Since I was 11 years old I've always had a job. I started out babysitting around town for any family that would welcome a young black girl into their home (for a few families in New Jersey they would rather a Catholic priest babysit their child instead of a black girl). When I was finally of legal age to work I began serving dinner in nursing homes, cleaning hotels, and working at McDonald's. One year I had 11 W-2's to file. Needless to say I have always had a job.
When I moved to Washington DC, one job was not enough and I often worked two jobs. I would work one job that was related to my field of early childhood education and then another job that paid the bills...waiting tables. I knew at an early age that working with young children would never make me rich so I found other jobs that could keep me afloat while I went to school and worked in my field.
Finally I finished my undergraduate degree and I landed what I thought would be my dream job...a kindergarten teacher at a school down the street from my house. This was it...this was why I spent 5 years taking classes full time while waiting tables 40 hours a week and working as a child care intern...so I could finally have my own classroom! I wanted to be a teacher since I was 12 and finally victory would be mine!
There was one teeny problem...I didn't like my job. Teaching was very different then what I thought it would be. I spent 7 hours a day trying to get 22 five year old's to listen to me and learn from me. And even though I had a full time assistant, I never felt so alone in my life. I only saw the other teachers during lunch time and staff meetings. I was on my own and I had to make all the decisions. After teaching all day I went back to the restaurant because I still made more money waiting tables.
After a few months I knew I would never be one of the women who introduced themselves as being a teacher for the past umpteen years. That would never be me. I loved education and I loved working with children but I didn't like being a kindergarten teacher. So where does one go from there? Graduate School.
I had already been accepted to Indiana University so I figured why not go back to school and see what else is out there. I had no idea that the purpose of going to graduate school was to become a college professor but I soon found out that this was the path I was taking. I loved being a student and although I was making peanuts as graduate student employee I was happy again. Maybe it's because I was back in the classroom as the student...or maybe it was because I spent time with other adults socializing and learning. Regardless, graduate school made me happy.
I knew it wouldn't last forever and as I began my fifth year of graduate studies I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. All my course work was done, I was working on my dissertation, teaching college courses, waiting tables at Outback, and working as photographer. For the past five years I once again held many jobs. I had a friend once compare me to a Jamaican who works 3 jobs and although she found this behavior strange it seemed normal to me.
As I prepared to enter the world of academia I applied to 11 teaching jobs in the fall of 2008. By April 2009 I had received 3 rejection letters and 6 job search cancellations. Things were not looking good. I was at the AERA conference in San Diego surrounded by colleagues who all had job offers for the upcoming school year...while I was close to tears. And then one day it happened...I got a call to interview for a position at a school in southern California.
I remember when I saw the job position announcement thinking this is MY job. It was a split position for a faculty and director of a child development center...my dream job. I would teach college courses, which I found out while in graduate school that I loved to do, and direct the child development center, which would give me the experience I needed in the field (one year of teaching kindergarten isn't usually enough to get a full time faculty position).
I'll never forget the day I got the job offer. I was at the Boys and Girls Club doing an interview for my dissertation research when they called to offer me the position. At that moment it seemed like everything fell into place. All of my life goals were about to be accomplished: Move to southern California, drive cross country, and finish my doctoral degree. For the first time in my life I would only work one job. No more waiting tables for me! I had arrived into the adult world of work with a kick ass salary to boot! What else could I ask for?
Well I guess I could have asked for it to last for more then one year. I knew I was only being hired for a one year contract, but I had every intention on being hired back for another year and hopefully making tenure in 4 years. But it didn't work out for me. I was not offered a second year contract and my dream job blew up in my face.
Honestly, did I see myself staying in that position forever?...NO! I would have done it to make tenure, but it was not my life ambition to stay as a faculty/director for ever. The director position took away all the things I enjoyed about being a professor...such as setting your own work schedule and creating a research agenda. Instead I was another 8-5 employee with no opportunities to do the kind of work I spent five years in graduate school preparing for...RESEARCH!
So now I'm soon to be unemployed and back on the job market. What's most surprising is that the first time in my life that I worked only one job, things went terribly wrong. Maybe I'm not built to have just one job. Maybe I'm supposed to work 2 or 3 jobs because one job will never make me happy.
I really don't know what the universe is trying to tell me but I do know this...
I NEED A JOB!