My Day as Hired Hand: More Like How I Nearly Lost a Hand

Admitting defeat does not mean you are weak.  It just means that you know what you can and cannot handle.  I have an experience to share.  I briefly had a job as an independent contractor.  I was a hired hand on a five-acre property that was undergoing a large home improvement project.  I will tell you about the one day I lasted doing what is typically a man’s job.  I failed to keep it, but the experience made me stronger.  

I arrived a few minutes before my shift at 8am and alerted the owners of my arrival.  The first thing I heard was the couple remarking on how early I was.  Not that I had come before they were ready, they had already been up since 6am.  But they came out and immediately prepared me for the job.  

They had showed me the massive outdoor property during my interview and had overviewed exactly what I would be doing: mowing the five acres with a golf course-industrial sized driving lawnmower, using a 50 pound, industrial, gas propelled, weed wacker (whipper as they put it).  

And typical garden work, along with the unusual (to me anyway) shoveling sand and spreading it over a patch of garden (My Garden-Guru Grandma never taught me that).  I also had a job of picking up branches, sticks, and twigs that day because it had been a windy weekend.  

As I worked on the simple jobs I thought to myself jokingly.  “So what did you do at work today, Sue?  Oh I played in a sandbox and played Pick Up Sticks!”  Sounded like I was working at a daycare doesn’t it?  But the level of perfection and lifting required for the job also made me feel like I was at Camp Greenlake from Louis Sachar’s Holes.  I honestly felt like I was there as a delinquent earning my freedom back. I think I may have built some character!  Thus, the point of writing about it for Gumption.  

After that work was over, which I was told should not have taken me as long as it did.  Apparently while I felt time was moving slow, it really was just me.  Interesting.  Finally came the big kahuna.  The Weed Whipper!  As I said it is very heavy.   Also, it was almost my height (if not actually) in length.  Quite a balancing act, along with angling, speed of movement, repetition, accuracy in proximity, and making sure the blades didn’t get tangled.

All while having ear protection and wearing a face shield (imagine a clear plastic welder’s mask, or the kind we have seen police wear in the news lately).  I honestly felt like a kid trying on their parents’ suit.  I’m  5 feet tall, yet I had a large weed whipper and huge piece of plasticwear on my head.  I was probably darn adorable, which is why I am glad I was no where near a mirror.  

My job was to edge around the garden and trees.  But the main work was to take down a 12x12 plot of land that had grass taller than I that had grown over uneven mounds of dirt.  It was accompanied by Hulk sized weeds and accidental-naturally planted prepubescent trees.  That it was I spent the bulk of two hours working on, and I only managed to cut down half of it, to knee length.  Again, I move slow, especially when encumbered by a piece of machinery heavier than I could bench.  But on the plus side, as sore as I am I have temporary biceps right now.  It is pretty empowering.

By the end of the shift (not a very long one, I was only hired part time) my employers sat me down to talk about my work.  They mentioned their concern about my pacing, they drilled into me how important speed was in the job. They also made it clear they understood how hard it was and that it was just the first day.  But also, that it was only going to get harder.  They told me to think about whether or not I should stay working there.  

To explain, I had little to no experience before coming on.  I had only mowed small lawns with a walking mower and gardened with my grandmother.  But even if I had stayed with the job, I needed more training and experience before tackling it.  I am a firm believer now, in not biting off more than I can chew.   I could do work like this one day if I wanted, I just need to learn how before diving in.  The couple and I are on no ill terms, we split amicably.  I am being paid for my work that I did.  They are very understanding.   

The point of writing this was to tell you all, you can be brave enough to face new challenges, but be sure you are capable along with being willing.  Reach for the stars, but work toward the feat.  I have a habit of leaping before looking, it can be fun, risks can be worth it, but I am telling you to be honest with yourself.  Do not quit for no reason, especially if you know achievement isn’t far off.  Be a turtle, not a hare.  That is my lesson for the day, I am sure you can all relate.