Toasting My Career

Twenty-one years ago today (as I write this on October 2), I was a terrified 22 year old sitting in a room in a Fairfield, Calif., office complex, taking my California Manicuring State Board Exam.
I had a hard time securing a model for the practical exam. My friends were either under 18 years old, not available, or already held a license from the Board. I had to resort to my ex-boyfriend. By that I mean the guy who was already my ex at that time! It was pretty awkward.
I took the written and practical the same day — written in the morning, practical in the afternoon. I didn’t sweat the written. I have no test anxiety; written tests have never been an issue for me.
But by the time I got to my State Board, I knew I wanted to be a nail tech when I grew up— doing nails was no longer a job idea to hold me over till I found my calling. So I was really keyed up about getting my license.
I was terrified of the practical.
I lived through it. I took way too long on each “appointment” in the “book” and had just plopped all my implements into the disinfectant when they called “time.” The instructions said I was supposed to wait 10 minutes, then remove the implements and rinse them and put them away...but I never got to that part. All I could do was hope for the best.
There was a break before we met back in the main office for the test results. We sat there, waiting. I don’t think I was breathing.
The man at the window explained that when he called our names, we would get our license if we’d passed. We’d get the test results and instructions for rescheduling if we didn’t. I sat there with my ex-boyfriend and waited nervously as each of my fellow testers’ names were called; watching them walk away from the window with either a sigh of relief, a grin, and a small green piece of paper, or slumped shoulders and a manila envelope.
And then everyone was gone but me. And the man at the window was closing the little window and gathering his things to leave for the day (it was 5 p.m. and all).
I was numb. He never called my name! At all! My brain was spinning. All I could think was that somehow, they hadn’t even recorded my presence! They didn’t even know I had taken the exam! I was going to have to do it all again!
I was paralyzed with shock. I have to thank that ex-boyfriend, who got up, walked to the window, tapped on the glass and asked the very confused man on the other side if he had anything for “Marjorie Franklin.”
The very confused man looked for a moment like he was going to shoo away the ex-boyfriend and insist that he’d given out all the paperwork. I think he caught sight of me sitting in the corner. I probably looked like I was on the verge of a heart attack. I saw his face soften. He looked down at his desk and sifted through some paperwork and handed the ex-boyfriend something...
…a small, green piece of paper.
I think I cried for an hour.
I have not held a job other than as a nail tech in 21 years. I haven’t always made enough money to call it “making a living,” and I know I could make a much better living if I was more ambitious. But through the ups, the downs, the ins, and the outs, through awesome clients and miserable ones, awesome salon owners I’ve worked for and miserable ones — even those rare days when I find myself momentarily burning out — I have loved my work.
So today, I am buying my career a drink for its 21st birthday!
To NAILS! The best career I could ever have hoped to stumble into!

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