El Chris Gets a Job


I work. Hard. And a lot.

I’m blessed with being a Norwegian. We are a practical, hardy people. We work hard. We play hard. Some of them are quiet. I am not.

Remember that good choices/bad choices talk we all had in elementary school? And then in Middle School? And again over and over again in High School? Well, I missed those talks. I majored in Scandinavian Studies and Spanish. While a double major in foreign languages (I speak Norwegian!) is super neat, it doesn’t carry a lot of weight. And education is expensive.

Because of my education choices, along with the bad financial choices I made in college, I’m stuck with a lot of debt. When I dropped out of grad school, I had six months to start making a living before I would have to start paying back my loans. With a little luck, I’d be able to scrape enough together enough to buy a ring to make my girlfriend into The Patient Wife.

I made it all happen, through working overnights at the gas station where I worked in high school, and then managing it. And I hated it. And I did it anyway.

Eventually, the economy caught up with the store I was managing, and the decision was made to close it. I took a 40% pay cut and went back to clerking gas. And a month into my marriage, I was working 7 days a week.

Fast forward to today, and I work four jobs. FOUR. JOBS.

Recently, this has caused some confusion, between my family members, between my coworkers, and even among friends.

“Don’t you roast coffee?”

“I thought you just worked in a camping store.”

So here they are. Here is what I do, day in, day out, all four jobs.

Job I. Operation Courageous

This is my job. This is my life. This is how I provide myself and The Patient Wife with health insurance, safe cars, a new house, and all the craft projects she desires. I’ve worked with Operation Courageous since February 2011 and I haven’t looked back since.

My job is to teach people to live independently. Super easy, right? We all do it. Except most of us have our short term memory intact. And most of us don’t have a brain injury. In fact, a lot of the folks I work with are the people we pretend not to see. Those are the people I work with. Each equally as complex and you and I. Each differently disabled, and each needing help. Some need help to pay their bills. Some need incredible amounts of persuasion to leave the house.

One woman I work with hadn’t left her apartment in 25 years. I wasn’t old enough to WALK the last time she had left her house. Now she’s terrified to leave, and it’s my job to convince her to quit chain smoking and leave her house. And it. Is. HARD.

It involves me being a professional fire extinguisher. A professional friend. A jerk who comes in and tells you what to do. A guy who talks to your landlord when you forgot to pay your rent for three months. But I like it. As difficult as it is, I’m never EVER bored. EVER.

Job II. The Boy Scouts

Above, when I mentioned that my old gas station was closed down? Well, someone found this job for me right when that happened. I still owe her a cupcake, in fact. Even though the job is part time, I worked as many hours as I could and combined with the amazing work of The Patient Wife, we managed to pay the rent and all of our bills. I worked here five days a week and then at the gas station once I was done with the boys. Many of you know that I’m a die-hard scouter. I’ve written a little about camping and how to teach stuff about cameras and rockets to kids, and this job is amazing. Focused entirely on bringing scouting to low-income and at risk kids, this is right up my alley.

Once a week, I head to a transitional housing complex just north of Saint Paul and do Cub Scout stuff with these sweet kids who used to live on the streets. It’s once a week, and there’s just a little bit of planning involved. It’s wonderful. I’m expected to teach the kids things they should know about the outdoors and also be a positive role model for them. I’m expected to encourage them and teach them how to be leaders. It’s amazing, it’s rewarding, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Job III. My Own Coffee Company

You may remember about a year ago when I started my own business. Whenever I’m not working anywhere else, I’m roasting coffee. It’s amazing. It’s delicious. And it’s a significant amount of work. It’s time consuming, but it’s very rewarding. And someday, hopefully someday soon, I’ll be roasting coffee and only roasting coffee. But every day it seems like that goal is getting further and further away.

Job IV. Tradition Creek Outfitters.

This is a part time job at a shop pretty close to where I live. It’s owned by a veteran who helped start one of Minnesota’s newest state parks, and he’s a camp staff alumnus and eagle scout to boot. In fact, everybody who works at the shop is an alumnus of the same camp, so we’re a clever and resourceful bunch. I’m given the freedom I need to perform well, I run their Facebook page and Twitter account, and I get to share my love of the outdoors with everyone who comes in. It’s a low stress job that will help pay for some of the repairs that need to happen at my new house, and I’m good at it.


Now, I won’t work four jobs forever, at least I hope. And honestly, working a lot has taught me some important things.

It’s taught me that no matter what you think of yourself, you are not above ANY line of honest, legal work. Did I go to college so that I could work in the same gas station where I worked in high school? No, but I worked there after college anyway. Working an unsatisfying job and paying my own bills was FAR better than begging or living off my parents claiming that “there aren’t any jobs!” True, there weren’t any cushy dream jobs available to me, but that didn’t stop me.

It’s also taught me about time and about enjoying what time I DO have to myself. I remember wasting hours upon hours doing nothing with my Saturdays and feeling like I had missed out on something by the time evening rolled around. Not anymore. No time is squandered anymore, and time with The Patient Wife is even more precious and loved than it was before.

Finally, it gave me something to work for. The point of working as much as I do is to get myself to the point where I don’t HAVE to work this much anymore. The point isn’t to work like this until I die, the point is to work like this while I can. I don’t want to work like this when I’m in my 70’s, I want to work like this now.

I’m hoping to find a single career SOON that will pay me what I make working these four different places. I clearly have the work ethic and the time, now all I need to do is find it.

Author: El Chris

I’m full of snark that doesn’t always come out. I have a soft spot for kids and people with special needs. I’m a disability advocate by day, and a coffee roasting photographer by night. You’ll love me, but your parents will love me more.

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