As a teenager my first job was a paper round at age 15, followed by weekends at a fish and chip shop and later at 16, I began full time work, cleaning toilets and after that from 1996 to 1998 on various production lines in a food factory called Rowan Foods in Wrexham Industrial Estate.
As you can imagine, there was absolutely no glamour to any of these jobs and they did very little to help me develop my self-esteem. In fact, it was not until 10 years later at age 27 in which I slowly began to develop a level of confidence in both my personal and professional life.
The work itself on the food production line envolved working 12 hour shifts from 6:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the afternoon, 4 days a week from Monday to Thursday. We made spring rolls at an incredibly fast rate for 2 hours and 45 minutes nonstop, then a 15 minute break before resuming for another 2 hours and 45 minutes, before having a 30 minute break for lunch and then continuing for the remaining 6 hours with a 10 minute break in the middle.
We had to clock in and clock out, which meant that if your were more than 3 minutes late, they would deduct 30 minutes from your wage slip.
At times you would get tired from making thousands of spring rolls ….. hour after hour ….. so as your concentration dipped, so would the quality of your handy work, therefore your superviser would force you to stand on your feet so as to resume your concentration and stop you from falling asleep.
Looking around the factory floor I couldn’t help but think where my life had gone all wrong.
I felt like a brand new ship that had been launched out to sea on its maiden voyage, only to sink just a few yards away from the shore.
Was this it? Was this all life had to offer for a working class boy living in Northern Wales?
The feeling was even more awkward as I came from a supposedly middle class family, much to the surprise of some of my colleagues who judging by the neighbourhood I was living in, my accent and general demeanour, couldn’t understand why I was working there.
Yet at the same time I had no other skills, I felt I had nothing to offer the world as my self-esteem was so cripplingly low that I couldn’t even make eye contact or pluck up a conversation with someone.
This lack of people skills meant that I had little chance of having an office job but would rather have to stick to jobs which required little or no interpersonal skills.
At the time it felt like I was doomed to carry out “dogsbody work” for the rest of my life ….. “like the man who sweeps up after the elephant”
Later in life I came to realize that a lot of working class men and women around the world suffer from this same condition.
It is like a mental cancer that eats away at your professional self-esteem and bleeds into other aspects of your life both personal and professional.
I was not proud of my job and in the few social encounters I had, felt embarrassed when it came to the typical question of “What do you do?” My old middle class insecurities seeping through.
Eleven years later, after a long decade of other physical jobs such as warehouse worker, lifeguard, cleaning and catering in a hospital, restaurant waiter, barman at a pub, working across such towns and cities as Wrexham, Shrewsbury, Cataluña, L’Escala, Barcelona and Manchester; it was thanks to the presence of a mystery woman on a trip to America, New Haven that I was able to discover my self-esteem and “get on the horse”. That woman’s name was Mariangela (but that is another story).
However, thanks to discovering a new found feeling of self-worth, I mustered the courage to finish university in Manchester and in 2008 move back to Spain in search of work as a journalist.
In the meantime I had to make ends meet, so I began teaching English at Barajas airport and various other businesses and institutions in and around Madrid.
I also came across my fair share of exploitation in the private and public teaching sector as well; teaching in Madrid, Sevilla University, Valencia, Lyon France, Barcelona and back to Valencia, before meeting my second mystery woman called Marta who is in part responsible for having pushed me into my current line of work as a freelancer.
Although I believe we don’t owe each other anything, to this day, I am still grateful for the vital part each of these women played in my life ….. and as Shakespeare once said …..“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players……”
If you wish to improve your English by discussing your own trayectory in life …. then I look forward to hearing your anecdotes in class 😉