Hello, OSU Career Services blog readers. I’m back with another installment of “Confessions of a Career Changer”. I left off last time with the recent death of my mother, acting in a professional theatre company in Colorado, and wondering what to do next. The following winter I wanted to regroup, ask questions about who I was and wanted to continue to be, and plan my next move. I stayed in Colorado with my boyfriend (now husband) to reevaluate.
Of course, I still had to make a living. So, by virtue of the very small community I now lived in, which dwindled down in population to less than 400 full time residents within the city limits in winter, word of mouth quickly spread that I was looking for a job. But my situation was enormously lucky. We lived in a home owned by a good friend who charged us a miniscule amount for rent. Plus, there are very little opportunities to spend money in Mineral County, as the closest movie theatre is an hour and a half away and the closest shopping center even further. In Creede, Colorado during the winter months, people have potlucks and board game nights for their entertainment. So our expenses were very low, basically food and utilities. Also, my mother left me a legacy of support with her pension. She was able to will it to me, and I suddenly had a small but reliable monthly income, courtesy of my mother. So, I was looking for a part time job to help us fill the gap between the income I received through her kindness and our bills. And I found one at the Gifts & Gas.
The Gifts & Gas is the only gas station in Creede. It is more than a gas station; it is a hub of information sharing, community gathering, and social work. Most people who live in the county need to patronize the Gifts & Gas over the course of a week, and these people share stories and information as they come in to pay for their gas, their candy bars, their dozen eggs, or their lined notebook. Because there are so few shops open all year in Creede, the Gifts & Gas provided a lot more than just your typical convenience store fare. And the manager of the store at the time was a true local. A woman who taught me a lot about caring and communicating, Kris had lived in Creede most of her life. The wife of a retired silver miner, Kris ran the Gifts & Gas as the social institution that it should be. As my boss, she showed me how a community can use whatever means necessary to care for its members, including discussing the latest troubles of those who lived in the community, trying to get them direct help, and referring folks to the resources they needed (the health clinic, the sheriff’s department, the city council). She did all this while fulfilling her title as the manager of a gas station. I didn’t realize it then, but this is the kind of worker that I wanted to be in the world: engaged, compassionate, and interdisciplinary. We all need role models and mentors in our workplaces to see what is possible. I was lucky enough to watch and learn from Kris.
While I worked at the Gifts & Gas that winter, I began to apply to graduate schools, and I will tell you about this next step next time in “Confessions of a Career Changer”.
Jessica Baron is currently a Graduate Assistant in Career Services at OSU and a full time student in the College Student Services Administration Program. Before making her way to Oregon State, Jessica worked as an actor, waiter, online tutor, receptionist, college composition instructor, creative writer, gas station attendant, nonprofit program director, writing workshop leader, high school drama coach, Hallmark card straightener, substitute teacher, real estate office manager, and SAT tutor, not necessarily in that order. Her “Confessions of a Career Changer” will focus on her wavy career path and the challenges and joys of wanting to do everything.