I Am A Garbage Collector
I am a garbage collector.
It feels good to write that, and not as weird as it was when I first started writing and saying it years ago.
Because back then, I wasn’t a garbage collector. Well, I wasn’t making a living as a garbage collector. The fact is, I’ve always been a garbage collector; I always knew in my heart it was my calling. And that’s why, five years ago today, I quit my job as an adjunct professor of Garbage Collection and devoted myself full-time to my dream.
It wasn’t easy. When I started, I was picking up people’s garbage for free, just to network and gain experience and get my name out there. I didn’t know what I was doing and I couldn’t afford any fancy garbage collection tools–even the lowest end trash truck was financially out of my league. So I made do with what I had. I collected garbage in my beat-up Subaru Outback. Those were long days. Not having a compactor in my vehicle, I had to make many trips to the landfill. It wasn’t unusual to work a fourteen-hour day and only cover two blocks.
And the smell. I’ll never forget the smell of that Outback, and on me. Needless to say, I pretty much gave up my social life in those early days.
And there were a lot of skeptics back then. I’d tell someone I was a garbage collector and they’d crack wise, all “So you’re saying you’re unemployed.” Or they’d dismiss my garbage collecting as a hobby…and then have the nerve to try to get me to pick up their garbage for free, thinking they were throwing me a bone, helping me with the “hobby”. And when I went on my collection runs in those early days, people would resist, not wanting to trust their garbage to a rookie. They’d tell me things like “No, that’s OK–we already have Waste Management”, or “Why are you digging through our trash? What are you, some kind of creep?”
The sad truth is, society doesn’t value garbage collectors–I learned that lesson early. They still don’t. If I had gotten into garbage collecting because I thought society would value me, I would’ve quit a long time ago.
But other than my ambition and passion for garbage, I had some key people in my life who always supported me. My parents are on the top of that list. I will never be able to repay them for the gift of their support. They backed me in my decision to leave the comfort of garbage academia, even when it meant I had to move back in with them until I got on my feet. They talked me up to friends and neighbors, and were always on the lookout for new people in town who hadn’t yet signed up with a garbage collection service. Mom and Dad gave me my first “paying” gig, offering me a modest stipend (in the form of discounted room and board) for hauling away their trash.
And, God love them, they never once said a word about how I constantly reeked of soiled baby diapers and stale coffee grounds. I love you, Mom and Dad!
Now I could go on and on and on about every incremental gain or each momentary setback I experienced on the way to where I am today: Living my dream, collecting garbage for a living.
But I’m not interested in writing about me. I’m interested in YOU. What are you doing to realize your own dream of being a garbage collector? What is keeping you from that dream?
Are you scared of giving up your comfortable life? If so, I get that, I really do. I was scared, too. But at some point, you have to ask yourself: Is comfort worth living a life where I just stand by and watch others collect garbage?
Are you afraid pursuing your dream will be hard? Well, guess what? NEWS FLASH: It IS hard. There’s a steep learning curve when you’re trying to make it as a garbage collector. I can’t tell you how many times I messed up and threw recyclables in with the “regular” trash when I was just starting out–and that’s just one of TONS of mistakes I made. And on top of the rookie mistakes there’s the sore back, the gas money to transport the garbage, the landfill managers who won’t take “garbage” for an answer, all “I’ve told you for the last time–get your stinking Outback OUTTA here!” You have to power through those times, and win that landfill manager over, and it ain’t easy.
Are you wondering where you’ll find the time to collect garbage? Well, let me ask you this: Are you willing to collect garbage early in the morning–NOT just because that’s when trash pick-up usually takes place but also because you’re DEDICATED? Are you willing to collect garbage on weekends? Holidays? If you have kids, are you willing to collect trash during their nap time? While they’re at school? Are you willing to refrain from collecting garbage late at night because while it might seem like the perfect time to pick up the trash and convenient considering your schedule you’ll actually just end up scaring people who will think you’re either a raccoon or some vagrant and they might even attack you?
Straight up: If you didn’t answer “yes” to ALL of those questions, you probably aren’t committed enough to make it.
And that’s what it boils down to: COMMITTMENT. Dedication. Hard work. Perseverance. And above all, pushing past the fear and excuses and just COLLECTING GARBAGE.
Because, look–lots of people WISH they could be professional garbage collectors, but the reality is, most people aren’t. Why? Most of us have given up, or, at the very least, aren’t trying nearly hard enough. The ones who make it are the ones who make the choice I made five years ago: The choice to be a garbage COLLECTOR–not just a garbage putter-outer.
So…which one are YOU?