I go to the gym and what do I do? I sew.

Location Taken: Valparaiso, Indiana
Time Taken: March 2007

Random trivia time!

Did you know I forgot about my first job for YEARS?!

It’s true. I’m not sure how. I mean, wouldn’t you expect such an important step to adult life to stick in your brain? I mean, at the very least, it was the first time I’d gotten a paycheck!

But no, it vanished from my personal recollection of my history for a long time. Heck, it still hasn’t made it onto my resume (largely because by the time I remembered it, it had been long enough ago that it really didn’t matter anymore).

It was an interesting job, too. Well, at least it was right up my alley. I worked for the athletics department’s equipment room at my university as a seamstress. I sat around for hours just sewing with needle and thread, fixing all the little tears in the equipment that happen with use. Just me, a pile of things to be mended, and the Food Network on the TV that both me and my boss could see. Not my choice, but then, not a channel that annoyed me, so I had no objections.

It was only for a few months, just one of those small semester-long student jobs. I couldn’t continue it the next semester due to my class schedule or something. And it was outside my normal patterns of life, so I didn’t really have anything to remind me of it. I mean, the only time I went to the Athletics building in the upcoming years was for one Physical Education class (that was mostly online, which still boggles my brain), and the yearly Relay for Life my service fraternity attended. That’s a picture of the Relay above. It’s one of the few pictures of the building I have. I think where I worked was on the other side of that wall, assuming it’s of the wall I think it is… Hmmm…

Still, between the lack of reminders, the simple passing of time, and a growing nervous breakdown that made all my memories before 2009 kinda shaky, I simply forgot about it. I just assumed the much more memorable Cook’s Helper job I took a few semesters later was my first (I was doing full cooking, but students were never referred to as “Cook”.) And that’s what my resume said in my not-at-all-successful attempts to find work after college. (Pro-tip: damage from a nervous breakdown caused by overloading your social phobia makes it tough to apply to enough entry-level jobs to get one during the height of a recession crash).

As for recalling it, well, about two years ago, as I was healing from the memory-affecting side-effects of my nervous breakdown, I started getting a thought in the back of my head. Just an odd twitch that something wasn’t quite right. And then, while lying down trying to sleep (the best time for remembering things you forgot to do, or did wrong), my thoughts wandered to a pair of fish-shaped pillows my sister and I owned.

Yes, pillows. This is relevant.

Mine was shaped like a rainbow trout, and my sister had one like a catfish. They were about four feet long, and my mom had bought them from who-knows-where when we were in middle school as presents. Really, I preferred the catfish one. It had the fun whiskers, after all. But then, my sister liked it too, and she fights mean, so I let her have it. We don’t have them anymore. They faded out of my life during one of the series of house-cleanings. Still, I always liked that catfish pillow.

And there was an identical catfish pillow hanging on the wall of the equipment room I worked in.

It was part of an extensive collection of weird and humorous things hanging up. I don’t recall the specifics, but it was the type of collection where a four-foot long catfish pillow hanging on the wall didn’t look at all out of place. Still, because it was identical to my sister’s old pillow, I noticed the catfish on the wall and that stuck in my brain a little deeper.

So when my wandering brain started thinking about the catfish pillow, it followed the trail of memories associated with it and all of a sudden, I remembered about my first job. I was suddenly wide awake as the memories poured in. Well, “unlocked” is a bit more appropriate of a term. They were there all along, after all. I just didn’t access them. And it really did feel like throwing open door after cobweb-covered door in the unused part of a mansion to reveal treasure after treasure just sitting out in the open behind them.

I also half-forgot the semester I worked in the costume shop for the Theater department doing similar work. And I don’t recall ever thinking about my first job during that one, either, so I might have actually forgotten about the job really quickly.

Really makes me wonder about just how human memory works…


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