11 November 2013

My First…Rebellion

I'm playing along with the hilariously talented Kerri Sackville today. She's started a new blogging challenge about firsts, and today's theme is 'My First Rebellion'. She's written about her's here. But read mine first so you don't make unfair comparisons. Okay, good, thanks…

Well technically this isn't quite my first act of rebellion. Although I was a pretty well behaved kid there had been little things before this. The odd bit of port pinched from the parents stash. Sneaking out at night for a moonlit walk*. That final week of year twelve when we staged daily events to protest the banning of 'muck-up day'.

But that all just seemed like harmless fun, and it was done as a group. It's easy to rebel when you're part of a pack; when you feel that truth, beauty and your god given right to throw eggs on the final day of high school is on your side. 

No, my first real rebellion was a solitary act. In a strange way it was kind of the first tangible sign that I had my own thoughts about the world and the way it worked. That I'd considered all the very worthy, very important stuff my parents taught me growing up and had reached a slightly** different conclusion. 

My first real rebellion was getting a job at McDonald's. 

When I was little, my Mum and Step-Dad were what you might call hippies. Middle class sure, but a very-left-leaning, grow-your-own, build-your-own, change-the-world kind of middle class.

We're talking an early childhood of communes, marijuana plants in the backyard, and friends who built mud huts in Warrandyte way before the word 'sustainable' was part of everyday PR speak. On weekends we made banners and marched for peace or workers rights or both. On school holidays we drove to Nimbin and fought off leeches and hungry baby goats (aggressive little critters). Or we got dragged to festivals in the middle of the Victorian bush, where there were teepees and nudity and mud. And drumming circles. (I still have nightmares). 

You can probably gather from all this that McDonald's was a very dirty word in our household. It was a sign of all that was wrong with the world - greedy capitalism, factory farming, American cultural imperialism, wastefulness, and just plain bad food. We did not eat there, ever.

(Side note - on the other hand, my Dad took us to Red Rooster every other Friday night and I ate pineapple fritters and drank coke! Coke! It was so great!) 

So I was 18 and studying at Swinburne Uni, and I wanted some extra cash, and I heard that McDonald's Hawthorn was hiring. How convenient, I thought. So I applied and I got the job.*** Cue general ridicule and mirth from the family. They laughed at the uniform, the terminology, the 'training'. 

But I was earning a decent hourly rate and kind of having fun. And I turned out to be pretty awesome at the whole fast food thing. I got little promotions and I won some awards. One year, I won 'Drive Thru Crew Member of the Year'. Go me. And I remember xmas day, my Mum and her best friend rolling about laughing, literally in tears of laughter about this award. And it pissed me off. Because by that stage I'd realised that my silly casual job at Maccas was turning out to be something more. 

As a shy introvert, working at McDonald's gave me confidence. That job taught me how to make small talk, how to deal with all kinds of people and situations I'd never encountered before. It showed me I could be witty, funny even (who would have thought!); and that working in a team didn't always suck. 

As I continued with my studies I continued to work for them, and slowly, slowly I showed my folks that McDonald's maybe wasn't as evil as they thought. As a manager I helped give training and a career to kids who may have slipped through the cracks otherwise. Later, McDonald's gave me my first 'real' job in the area I'd studied to work in. And it's been thanks to McDonald's that we've enjoyed the past six amazing years of overseas adventures.

And, best of all, it's this first act of rebellion many many years ago that eventually led me to my husband, my best friend, my partner in crime. Kind of awesome, the twists and turns of life. 


*Seriously. I was such a nerd / good girl that my friend and I used to sneak out at night just to go for a stroll in the moonlight. We'd sit in the park and eat Aero bars, dipping them in yogurt. Party on. 

**Note the slightly. I am still left-leaning. I still believe in equality, fairness and human rights. I believe in public services and the power of education. But I also believe in personal choice and the free market, and that some times for some problems government regulation isn't actually the best solution.

*** Yes, I was hired, by McDonald's, at the age of eighteen. 


  1. I can't believe I laughed at you getting an award. I apologise belatedly. Another impact of your act of rebellion was me having to reconsider my view of MacDonalds, learning that they paid award wages and provided good and effective training and a system of recognising merit. You forgot to mention that you were a vegetarian at the time which I found somewhat amusing.

    1. Ha! Don't apologise...it was kind of funny! And yes, I was thinking of including the vego bit but there's only so much one can cram in to a single blog post! From memory I was a vegetarian for the entire time I worked in the restaurants?

  2. Oh that's BRILLIANT. You rebelled by being conservative! LOVE it!
    (On the other hand... Aero bars dipped in yoghurt? NO NO NO NO NO!!!)

    1. It was just a phase we went through. A very strange, brief phase...

  3. Hey, you just opened my eyes to what McD's could be to someone else. My parents told me I would end up working there if I continued to pursue fine arts, so as rebellion, I continued to pursue my degrees in fine arts and design. Haven't worked there yet. Interesting what constitutes rebellion to each person, no?

    1. To be honest I was pretty nervous about posting this - a lot of people have very strong opinions about McDonald's so outing myself is a bit nerve-wracking! I love your story, I love the differences and similarities in all our histories x

  4. Aw, this is such a great story Emily. Thanks so much sharing it. I also absolutely love how you snuck out to eat Aero bars in the park. That's my kind of party! :)

    1. Thanks Teresa, so glad you liked it.

      ps. I'm happy to sneak out and eat Aero bars with you anytime! x

  5. Great post Emily - I've loved reading it. Just goes to show never judge a book (McDonalds) by its cover.
    I was nearly 25 when I ate my first Big Mac-in some ways an act of rebellion for me...

    1. Thanks Kylie - I adore that you didn't eat a Big Mac till 25! I think I was probably the same age as I was a vegetarian from 18 until about then. Maybe we could start a super-niche blogging group for people who rebelled by eating and/or working for Maccas?!! ;)


Your comments make me happier than you could possibly imagine. Really! Thank you.