiling.
The real humbling moment was when I saw my high school ex-girlfriend walk in holding hands with one of my old friends. I had heard that they were dating, but the moment of humility was when they saw me and uncontrollability let out a slight laugh of shock. My post high school life looked dim and lame as I stood there in a cheaply printed pizza parlor t-shirt with one of my managers staring down at me from the oven, looking for a reason to criticize me. When they had finished eating their pizza, my manager quickly yelled at me to clean up their mess as they were still walking out the door.
Now you might think one of the advantages of working at a pizza parlor would be getting free pizza every now and then. Not for me. I was allowed to buy pizza at a small discount, and when making minimum wage, I wasn’t about to spend an hour and a half of my wages on a pizza. During hungry evenings there was a real temptation to sneak a bite from unfinished pizzas left on tables. Being a rule follower, I would throw away half eaten pizzas that were still warm from the oven and leave work hungry.
It wasn’t long until I found a better job working at the bookstore on my university’s campus, which really was a breath of fresh air. My managers there appreciated my hard work and even rewarded it by increasing my responsibilities. I made friends there and got to meet many of the university’s professors before classes began. Plus, I enjoy books far more than pizza.
Eventually, the fall came, and a very special moment of my life happened.
I arrived on my university’s campus to be early on that first day of college, and as I stepped onto the white sidewalk and strolled over freshly cut green grass still wet from the morning’s dew, I took in a deep breath and exhaled in victory knowing that I had made it farther than anyone in my family.
I was a university student.
I was going to be the first in my entire family to graduate college.
And I did, and now I have a wonderful job.
The worst job was only temporary. And that’s something to remember when God has us walk through the valleys in life—or through the pizza parlors.
It’s only temporary.
Even the good career I have now is only temporary.
It’s all only temporary.
This is why our focus should not be on what can be seen around us, for all of this is only temporary. Our focus should be on the things that are not seen, for those things are eternal.