I’ve been doing the same job for 19 years, as of today.
When I was in college, I studied English and had a vague notion that I’d like to write novels for a living (which is funny, since I wasn’t really writing much beyond sappy lovelorn poetry at the time). When some well-meaning soul suggested shifting my major to English Education, I scoffed at the thought, because that would mean fewer English classes and more education theory classes, and what’s the fun in that? (Note: I mistakenly thought going college was about the joy of learning. I don’t really believe that anymore.)
I made it halfway through my senior year before realizing in a panic that I would actually need gainful employment if I wanted to eat beyond May. After graduation, I moved back in with my parents and reached out to my small private Christian high school to ask if they had any openings. They brought me on as an English teacher, assigned me 6 class periods (2 electives), with the intention of earning “emergency certification” at the same time I taught my first year.
I had no idea what I was doing. Having just finished college, I tried to replicate what I had experienced in high school and college and idealistically ramped up the challenge for my students in order to prepare them for university the way I felt I was prepared. But I had no clue what that looked like from a pedagogical standpoint. All I had were my subjective experiences to draw upon and none of that pesky theory training that would have otherwise gotten in the way of my Fiction Genres and Literary Criticism classes.
My lack of understanding of how to be a teacher, combined with my over-eagerness to prove myself to my superiors, led to a lot of frustration on the part of both myself and my students. I loved being in the classroom, I loved the act of teaching, but I just couldn’t keep up with the daily grind of grading papers and tests, so I quickly got backlogged and overwhelmed. (This is the set-up for the a punchline later.)
I honestly don’t know what the school administrators were thinking when they hired me, other than “Dave was part of our first graduating class, so that would be quite a PR story!” and “We can pay him next to nothing!” (Side note: Be cautious of any Christian organization that refers to its clients as “customers” but justifies its low wages in terms of “being a ministry.” Just my experience, YMMV.) After a semester of floundering and some minor conflicts with administration, I was given an exit ramp, which I took.
I was out of full-time work for 9 months. Still living at home. Delivering pizzas and working as a temp at an air-compressor parts and maintenance company (while knowing literally nothing about air compressors, air compressor parts, or air compressor maintenance). Finally, after a long job hunt, I found an editorial job at a research hospital that listed its highest preferred qualification as having an English degree–no experience listed. It’s like it was tailor-made for me.
And now, almost 2 decades have passed. I probably should have moved up into management by now–blame my own lack of direction and motivation flaring up at exactly the wrong times, blame my tendency toward overwhelm and missed deadlines when I’m stressed–but I’m doing the exact same job I’ve been doing since the early part of George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
What job exactly? I’m editing and proofreading documents for grammar, clarity, and readability, making sure they follow all appropriate regulations and guidelines.
In other words, I’m grading papers all day, every day.
I don’t believe in karma, because I’m a Christian. But I do believe in God’s sense of humor.
Jokes aside, I’m thankful. It’s a rare thing to stick with an organization this long, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. God is kind.