Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Surprising lessons learned poolside

Really, I don't know where this topic came from.  I legitimately had no idea what I could possibly tell you today, and I thought maybe I'd tell you about books that had changed my life.  Thinking about books got me thinking about my lifelong love of the written word.  This tangent then had me considering at what point it was that reading took a turn from being all about enjoyment, to being about something greater; about rocking your fundamental beliefs and making you determine what is and is not important in this world.

It all comes back to being hot, sweaty, and half nekked.... AKA, the 5 years I spent as a lifeguard.  Those were some amazing years for me.  And yes, that is when I started reading for more than enjoyment:  there is a lot of downtime when you're a lifeguard, and there are only so many ways you can fill that time and not a) get fired, or b) get arrested.  So British literature was where I started, eventually branching out into Modern lit and Russian lit.   While those books have been set aside in the last 8 years in favor of textbooks and trashy novels to take my mind off of the textbooks, I crave those deeper, more meaningful forays into the social constructs of times and places where every small decision was important, and a person had to own those decisions, no matter what the price.

For your reference:  That hair had not a drop of dye, and that skin not an ounce of sunless tanner.  That is what spending 14 hours a day outdoors gets you.  Oh yeah, and I'm normally as pale as my friend on the left.  Frame of reference, folks.

It wasn't all book learning for me during those days of swimsuits, tan lines, and bleached out hair:  I also learned just how disgusting humanity really is.  I worked at a pool for a couple of summers that was part of a large subdivision, and the HOA hired our company to take care of the pool, including the shower and the restrooms.  People.  I have never used so much bleach, or become so proficient with a plunger in my entire life.  I plunged a toilet at least twice a week, every week, for two summers straight.  I alone used 24 gallons of bleach to carry out cleaning duties, not to mention what the other lifeguards used.  This taught me that dirty, stinky, filthy jobs are inevitable, and that they are important.  It taught me that just because I was a "lifeguard", and that my main duty was to make sure people didn't die, I wasn't above doing these other jobs.

Last, Lifeguarding taught me the value of caring for yourself.  You really aren't of any use to someone who's drowning, if you are not strong enough to save them.  If you're coughing and hacking all over the place, you can't treat a wound, because of the risk of secondary infection.  And if you're passing out in the guard office because of extreme heat, low blood sugar, and moderate dehydration, you sure as heck can't do anything for anyone else.  Not that the last one happened to me during an inservice about first aid.... It was just an example that came to mind (Or it happened.  You can be the judge).

What job had the biggest impact on your life?  Looking back, did you learn any interesting lessons?


  1. My favorite job was my time as a salon director for a tanning salon. Yes, I know that tanning is superficial and not healthy. But I loved that job. I was more of a mentor than a boss to young girls. I also loved helping our customers feel their best. You learn a lot about people inside and out when you work in the beauty industry.

  2. Hmm...I think the job that taught me the most was my first job. I worked in the factory part of my family's company. I was 13 years old, and up until that point, thought I was a princess because my parents and grandparents were wealthy. Making boxes in an un-air-conditioned factory for 10 hours a day during the SC summer really made me appreciate what I had. My family had to work HARD to get to their positions, and working with the "regular employees" made me realize that I was not above hard work and that nobody deserves a handout. It gave me a work ethic that most "heiresses" don't have and I learned the value of a dollar very early in life. I'm so thankful my parents made me work in the factory! I hated it at the time, but my parents really knew what they were doing!

    I LOVED this post, Kristen. :) And you look so pretty with your tan skin and blonde hair! I looked like that during all my younger summers, too. Sigh. To be young! ;)

  3. I loved lifeguarding. So much so, in fact, that I got recertified last summer even though I had no intention of lifeguarding again.
    Let's go back to high school and be life guards again!


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