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In My Own words

Learning Curves

Katherine Au

(8/1) I think one consistency of life is learning. We learn new information daily. The radio, television, internet, and print media is filled with information that seems to change instantly and just to keep up with it all rivals with impossible. Even if I'm not trying to learn something new I find that some information always seems to seep in during the day. Reading words is certainly one way of learning a little about life, but lessons learned by performing a job is another .

For example, while once working as a waitress in a Japanese Restaurant I learned not to be surprised by the questions people may ask. Although I wore a kimono, the restaurant had a sushi bar, and we served Japanese-inspired cuisine, I was still a bit taken aback with the few people who asked if I was Japanese. I think it might have been the kimono that threw them. And, while working there I also learned that it doesn't necessarily matter where one comes from when the measurements of success are taken, but what matters more is one's own determination and drive. I still smile when I think of the booming business that little restaurant had and the only person of Japanese heritage who worked there was the other waitress. The rest of us were from Taiwan, Honduras, or Virginia.

I've also learned some folks are more interesting to work for than others. I once worked for a lady, while doing freelance barn jobs, who told me her horses had shared a spaceship together from their planet to ours so they could teach her the lessons they were sent to teach. She also told me that each horse liked a specific color - one royal blue and the other bright red. This meant that for each of the two stalls I cleaned I had to use separate utensils for the job, like a blue and a red scrub brush to clean the blue and red buckets, and a blue and red pitchfork and muck bucket for each stall. I also was instructed to use separate hoof picks, body brushes, mane combs and towels for each horse which were of course all color coded.

Now, I can imagine an instance where separate utensils and tools need to be used with separate horses for medical reasons, but I didn't understand the need for these two horses to have such specific requests. I just couldn't grasp how these two horses apparently demanded such a complicated lifestyle when they allegedly chose to beam themselves together from another planet. I mean they shared a space ship together but couldn't share the same pitch fork?

I have learned that sometimes it's not reckless, cowardly, or irresponsible to quit, but rather the best choice towards becoming a better person. I once worked for a lady who swore one morning when I arrived at work that I had tried to drown her horses by leaving their fly masks on while they were turned out.

When my employer mentioned my negligent care of her horses and told me how I had almost contributed to their death I have to admit I had to suppress a smile. I know it's not the appropriate reaction to such an accusation but the thought of horses drowning while wearing fly masks I found humorous.

Now, for those of you who don't know what a fly mask is, it is a plastic mesh contraption that covers horses eyes and sometimes ears that is bordered by fleece of some color and is secured around a horses face by Velcro to protect their eyes from flies. No fly mask that I have ever seen has covered a horse's nostrils, so the thought of the possibility of a horse drowning by wearing a fly mask seems outlandish by my estimation.

My employer wasn't amused by my initial reaction. I won't deny that smiling when she was genuinely upset was not the best of reactions to present, but it was at the moment that I realized she was serious and did truly believe that her horses could have drowned by wearing their fly masks in the rain that I knew that giving my resignation was the right thing to do so as to not tell the woman I thought she was crazy.

I've also learned that sticking a difficult situation out at work sometimes is the best choice. But, as that experience was bound by a confidentiality agreement I shouldn't tell you all about that lesson and I can't without breaking my agreement, so I won't. But, I will say I wouldn't trade learning the practice of fortitude and patience for anything, not even for happiness.

Speaking of happiness, I've also learned that it can't be traded for money.

I've met a variety of people and I have seen some happy with money and some happy without it. I have also seen some unhappy without money and some unhappy with loads. Happiness with one's work, in my opinion, comes from doing what we love doing for pay rather than selecting a career that classically provides lots of money simply for the pay. Money certainly can be added to the mix to make happiness but to me it's not a main ingredient. Money may not be a main ingredient to happiness to me, but doesn't mean I haven't learned the value of money. Being jobless a time or two taught me that lesson well.

I have learned many lessons working the various jobs I have worked over the years, but still the main lesson learned is that there is always more to learn.

Read other articles by Katherine R. Au