OPINION: When I was 16 I got my first job at the supermarket and learnt the beauty that is earning money for yourself.
No longer was I constrained by what I could beg, borrow or steal from my family. I was on $15 an hour and living large.
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But when I was 22 I got my first volunteer role and learned of the joy of contributing to something without expecting anything in return.
So now once a month I wake up at 7:30am on a Sunday, throw on my light blue uniformed shirt and make my way down to the SPCA Auckland in Mangere.
It can be pretty thankless work sometimes. I work in the small animals area where those under my care are more likely to run away in terror than come to say hello.
Not to mention most of my shift is spent up to the elbow in litter trays and cleaning out soiled newspaper, and while it's not exactly gross it can't always be called fun.
On top of that I often see some animals just part way through their journey to being adoptable, so they can be sick, injured or recovering physically and mentally from some pretty awful situations.
But some mornings you get to see a rabbit who has been at the centre for months go home, or a guinea pig literally jumping for joy when you've cleaned out their cage and replaced all their toys.
That just about makes everything worth it.
However, on top of seeing happy animals, what most makes it all worth it to me is seeing the sheer amount of work at the centre done by volunteers.
I get the feeling the centre would have serious difficulties without its volunteers, and I know national SPCA CEO Andrea Midgen agrees.
I'm lucky enough to have had the chance to put questions to her about the unpaid workforce at the SPCA a few months back.
"When we are low on volunteers, staff are put under a huge amount of pressure. Every day, you never know what might happen," she said.
"A litter of very young puppies might be brought in without their mum, or a severely abused dog might be rescued by an SPCA inspector.
"Having the support of our volunteers means we can tend to these unexpected, special cases, while ensuring everything else run as normal."
Katie Fitzgerald is a digital producer for Newshub.