Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why are you doing the same job as a fifth-grader?

I remember my very first babysitting job. I was eleven years old. I had lots of experience babysitting my siblings, of course. It's kind of inevitable when you're the oldest of seven kids. This was different. These kids were not my siblings. I barely knew them. And the job seemed to last forever. I was so tired when I got home. It was not some life-altering moment when I thought, "This is what I want to do forever." 
And yet, here I am, twenty-nine years old and working as a babysitter. Actually, I usually call myself a nanny. But that's just semantics. The fact is, I spend every day pushing a stroller to the park, wiping sticky faces, putting kids in time out, reading Berenstein Bears books, and painting acorns. And most of the time I really love it, but I also spend a lot of time wondering what got me here and whether or not I'm really doing what God wants me to be doing with my life. Honestly, I don't know for sure.
Between that first babysitting job and now, I've done a lot. I finished elementary, middle, and high school. I went to BYU and graduated with an English degree (insert disparaging remark about English majors here). I worked lots of jobs during college, including a stint at Walmart, one at Toys R Us, and a job at the LDS motion picture studio archive. That last one was pretty cool. I was also a TA for a religion professor and an editor for BYU Independent Study. I really love editing. I struggled a lot in college until I decided to go into it, so I'm only half joking when I say that grammar and punctuation saved my life--or at least my GPA and my mental health.
Oddly enough, I never considered writing. I thought writers were weird and narcissistic and I got annoyed by how their eyes lit up when they were talking about their latest story ideas. I'm not sure if I was jealous of their creativity or what. I do know that I only took one creative writing class ever. It was my last semester at BYU and I enrolled in the class so that I would have a better idea of how authors felt when I was working as their editor.
It was while I was in that class that I was offered a job at Cedar Fort. I loved working there. I loved the people I worked with, weird and narcissistic authors included. I loved creating books. I loved seeing the whole process. I even loved the deadlines.
But I did not love Utah. I tried. I bought a house there, in hopes that I could love it more. And the house helped, but . . . I missed home. I know not everyone understands the appeal of California, so I won't try to explain my choice by telling you about the gorgeous winter weather and the year-round hiking on lovely rolling hills and the fact that the beach is only an hour away. I won't even mention San Francisco and its unique history and culture and vibrancy.
I will say that my family lives here. And that was a major factor in my decision.
I think if I were married and starting a family of my own, like most people my age, it might not matter so much to me if I lived far away from my family. I don't know that for sure, but I assume I'd be able to satisfy that family craving with my hypothetical husband and kids. As it stands, my parents and siblings are the only family I have. (Not counting my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and 54 first cousins with their spouses and kids.) I missed being able to hang out with them. My youngest brother was only three when in left for BYU. I don't regret moving home and getting to know him.
Also, I get really attached to places. I'm not sure why that is. But it's comforting to me to know that if I wanted to right now, I could drive to the park where I played as a kid and it would still be there. And not just that place but lots of others: my high school, the house I lived in when I read the Anne of Green Gables series, the trail where we used to take Sunday walks as a family, and the street I would ride my bike to when I wanted to run away. Sometimes just being in a certain place is the only thing that can make me feel okay.
Well, this post has turned awfully tangential. My apologies. Back on track...
So I moved home, thinking I would stay here for awhile and then go teach English abroad. Only I fell in love with this place. As you can tell by my rambling, I'm still in love with it. But I needed to find work here so I could stay and feel like a productive member of society. Not to mention the fact that it is crazy expensive to live here and I knew that living at home with my parents was not a permanent option for me. I'm not judging those who do it. I just need my independence.
So I applied for some editing jobs. A few. I was hesitant because the idea of working in an office was not appealing. And in the meantime, during my job hunt, I babysat to earn a little extra money. Until one day I realized that babysitting was a valid option. Sure it doesn't require a college degree, but it pays well enough around here for me to live on my own, as long as I'm careful with my money, and I am. And it's so fantastically flexible! I get to arrange my schedule so that I have time to work at the temple, be a freelance editor, write books, be a seminary teacher, spend lots of time outside, and go on vacations with my family.
Yes, there are some downsides too, but that's true of any job.
In short, I don't know if I'll do it forever, but for now, for me, babysitting is what I do. It's what I love. It's what I'm good at. It fits me.
And I think my Heavenly Father approves of my choice.

Ugh. So much talking about myself. I promise to make my next post way more light and way less personal.

Remember that part when I didn't mention how close I live to the beach?

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