I have been struggling here with a big question: what kind of work should I be doing? No answers yet, but the question keeps running around in my brain. It's getting to crunch time in the bank account so I can't just drift anymore. To that end I have been gathering a small assortment of short jobs for the coming months. When I say that they are nothing like people would expect from me, believe me when I say that I am just as surprised as you are.
I have spent nearly my whole adult life working. Sometimes not so much (outside the home), sometimes far far too much. I finally got my college degree last summer, only 31 short years after I started college two weeks after high school graduation. So here I stand, newly minted degree in one hand and a TEFL certification of the same vintage in the other. With those two pieces of paper I should be able to take Italy (any country, really) by storm. Forge a career out of whole cloth but without a pattern. Make something of myself, for God’s sake.
As millions of college graduates before me have found, oddly, the perfect job doesn’t fall into your lap complete with awesome benefit package and a future bright with promise. It becomes exponentially more difficult when searching for work in a different culture. It just works differently here. They can and will ask your age, marital status and a whole bunch of other questions that are either illegal or in very poor taste in the United States. They will consider your gender when hiring. Not that these things don’t happen in the States, but it is less obvious there.
Then there is the problem that, contrary to everything I have been brought up to strive for, I really don’t want to find a full-time, sit behind a desk for eight hours job. (insert dramatic pause for the collective gasp here) For the first time in my life I have the time to savor living. I don’t race from one place or project to another, never really focused on what I am doing now but instead on what I will be doing next. For years I have done the things I am “supposed” to do. Plan for my future, think ahead, be efficient with time and resources, did I mention think ahead?
Not that these aren’t important and not that those who do live this way are doing anything wrong. Not at all. But I didn’t realize until I was forced to stop just how much of my life I was missing. How much time I spent just getting from one obligation to another. How much sleep I missed because I was already thinking about tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day… How much time I wasted in front of a television thinking about nothing. Maybe less than nothing. How large a role the mythical “they” played in my life. “They” say you should start planning for your future at twenty years old. “They” say responsible citizens hold down a full time job, vote in every election, pay their taxes and live like everyone else because to do differently upsets folks. Most of those obligations I talked about earlier I took on because I thought “they” felt these activities would make my life more productive. This realization that I was living "their" life instead of my own started before Italy, by the way. I started to walk this walk in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Thank you.
I gave “them” the kind of power that hypothetical people should never, ever have in the real world. And now that I have that power back I want to find a way to live that keeps that power with me, where it belongs. And for those who know me well, the first few choices will, in fact, make you laugh. It’s OK, I laughed too.
I will be babysitting a few days in June. Yeah, babysitting. I don’t know, it sounds kinda like fun: watching two American kids in a villa in Umbria while their parents tour some vineyards. I survived the kindergarten Sunday school class from hell so I feel prepared for this. I will also be dog sitting in May and August. Um, yeah, this is where it becomes a little surreal. I don’t want pets, true…but I don’t dislike them. I just don’t want to spend the rest of my life being mastered by a dog or cat. So I will be watching two sweet dogs while their owners travel. Again, in a villa but this time on a mountain top in Tuscany. I’m still hoping to work a little bit in a hotel kitchen here, but not on a regular basis. I am also going to advertise for tutoring, to help students prepare for their final English exams.
Right now I just want to earn enough to pay my portion of the rent and food. I want the time to continue to enjoy each day as it comes. I want to savor it like the gift that it is. So for now I will take these jobs, as menial as some might think they are. I shouldn’t say no on the off chance that the “brilliant career” my college promised me will suddenly show up. And I get the chance to spend some time in places I wouldn’t normally go, places with housekeepers who clean and do laundry, places where the landscapes are a little wild and a lot more beautiful. I think at least having something to do in the future is a good choice for now. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.