When I was 13, I got a job at a Creemee Stand in my hometown. For anyone who didn’t grow up in Vermont (namely, everyone), a “creemee” is a special kind of summery frozen treat that looks like soft serve but tastes richer, because it’s got a higher fat content. Regional quirks notwithstanding, that was a pretty fun gig. Then when I was graduating high school, I picked up a summer job at a microbrewery. I put 6-pack holders into cases and sent them down the production line to get bottles inserted. I gave tours, and served samples, and had to pretend I knew what everything tasted like even though I was too young to legally drink (IT WAS ALL PRETEND, DO YOU HEAR ME?!). That was a solid gig too. The thing about selling ice cream and beer is that it’s the perfect retail job. Nobody gets upset about getting ice cream and beer, you know?
But those jobs were also more pleasant because my entire livelihood wasn’t dependent on them. I could have fun, and relax, and know that I was basically earning my spending money for college (because my actual education was funded entirely with scholarships and crippling student loans). With adulthood came rent and groceries and bills and, you know, crippling student loan payments — so the idea of the “perfect job” took a backseat to “whatever job will hire me and pay me enough to live.” And I can’t complain! I worked a string of interesting, challenging jobs in the field that I set out to work in (entertainment), though not a single one was the job I ever actually wanted to have. I’ve been an executive assistant (a lot). I was a DVD publicist, which was doubly soul-crushing because DVD was a dying format and I never wanted to be a publicist in the first place. At one point I gave up and became a glorified data entry monkey, because it allowed me to work for a company with a gym AND a healthcare center in the office. Sure, job satisfaction is great, but so is free kickboxing classes during your lunch break.
And on the flip side, I’ve lost out on a lot of jobs that WOULD have been perfect — would have been exactly what I wanted at the time — if only I could afford to live on the salary. At this point, I’m probably the closest I’ve ever been to my dream job. I write all day! I have turned my interest in watching movies and TV shows into a career of sorts. And it’s all possible because… well, because I’ve got my student loans paid off finally, and my rent is cheaper, and I have a partner to split my bills with.
But if I could take all the practical considerations of life off the table… what would my dream job look like today? Here are my top three blue-sky alternative career paths:
1.) Be An “America Picker”
I don’t mean be on the show, American Pickers. But doing what those guys do? Rooting through other people’s junk?Crawling around in rundown barns and dusty attics trying to find forgotten treasures? Talking to people about their strange collections, and hearing the word-of-mouth history only they can pass down to me? Learning weird and useless facts about stuff nobody really needs anymore? Yeah, I could happily spend my days doing that. Hell, I’ll root through your medicine cabinet if I think I can get away with it. Don’t think I won’t try and sneak down into your basement looking for cool shit too.
2.) Snack Food Taste Tester
There are professional “sensory testing” companies that hire trained taste testers to review brands, but personally I’d rather work in-house for a snack foods company, helping them perfect new flavors. I mean, I’m sure it requires some kind of sciencey knowledge… which I’d be happy to learn if it meant I could sample fancy potato chips or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream varieties all day. Wouldn’t want to let any sub-par products go out into the market, right? Someone needs to make sure it’s not all poison.
3.) Run a Christmas Tree Farm
It’s the perfect seasonal job! Most of the year you’re just watching trees grow. Then you cut some and sell them! Or you can make it even easier on yourself and let people come and cut their own trees! Though I’d be down to chop and haul the trees myself, for the sake of exercise. And, ok sure — the gig is actually harder than that. Did you know someone goes out and shears the trees while they’re growing to give them that Christmasy shape? But still. I’d do it.
How about you? If you could do anything for a living, without worrying about finances, education requirements, or any other practical considerations, what would you do? Dream big. Dream lazy. Just don’t dream boring!