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Queen of Occupational Change

Updated on September 4, 2016
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Ruth, a.k.a. Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, Utah. She married a Polynesian and has had amazing travel experiences.

Gregg Shorthand
Gregg Shorthand | Source

I challenge you to defy my claim!

Believe it or not, I am the Queen of Change.

In our marriage of 40 years, we have moved 20 plus times. I have lived in four different countries and have had over twenty different jobs.

While these may not be impressive statistics, especially to a military person, for a girl who started out in a small rural town, these may seem like a great deal of changes.

You may think I got relieved from some jobs (fired), but actually I only got fired once! Mainly, the changes in occupation were necessary because of relocation.

One of the things that has changed ginormously during those years is technology. In high school I excelled in shorthand. Now almost obsolete, it was the most progressive and competitive job ability to have at the time. I was awarded a certificate for achieving 120 words per minute taking Gregg shorthand. I used this skill as executive secretary in three different jobs, and can still take shorthand (albeit much slower) today.

Beige selectric typewriter
Beige selectric typewriter | Source

I also was adept at typing on a manual typewriter speeding at times up to 100 words per minute. I eventually graduated to a selectric electric typewriter passing up many job applicants on the timed writing tests. Just as a side note: I feel that I have digressed somewhat as I try to text on the tiny keypad of a smart phone. I watch in admiration as the younger generation deftly maneuver their fingers over miniscule keyboards on their touch screens.

This typing skill has been used in most of the jobs I have had, even the current one as a freelance writer.

Insides of a dictaphone which used a dictabelt (red)
Insides of a dictaphone which used a dictabelt (red) | Source

One of the earliest jobs I had was taking medical dictation. In the laboratory of a hospital, I used a dictaphone which had a large plastic belt (3.5 inches) loaded onto a cylinder. They called it a “quantum leap forward” in technology for dictation. A pedal on the floor would speed up, stop, rewind or fast forward the ribbon as needed. I typed medical jargon pathologists dictated onto the recording belts and got quite good at it. Being a medical secretary was one of my favorite occupations.

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My first experience with computers was as a keypunch operator. Say, what? Yes, I took a course to learn to punch holes in cards, which were then loaded onto a data processing center (early computer) half the size of a room, which told it what to do. Need I say, we have come a long way baby?

Thankfully, we now have personal computers and do not have to hire keypunch operators to tell our computer what to do.

Keypunch operator
Keypunch operator | Source

Another of my favorite jobs over the years was wiring integrated circuits. I got this job right out of high school working for Signetics, the first electronics manufacturer. Similar to Intel, we made microprocessors, but we did it all by hand with gold wire, whilst looking through a microscope. Once the skill was refined and became automatic, we had some great times keeping up with the latest gossip. I remember getting $2.85 per hour for wiring chips and thought I was big stuff!
(Maybe that is what sparked my newest hobby making wire-wrapped jewelry).

One of my numerous jobs was shelfing books in a library. I learned the Dewey Decimal System (alphanumeric code), and enjoyed the challenge of getting the books in the proper section, and in the right order. Later while working in a university, I became aware of the ISBN system (International Standard Book Number) used for ordering textbooks. Now, when I want a book, I just download it onto my Kindle, which can hold a plethora of information. Amazing and convenient!

Dewey Decimal System
Dewey Decimal System | Source
X-ray of kidney stone.
X-ray of kidney stone. | Source

Long before Viagra erupted, I worked in a Urology clinic. It was one of my more interesting vocations. I assisted a physician in catheterizing men and women. I was also trained to take x-rays of women’s bladders. I was trained to take urologic x-rays. I inserted a catheter through their urethra, filled their bladder with dye-tinted fluid, took an x-ray, and then had them void before taking another x-ray. The purpose of this was to see if their ureters were blocked by kidney stones or a constriction and other such problems. I know catheters have improved dramatically since then and that you can even urinate through your belly button as an alternative way to be relieved (through a stoma).


Lest you think I'm lying

Other occupations I have had (besides those talked about above):

  • Executive Secretary at Bonham Corporation.
  • Data Entry for Continuing Education at a university in Hawaii
  • Avon Lady (twice)
  • Saleswoman at a department store in American Samoa
  • Substitute teacher in high school in Tonga
  • Payroll clerk in Tonga
  • Saleslady for Melaleuca
  • Marketing for Fine Arts Department at a university in Hawaii
  • Graphic artist making brochures for various companies.
  • Worked for an optician setting up appointments, ordering glasses and measuring pupillary distance.
  • Worked at Teta Tours (General Sales Agent for Hawaiian Airlines) in Tonga
  • Freelance writer (currently) at
  • Freelance artist

My favorite occupation of all was that of being a mother. My four children taught me infinately more than I learned at all of my other jobs. Although the pay was not so great, the rewards have certainly been the best.

Now that I am approaching retirement, I reflect on the great experiences I have had on and off the job.

Each profession has infinitely increased my understanding and expertise. As a senior, I find that technology changes so fast, it can be very hard to keep up. However, I might be considered a progressive since I am on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social network sites, much to the chagrin of my children. However, I have an undeniable curiosity and hope to be able to follow the latest trends in technology to keep my mind sharp.


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