A few days ago, Liesl’s email of the day was about all the jobs she’s had. It got me thinking about all of mine. Minus my full-time mission, I’ve been employed for pretty much all of the last 9 years, but the longest I’ve held one job has been a year and a half. Hopefully this does not foreshadow my future career path.
My first “job” was in fourth grade, an afternoon paper route I inherited from my elder brother. I’d come home from school and watch Oprah while I folded and bagged all the newspapers. We didn’t have cable.
Ages 12-17. Babysitting. You’d never guess I’d become a teacher because of how much I disliked babysitting. Maybe I’d’ve liked it better if there was more sitting and less baby. Once a kid bit me and drew blood because I wouldn’t let him play with a gallon of bleach.
Sophomore year of high school: a mom of two who lived down the street paid me to accompany her to her son’s weekly violin lessons and take care of the daughter so the mom could watch the lesson. The girl and I mostly sat on the stairs and ate fruit snacks. It was a good gig.
Age 17, YMCA, round one. My first real, tax-paying job. I watched people’s kids while they worked out. It was called Childwatch, but I always hesitate to call it that because it sounds like a juvenile Baywatch. This was actually a pretty good job. I disinfected toys. I colored pictures of dinosaurs. The best part was after-hours access to the yoga room that had speakers built into the floor. My friends and co-workers, Natalie and Rachel, and I would sneak in and have dance parties to Britney Spears songs (who, even then, was way past being cool) and Will Smith raps.
Later, I continued working at the YMCA but did cooler things. During the summer there were so many kids that they had to be separated into different classes. Sometimes I was with the school aged kids who wanted to play basketball the whole time. I sat in the corner with the girls and made friendship bracelets and avoided ever having to participate in any type of athletics. I prefered being in charge of the 3-5 year old class because we’d go into the padded gym and make obstacle courses and play Cheese Slam, which was another thing that Rachel, Natalie, and I liked to do after hours (we’d set up one of the wedge-shaped maps and then run into it as hard as we could). For a while, I also ran an art camp that involved a lot of paper, glitter, paint, and glue, all of which were at different times ingested by the children.
Nanny, the summers before and after my freshman year of college. There were 2 kids, a 6 year old girl and a 3 year old boy. The job involved a lot of driving. I’d take them to and pick them up from their summer camps and school programs and gymnastics classes. The girl would only listen to Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers. I think I have listened to the Camp Rock soundtrack more times than any other human being alive.
BYU Freshman year, MOA Cafe. I’d always promised myself to never work in food service, but I needed a job and this one fell into my lap. I mostly worked back in the kitchen and cut up vegetables and heated up soups. My co-workers were really fun and I always ended up with a lot of leftover food during finals week so it was perfect.
Back in Colorado for the summer after my first year of college, I nannied one day a week, worked at the YMCA one day a week, and worked four, ten hour days at a preschool. Besides the fact that I was working 60+ hours a week that summer, I had a lot of fun. The kids were cute and their parents were nuts. One family had children named Tree, River, and Sun. One mom got mad at me for making a cardboard computer for the kids to play with that didn’t have an accurate and to-scale keyboard. But there was nap time every day, so it was all worth it.
After returning from living in Russia for four months, I was back at BYU and needed a job ASAP because I’d spent all of my preschool money savings on blini and matryoshka dolls. A friend of a friend referred me to the people at BYU Vending, who were desperate enough to offer me the job before they even spoke to me. It was a good job for me because I like being alone. I listened to a lot of Belle & Sebastian as I drove my refrigerator truck around campus and restocked vending machines full of pre-packaged bagels. It was a bad job for me because I loathe driving. One really bad day I ran into a police car. That’s a story for another day, but I used the trauma of the accident as an excuse to quit and, coincidentally, began working for the police…
…Which was one of my favorite jobs of all time. I was a secretary for BYU police in traffic appeals and listened to people’s excuses for behaving like idiots. Everyone complains about traffic police, but this job made me a firm supporter of parking tickets. People are dumb. You don’t get a ticket unless you are doing something you shouldn’t be. This is when I started to blog regularly because I’d always have kind of unbelievable things happen at work that needed to be shared. Besides the good stories I got out of it, the co-workers were undoubtedly my favorite of any job I’ve had, as was my boss.
Right after my mission, I moved to Cincinnati to live with my sister for a couple of months and that’s where I ended up back at the YMCA for round two. This, of course, was a YMCA six states away from my high school job, but it was essentially doing the same thing. I spent most of those post-mission months holding my newborn baby nephew and watching Netflix so it was nice to have a job and a reason to wear something besides sweatpants a couple of days a week. I mean, I’d rather have been at home with a baby and Netflix and sweatpants, but this made me sound more responsible when people asked what I’d been doing since I got home.
When I finally got back to Provo, I started teaching at the MTC. All missionaries idolize their MTC teachers and I was no exception as a missionary, so teaching there and being a true-to-goodness MTC teacher had been a mission dream of mine. In reality, it ended up being a terrible fit. I did love the missionaries I taught, but the job brought out some qualities in myself that I didn’t love. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t enjoy it, though at the time I convinced myself it was the best job I could ever have. Logically, it should have been perfect because I love teaching and I love missionary work, but when I left, I realized it was a great job that was much more suited for someone else.
By divine providence, not one, but two teaching assistant jobs landed in my lap after I left the MTC. TA-ing was a job that I’d wanted since my freshman year and it really wasn’t such a bad set-up. I got paid to go to class and listen to lectures on history, go to office hours and watch Downton Abbey, and edit poorly written students papers. Three of my favorite things (I say this unfacetiously). The best thing to come out of that job was the help I got from one of the professors. My disheartening experience at the MTC combined with the doldrums of winter semester and some challenging situations in my personal life had me ready to change my major and abandon my life-long goal of being a teacher. I believed I had no aptitude for it and wanted to graduate as soon as possible and find a job in just about any other field. This professor, who was also the faculty advisor to my small major, sensed what I was feeling and advised me to not give up on teaching until I gave it a fair chance. He arranged for me to interview for teaching internships at a couple of junior highs and encouraged me to be an intern instead of a student teacher, which he believed would give me a more authentic experience.
Thanks to this professor’s help, I wound up teaching 5 classes of 8th grade US History and 2 classes of 7th grade Utah History at a nearby school. This was the best possible thing that could have happened to me in my life at that time. Teaching was (is) HARD. I also had more fun than I thought anyone should be allowed to have at work. Probably because I’m a terrible educator, for me, teaching is like being a stand-up comedian and a drill sergeant at the same time. I loved it. There were a lot of days I got to work at 5 am and stayed for twelve hours. There were a lot of mornings I woke up without any idea what I was going to teach that day and I muddled my way through some truly dreadful lesson plans. However, I loved those little suckers more than I thought possible and they loved me much more than I deserved. They kept me going through some of the hardest months of my life and I say with complete candor that the year as a whole was a sacred experience for me.
Which leads me to my current employment. As an intern last school year, it meant that I was out of a job in June. As it turns out, there are approximately zero history teaching jobs in the state of Utah that don’t also require coaching expertise, which, despite the incredible number of inspirational sports movies I’ve seen, I’m definitely lacking. So, the short of it is that I’m working at the same school this year that I was at last year, just not exactly teaching. I sub at least a few times a week, which is the best part, but I mainly deal with tardies and detention and dress code and student council and really just about anything that needs doing. When people ask me what I do for work, I don’t really know what to tell them because no one at the school is exactly sure what my responsibilities are, myself included. It’s actually been a great experience because I work closely with administration which has helped me understand a lot better how a school functions. It’s interesting to see the non-student, non-teacher side of education and it’s been enlightening, to say the least. Even though I’d much rather be teaching, I really do enjoy my job. I’m still around my kids from last year and I feel like a celebrity every day because I am barraged with hellos and high-fives and side hugs everywhere I go.