Days Gone By

I have been reflecting over the week, and discussing with fellow Nursing Students, some of my previous work history, what it entailed and why I am not still doing some of those jobs. It forced me to look at the jobs in a different light. While I was doing them, I genuinely enjoyed them, then for one reason or another, I stopped enjoying them, I left, and began a different journey.

In this post, I will explain three of my most recent, most intense and most enjoyable jobs that I have been involved in, what I took away from them and why I eventually left. I will talk about my life as a Croupier, my Navy Career and my time as a Not-For-Profit employee.


The Hand it Dealt me

When I was a little over 18 I started work at the Canberra Casino. The job was amazing. It began with four weeks of full-time unpaid training which taught you the basic games; Blackjack, Money Wheel, Sic-Bo, Canberra Poker and Pontoon. You were also taught mental arithmetic, card dealing, how to chip, stack and organise your table and other various Croupier, the fancy word for a dealer, skills. The job was challenging, rewarding but most of all, paid well. There was one tiny drawback. Everyone was put on as a ‘full-time’ employee and accrued leave, but could work, and did work, 10 – 12 hours shifts, six days a week, on almost permanent night shift.

The average shift would start at 1800 and finish at 0600. This meant, with an average 30 minute drive home, you would be sleeping from about 0800 to 1600. The only time I saw my family was in the morning when I was coming home, and they were getting ready for work. I remember an exchange between my father and I along the lines of;

Me: *Enjoying a beer at the kitchen table after work*

Dad: *Sits at the table with a bowl of Weetbix* Isn’t it a tad early for Beer

Me: Isn’t it a tad late for Weetbix

Dad: Touche

This became my life. Never being in sync with anyone outside of the casino. If I wanted to see my friends on my day off, it was normally for dinner, on a Tuesday or other weeknight, which mean early nights for them as they had sensible hours of work. This lead to some rather unhealthy habits. I spent most of my time hanging out with the others on my shift. Which in its self isn’t a problem, when you have 1 night off a week, you party like its three. Long nights of drinking, partying, going out, eating out all the time because you could afford to. All of this was the problem habits that were developing. You also begin to miss the day walkers you used to hang out with, your friends and your family.

It did however teach me a few valuable skills along the way;

  1. Quick and accurate mental arithmetic
  2. Time management, when you have to sleep during the day and chores or errands revolve around normal opening hours, you get good at managing time
  3. Despite not paying attention to them at the time, what good night shift habits are and how to maintain a sustainable lifestyle
  4. What not to do when on night shift

So despite the pay, I left. I took a 9-5 job with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, and never looked back at the never ending world of night shift. Or so I thought.


Change of Course

In 2008 I was working of the Department of Defence in the Military Leave and Pay centre which was going to be closed down in early 2009 to create one centralised centre in Newcastle. Knowing my job was on the line, and I had no intention of moving to Newcastle, I decided a change of careers was in order. Since my job at the time was Naval Discharge, that is helping people get out of the Navy, I took the opportunity to discuss with members leaving their role, why they were leaving and if they had any regrets. After many discussions I decided that a Seaman Officer, now Maritime Warfare Officer, was my kind of career. So I applied. At 149kg.

In the next 12 months I completed the requirements to join the Navy, including the monumental task of loosing nearly 50kg to meet the weight restrictions of entrance, I still claim I am too short not too fat, but at 6′ 2″ I don’t think that works too well.

I enjoyed my time in the Navy. I had the excellent opportunity of serving on ANZAC class frigates, Armidale class patrol boats and Collins class submarines. I served in the Port Services office for Western Australia for the last 18 months of my career and organised and facilitated many visits from the American and New Zealand Navy’s. It was a challenging and rewarding career that taught me, among other things;

  1. Leadership; as a Junior officer I was generally given just enough rope to hang myself, but after serving on multiple platforms, at sea, and alongside, I developed my own leadership style that still serves me today
  2. Mateship and the importance of being able to rely on the person standing next to you
  3. Time management; when you are on a 1 in 3 rotation in a day, meaning four hours on watch and 8 hours off, in a  constant rotation, where you still need to complete 8 hours of administration, preparatory and planning work, every day, for weeks and months at a time, you learn how to use your time wisely.
  4. Conflict resolution; not everything goes to plan and sometimes you have to learn how to convince your boss that your idea, is their idea and that its a good one
  5. How full your day can be and still have time for recreation, despite being in the aforementioned routine there was still time to sit down and read, relax or otherwise distract yourself

I eventually left the Navy for several reasons, I got married and the Navy wanted me to be away for 90% of the time over the proceeding years. I found I didn’t have the same zeal for the job as I did when I joined, and I felt that it was time to pursue another career. In ministry to be exact.


Give back

My journey to ministry, like most peoples, wasn’t, isn’t, and will continue not to be a straight line. When I left the Navy in Western Australia, we moved the some 4000km to Queensland. I felt that was where God had led us, and we had a large amount of family support available. The journey didn’t begin well. We found ourselves a home at Oasis New Life Centre as our Church. We found ourselves a home to live in, and eventually we found ourselves a Job. My wife in education and myself in Deceased Estate Management. Not exactly the direct route to ministry but at least I wasn’t at sea.

After nearly 12 months, the Church offered the position of Manager of their Cafe and Play centre to me. It wasn’t the Pastoral role I was hoping for, but it was working in Church, it was people, it was Ministry. After much prayer the wife a I decided to take the opportunity. It was a hard job. Outside of the long days in the cafe, with preparations, cooking, staffing, stocking, running and 95% of the time being the main barista, I was also the Technical Director for the church and one of the few Sounds Technicians. This coupled with the Senior Pastors drive to do more, be more and impact more, meant that 17 hours days weren’t unusual. In fact, they were the usual. We also worked a 6 day week. So an all too familiar pattern was emerging.

I did, however, learn a lot from my some 18 months working for Oasis;

  1. Watch burnout; though there are times were high intensity is required, it cannot be the normal tempo for the team
  2. Consideration to others; I have always been considerate of others, but I did find myself at times placing task, or frustrations from the upper management onto others, which isn’t fair
  3. More time management; when you had your Golden day off you made the most of it, you spent it with family doing something that recharged you but didn’t feel like a waste of a day
  4. I never wanted to work with young children as a profession ever again
  5. I was not meant, at this point in my life, to be in vocational Ministry, that is being a Pastor full time. I love serving in my Church, I love God but I am not meant to be in that role, yet or at all is to be determined

I originally wasn’t going to leave Oasis as a job, I was originally going to take some leave for a Shoulder operation and return, but in 2016 I had five operations and many an hour laying on my back with my own thoughts, and decided that returning was not on the cards, but instead I was to head to Nursing.Days-Gone-By-4

I am now Studying full-time at CQUniversity for my Diploma of Nursing, which enables my registration as an Enrolled Nurse, and intend on starting my Bachelor of Nursing, which facilitates my registration as a Registered Nurse, in 2018. I volunteer as a Scout leader for Warripari Scout Group, I am a member of the Student Representative Council and Student Participation and Retention Committee for CQUniversity, I write a personal Blog and contribute to CQUni Life and Get Connect Dad. I am most importantly though, a Husband to Alinta and father to 2 beautiful children, Joseph and Darby. Though I don’t know where my life will take me next I have faith that it will not be without lessons, trial and tribulations.


In each job, or potential career, I learnt something. Sometimes it was what not to do, sometimes what I would do again. This mantra of constant learning and betterment has seen me through a lot of trying times, and has served me well as a Nursing Student. I endeavour to learn something new each and every day, no matter how trivial the fact may seem. I also attempt to share this knowledge with those around me, in the effort of bettering those whose lives we have so little chance to impact.

So that is my story so far. What life lessons have you learnt from finding your place in the world? Are you a one career person or have you also had to try and few different careers to find your fit? Are you still on the journey?

Maintain the Rage

Luke Sondergeld

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