As I head into the summer, it’s hard to know what to write here. Like so many things, summer is transient, not just in time but also in meaning. What summer means to me is never going to be the same as what it means to you as a reader. For some, it’s a period of time off to destress and to take life easy. For others (like myself) this couldn’t be further from the truth.
For me, summer has always meant work. Whether that be in my dads’ newsagents when I was in my teens or in one of the other jobs – student union, retail, or manual labour – I managed to pick up along the way once I hit my twenties. Sure, summer also meant extra time to help make money and to meet friends, but it also brought obligations and responsibilities of its own.
In my teens, I sometimes felt hard done by, having to work while my friends did not. Sure, having the extra money was good, but it’s not exactly like I can just quit a job in my dad’s shop and expect that to work out. Sometimes I would even joke with customers about feeling trapped in the place, saying: ‘You can’t see it from that side, but there’s actually a ball and chain around my ankle down here.’ That always got a good laugh.
Working taught me to make the best of a situation, a skill I have often relied on to get me through university
On reflection though, now that I’m 29 and on the cusp of exiting university life altogether (or for a long time at least), I realise there was plenty to enjoy too. Working in that shop taught me the value of a hard day’s work. It also taught me how to be myself and to make the best of whatever situation I find myself in. A skill I have often relied on to get me through university and more.
So, as I face out into this summer, I have time to reflect on what I really want and what I enjoyed about all the different jobs I’ve worked. It might sound a bit corny or cliché, but the answer is that I always enjoyed helping people. Whether I was helping them find a gift, lifting steel onto the back of their truck, helping them with their education or whatever else: helping others made my life easier.
Except the ones who just wanted to complain for the sake of it. I didn’t help them at all.
A family business does have its benefits.