I’ve been a door-to-door salesman for a national telephone company, sold toy soldiers to teenagers, taught our nation’s children to read and write, tutored frantic HSC students and literally dug ditches.

The first job I ever applied for was at KFC while I was still at high school. It might have still been called Kentucky Fried Chicken, back then. All my friends worked there, and to get the job all you had to do was ask and fill in a form. I remember sitting in the white tiled broom cupboard that passed for their  office watching some terrible introductory video. It was the first job I applied for, but not my first job. I never worked a shift. I lived on a farm throughout my teenage years, some 20+ kilometres from town. We only had one car, and I didn’t have my license anyway. Perhaps I was giddy on the thought of all the millions I would make frying chicken, and did not think it all through…

The first job I actually worked was digging ditches. And repairing fences, and planting trees and (at one point) building a toilet at a public rest stop. It was 1995, I had deferred university for a year, some band called Silver Chair was on the radio, and I was in need of work. LEAP – Landcare Environment Action Program – was a joint initiative between Landcare and Centrelink, a precursor to what would later become “work for the dole”, though I found out about it through an ad in the paper and actually applied to be involved. I could have just stayed at home and brought in the big, fat Centrelink cheques, but I wouldn’t have had so much fun.

There was a dozen or so participants all about my age, and for a year we worked long days on a variety of environmental projects from reducing erosion, desalination, replanting fields with trees, and a host of other activities. It was hard work at times, but also lots of fun. We also enjoyed bushwalks, went on a “working holiday” together, and had a friendly rivalry with a second LEAP group that began not long after us. The highlight of the year was building a mud brick toilet at a local national park. All we began with was a hole in the ground – everything else we did ourselves, by hand, from making the bricks to fashioning a toilet and the paper roll holder. Looking back it was an incredible achievement for a bunch of teenagers with minimal experience. Sometimes I think about going on a road trip to see if the thing is still standing.

I made good friends, learnt new skills, and at the end of each day I would come home tired, filthy and pretty damn content. I’ve not worked another “labour” job like that, and sometimes I kind of long for the simplicity of going out and digging holes.

Today I am linking up with My Home Truths‘ “I Must Confess”.

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