Notes About Work, For My Teenager

When my daughter began what I considered her first “real” job (non-babysitting, 20 hours a week, “traditional” office environment), I’ve immediately began thinking a lot about my hopes for her as a member of the workforce. When she’s 52 and looking back on the career choices she has made, will she be happy?

What follows is a mixture of reflections based on my experience.

First Jobs

Connect With Whatever Makes Your Heart Sing

A friend of mine said once, “I work to fund my pastimes.” I get that, and occasionally over my career have thought, “I should have just done [insert very lucrative even if very unpleasant occupation], made a bunch of money, and then had flexibility in my 40s. The thing is, is it worth doing something you don’t love for ten years? five? two?

Ask Questions, More Than Once If You Need To

My mom started work very young (since she had fibbed about her age to get into kindergarten!). When she talks about her years working in Lake City, she really seems to have relished it. I remember her talking about the first time she took dictation (i.e., using shorthand to write down the boss’s words), and she got out to her typewriter and realized that she had failed to comprehend most of it. She went back in to her supervisor and admitted that she needed a “do-over.” I can only imagine the gumption it took for a young woman in the 1950s professional environment to tell her male boss that she needed to start over. I heard her echo in my voice when my daughter and I were discussing a project at work, when I said, “it’s okay to ask if you don’t ‘get it.'”

The Team Matters

I don’t know what kind of workplace my daughter will have ten or twenty years from now. Will she be working remotely, from her laptop? Will she be traipsing the earth? Something tells me she won’t be in a traditional office or cubby. Regardless of where or how she works, I hope she has a team she loves being a part of. No team is perfect, and good teams can “turn bad” with a change in leadership or organizational mission. But whether it’s writing code, caring for patients, teaching children, or digging ditches, if the team you’re a part of is not generally happy to be moving toward a common mission, and supporting one another along the way, you’re playing for an emotional loss.


Time and again the choices you make will come down to your values, personally and professionally. You have values as an individual: they help you draw the line between what you will do and what you won’t do. You will be faced with ethical choices (is it okay to backdate an invoice one day but not okay to completely fabricate an invoice that never existed?). You will be faced with choices to lead in the workplace (are you going to laugh at a joke that is told at the expense of another? are you going to seek out someone who has great potential but just needs a bit of encouragement and help them?). Most importantly, you will be faced with figuring out where it all fits in to your life as an individual.


You may decide not to have a family. You may decide to get married but not have kids. You may decide to have one child or six. I will always struggle with the image I portrayed to you when you were younger of what “working” meant: acting stressed; pulling up to the daycare screaming that my boss was going to be mad if I was late so GET OUT OF THE CAR AND GET MOVING!

I suppose it would have been false to pretend that work is a daisy path of pleasantries but I hope by my choices I haven’t snuffed out your optimism that you can find a place that challenges you and gives you the flexibility to have whatever configuration of family life you end up with. (But if you find yourself screaming at your kids to GET OUT OF THE CAR AND GET MOVING! I really encourage an intervention! It’s not worth the stress…for anyone involved.)

In Closing

I know it’s stressful to go to school all morning, to get changed into professional clothes, and then to be immersed in the world of human resources all afternoon. It must be like drinking from a fire hose. It makes me think ahead to some morning 10 years down the road, 15, 20 —- as you approach retirement. Will you wake up, on balance, excited for the day, knowing you are doing something that you feel competent at, among people you care about, where the little drudgework things that accompany all jobs are far outweighed by the joy of channeling your talents toward a fulfilling purpose?

I’ve used the quote below before (in this post), but it still sums up my wish for you:

When you live your passion, there is no line dividing what you do and who you are.  They are one. – Leigh Caraccioli


Editor’s Note: I originally write this post four years ago, in October 2013. My daughter is no longer a teenager, but I left the original title in place (time flies….).

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Jarrod’s Lesson: Be Who You Are, Passionately

“And while we’re talking, there’s a scene that involves having eggs cracked over your head while you’re standing in the checkout line. If that’s you, will you be okay with that?”

The above question came from Jim Ed Wills, when he was casting extras for Adam Isaacs’s FSU Film, “Playback Henry.” He used a tone of voice that indicated he thought it was asking a lot to ask a perfectly normal adult to agree to have eggs cracked over their head. The thing is, for those of us in the FSU Film extras/acting community, I’ll bet that, unless it was the individual’s first time being an extra/actor, the answer was not just “sure” but that the person being asked secretly hoped there were some eggs heading the way of their head.

I once heard a student telling an actor, “well, you fit the profile for a film I was casting for, but since you had just done another one, I didn’t want to bother you.” The actor’s response was (summarizing here): Bother me please.

My friend Jarrod Heierman, who died suddenly, at the age of 40, in early December  wasn’t in Playback Henry, so he missed the opportunity to be an “egg head” for the day. However, he did many other things in FSU Films; I understand he was in 40 films, and I have only been exposed to a few of them. Most significantly (to me), he was my “husband” in Shane Spiegel’s Water Wings. I had just arrived on set when Jarrod was about to film his scene, but he told me my name would be easy to remember because his mom is named Paula. I heard him joking around with the crew when they asked him to change into a hospital gown about not being ashamed of his “man boobs.”

I encountered him a few weeks later, on Chris Oroza’s SAE. I was a nurse; he was a huge (like 8 feet tall), black, furry, something. The costume can’t have been comfortable; I didn’t hear a peep of complaint.

Me in “Nurse Mode” in SAE with Riley Moran and Virgil Bates III 
Photo Credit: Natalie Warrender Shepherd LaBarr
Jarrod as the Big Black Menacing Something in SAE
Photo Credit: FSU Film

In August 2010, I saw Jarrod perform in a film that involved him doing some crazy dance in a pawn shop, shirtless. It was hysterical.  The last time I saw him, we were playing “college student parents” on the set of Carissa Dorson’s film, “Parental Ties.” Needing something to say, I mentioned that I had googled him and learned that he had won an oyster eating contest (28 dozen + 8 oysters in eight minutes, to be exact). I am still not sure if he was creeped out by the fact that I had Googled him or flattered that he was “famous” for his speed eating acumen. I’ll never know.   

The Oyster Eating Contest
Jarrod is the one, um, focused on the eating!
Photo credit: David Adlerstein

I didn’t know Jarrod well. Like many other people in the FSU Film community, I only saw him on sets. But time on set does not function like “regular” time. If it is your film to produce, it probably feels like time zooms by. For actors/regulars, it is a more insular thing — for the period of time you are filming, you are family, or shoppers in a store (watch out for the eggs), or partygoers, or bank customers, or medical personnel, or any of a hundred things. It is an experience that you will have had just with those people; even though the final product will be shared with audiences, you will have been part of a team, creating an experience together.

At Jarrod’s memorial service, I heard person after person tell stories about growing up with him, working with him, and playing sports with him. So often the stories came back to what a “team player” he was. The characteristic I pointed out was that Jarrod, among a social-media obsessed world, was not “plugged in.” No Facebook (that I knew of), no tweeting about every thought he had. There’s something to be said for being so secure in yourself that you don’t need to make sure you tag the right people and pile on the “friends.”

At the service, Gavin Boone mentioned Jarrod’s role on Matt Sklar’s “Green Christmas,” a film about (among other things) an overzealous environmentalist who loses sight of the spirit of Christmas because he is caught up in his own agenda. Jarrod’s character, a “hire-a-Santa,” tells the down-and-out homeowner “Don’t forget the Spirit. The Spirit of Christmas.” Our family has been in the position of grieving a loved one just weeks before Christmas; I hope in some quiet moment, Jarrod’s family and friends feel his presence with them. Even though the holiday spirit is easily lost in a frenzy of buying, partying, and posturing, its authenticity can be rescued via treasured memories of a guy who just wanted other people to feel happy.

Jarrod on the set of “Green Christmas”
Photo Credit:  Madeline Eberhard 

As I was writing this blog earlier today, this quote flitted across twitter:

When you live your passion, there is no line dividing what you do and who you are.
They are one. – Leigh Caraccioli

Jarrod, you gave a gift every time you shared yourself with us.  The strong simplicity of your presence, fueled exclusively by a passion for being “who you were” was a present beyond measure. 

Thank you. 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.