When God Rips Off the Mask: My Year Cleaning Houses

I graduated with a 3.9 GPA with bachelor's degrees in Biology and Chemistry in 2008.

Guys, 2008 was not a stellar year to graduate. I don't know if you remember the economy crashing, but it totally did.

And NO ONE was hiring.

I had been accepted into a pretty exclusive post-bachelor's program in nursing but had turned it down at the last second due to the crazy amount of student loans I was going to have to take out in order to do the program. I wasn't 100% committed to the idea of being a nurse at the time, and staring at that rather large number forced me to really evaluate rather or not the opportunity to be a nurse was worth the bondage of the significant debt I would be undertaking. You can guess what I decided.

So, I naively submitted application after application, assuming that my college degree(s) and impressive GPA would make me a shoe in for any job I wanted. I expected my phone to be ringing off the hook and quickly went to Express to buy sleek interview clothes (black pencil skirt, black blazer and shiny new shoes). And, surprise surprise, my phone didn't ring.

Naturally, the quality of jobs for which I was applying started to drop. Walgreens. Walmart. Starbucks. No call back. Finally, I happened to see in a newspaper a listing for a job that was Mondays-Fridays 8-5 PM. I called and was told to come in for an interview.

I put on my interview outfit, fixed my hair, and printed my resume on cardstock. I drove to the address... only to find out it was a well-known chain for cleaning houses.

Maybe it's for a management position? I smoothed my skirt as I got out of my car. I happened to park next to a team of girls who had just returned from a day of cleaning houses, covered in soap and sweat, hauling in vacuum cleaners, buckets, and bags of dirty rags.

I decided to assume an air of confidence, walked in, and explained why I was there. Long story short: I got the job, cleaning houses.

Something no one tells you about cleaning houses? People don't trust you. They assume you clean houses because you made poor decisions in life and this is the only job you can get. They assume you are out for a quick buck and are likely to steal from them. They assume you are incompetent and might even follow you around, rubbing their finger across window blinds for traces of missed dust. They don't care to actually know you or your life story or how you ended up scrubbing their toilet.

And, guys, I was TERRIBLE at my job. Which, in the cleaning business, is not good for business. We were paid by the house, not hourly, and if we got a complaint we were sent back to said house to clean it for free. Meaning my team captain LOST money. Because of my mistake. The fan blade I forgot to dust? The spots on the top of the mirror I overlooked? My fault. It didn't matter how much I had studied in college or that I could classify any animal's taxonomy. It didn't matter that I knew how a kidney worked or that I had done extensive research on cancer drugs in the stomachs of rats. What mattered was I didn't wipe off the spoon rest on the back of the stove.

It was humbling, to say the least. I had spent most of my life defining myself by my accolades. And now? I looked just like the women around me, uniform and all. I had refused to try and improve at my job because I felt it was beneath me... but now my arrogance was actually hurting the pay of the single mom I worked with. And I had to get over myself. I had to ask for help from someone without a high school degree. I had to ask for help from someone who, by the looks of things, had chosen a very different life than I had. Because they were BETTER than me at this job.

In the process, I found a lot of similarities between myself and my team captain and actually came to really enjoy her company. She invited me to cookouts and her children's sporting events. She bought me Christmas presents with her hard-earned money. We drove from house to house, singing Christmas songs at the top of our lungs. And, when I got my alternative certification to teach and was hired at a high school, she bought me a going away present and wrote a long, sweet letter congratulating me. I had gained a friend.

This was the Lord's kindness to me. He HUMBLED me. \ This has deeply shaped who I am today, the way I interact with those around me and the way I raise my children. In more ways than one. Everyone is an expert at something and none of us are better than anyone else. We can all find ways to connect with others, even those who are so vastly different from us by all appearances. And none of us is above cleaning a toilet and cleaning it well.



  1. Love this. When I graduated (honors, etc), I had to work nights baking at Panera Bread...and had to quickly learn the very same lesson. Now, I wouldn't trade it for anything.


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