“Work hard. It builds character.” ”
“Work even if you don’t need to. Work is good for the soul.”
These are just some of the things my mother (who I am now realising is extremely wise) would say to us kids. And even if I always rolled my eyes whenever she’d say it, the essence really stuck. So although I do enjoy vacations, and I appreciate and value time to yourself with nothing to do, I also extremely value work. In fact, I tend to look for it. Even as a teenager on summer break, I couldn’t go too long without finding a project, a summer job, or new hobby to keep me occupied.
It didn’t come as a surprise to me then that after just two weeks of a pretty lax schedule, I found myself busy with a new and very different kind of job. For the past five days (and for the two to come) I am assistant to a florist.
This wasn’t a job I applied for. It was really something I kind of stumbled into. My aunt’s friend is a florist and she needed the extra help because of Valentine’s Day. At first I thought I’d help her out on Saturday by helping her sort out leaves. (I wasn’t doing anything anyway.) On Sunday, creating ivy-covered boxes looked like a fun art project. By Monday, I was decorating vases, setting aside gift cards, sorting through order forms, making notes for flowers and colours, etc. etc. etc.
My first Fiction Writing session was on Tuesday, which was the day I was asking myself how I got so involved so quickly. While trying to figure out how to get the different writing tasks given for the week, one task stood out: interview friends who work in different jobs, friends who are experts in their fields.
The exercise is meant to give one perspective on different types of work as they can prove useful when building characters and just writing in general. That gave me an idea: what if instead of interviewing people, I just work different jobs? How about I try getting some first-hand perspective? I mean, I don’t mind working, and I’m always up for a challenge and a different experience, so why not?
Now I know that not everyone is going to take in an inexperienced worker who will only hang about for a week or two, but I know there must be places out there who need some free labour. So I am adding this to my list of tasks for the blog this year: find work wherever you can, work for free for a week or two, document it somehow.
It’ll be really interesting to see what happens. I’m sure I’ll pick up some interesting skills. And who knows? I might find a couple of dream jobs along the way.
Okay, it’s time to talk flowers… First, I had to write this entry tonight because tomorrow and the day after are going to be complete madness. If they are anything like today–and I have been assured they will be worse–then I won’t have any time to write on my blog ’til next Monday.
Starting work at a florist’s on Valentine’s week is baptism by fire. BUT I’ve learned sooooo much more than I ever expected. The following are my top 5 so far:
1) Flowers attack you.
Beautiful they may be, but some of them bite! Before I learned that you always need to wear gloves while working with flowers, a couple of roses exacted their revenge on humanity by drawing blood from my various fingers. And trust me, lots of little thorn wounds on your hands HURT.
2) I have a very strong sense of privacy.
To me, privacy is very important. I try very hard to respect other people’s privacy because I would like them to respect mine. So I found it very odd that most people who order flowers would like the florist to write on the card for them as well. Taking down Valentines messages for people was really strange to me, and it felt like I was invading a bit of their privacy.
3) Patience and speed, contradictory as they seem, are actually complementary.
One needs to be patient when it comes to a new job. Be patient with yourself and be patient with your boss. You won’t know everything right away, you can’t learn everything in one go, and you can’t make beautiful flower arrangements without observing others and learning the steps. (I made myself a cheat sheet yesterday.) That being said, you also need speed. Learn quickly, rectify mistakes quickly, and work quickly. The faster and better you work, the more appreciated you and your work will be. (Although you probably already knew that.)
4) Someone’s gotta do it. Never say: “That’s not my job.”
It’s such a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. No job is too small. And no job is beneath you. There is value in all forms of work, and something to be learned in each task. I spent two hours this afternoon cleaning out buckets, fetching new water, sweeping, mopping, taking out trash, and sorting through rotten flowers and stems. No one else wanted to do it, but somebody had to. And although it was tiring and kind of annoying, I’m glad I was the one put to the task. First of all, it was humbling. It was a great reminder that I should appreciate and value even the smallest tasks because these little jobs really contribute to a greater goal.
5) There is always something to learn.
I know that I won’t be able to learn everything about growing flowers, choosing flowers, colour schemes, textures, height, and all the other things that go into flower arranging and being a florist in one week. But learning something new and different everyday and seeing how the new things you learn help the old, or how the old things you learn help the new, or how things you’ve learned from other places in completely different situations and types of job can help what you’re currently working on has been a wonderful experience and a wonderful reminder that there is so much room for growth and that none of us have an excuse to every stop learning and exploring.
In terms of life lessons, I’m not sure I learned anything I didn’t already know in theory, but it’s nice to be reminded, and to experience it beyond theory. In terms of life skills, boy did I learn a ton! I wish I could detail everything I’ve learned about choosing, caring after, and arranging flowers, but that should probably go in another entry. Maybe when I’ve had more practice For now, I hope you enjoy all the photos!