When K goes away on a business trip leaving me home alone with the kids, there is a certain anticipation about his return.
I can't help counting the minutes until he will be back and the burden will be shared, the load lighter.
So I know that he is EXTRA, SUPER EXCITED that I have come home after four days away with one eye swollen shut and snot leaking out every facial orifice I own.
Because I am flat on my back (and not in a sexy, fun way) I give you a long and uninteresting post I wrote for Kami from The Kelson Krew who asked me how I became a consultant.
If you have insomnia, you might really enjoy it...
A Very Long and Boring Work History
I was shocked to learn that no one wanted to hire me when I graduated from college and moved to the south with a degree in English Literature.
What a blow to my personal awesomeness.
Eventually, a tiny advertising agency offered me a job answering the phone.
Over time, they grew weary of watching their bored receptionist repeatedly bang her head against the desk and they decided to let me chew on the crusts of their client work.
[We are not talking bakery quality bread crusts.]
The ad agency specialized in point of purchase materials for fast food restaurants.
Translation: I spent sixty or more hours a week worrying about whether or not [SUPER BURGER] glistened enough in a photo for a sign intended to assault you in the [BURGER JOINT] waiting line.
I was miserable.
"Is this all there is? Do I really have to spend the majority of my days FOR THE NEXT FORTY FIVE YEARS doing this?"
Lucky for me, the agency went under.
[Hurray for small business corruption and bankruptcy!]
Adrift, I made beaded jewelry and sold it as a street vendor and answered the phone for my neighbor’s tax software company.
I worked in concert promotion for a small, local music theater which would have been a cool job had the owner not been completely… (if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.)
I decided I needed do something meaningful with my life and that perhaps drastic steps would have to be taken.
I decided to join the Peace Corps.
I went through the interview process and they wanted me!!!
To go to Jamaica!!!!!
To teach home economics???
[This made my mother fall over laughing.]
Like sewing and stuff?
My friend Therese happened to mention that she was thinking of putting up flyers in a nearby apartment complex offering to tutor the immigrant residents in English as a second language.
At the time I was living in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood that was experiencing an influx of immigrants from the Middle East.
I called the local synagogue and explained that while I was not a member of the synagogue – or even the faith – I was a member of the community who was willing and interested in tutoring a newcomer in English.
They matched me up with a family from Iran whose first language was Farsi.
The first time I went to their house I was armed with a pen, a legal pad and no clue at all.
They knew the English alphabet, but beyond that, nothing.
I ended up eating a boat load of their halva and taping scraps of paper with English words on them to all the things in their house.
[I like, totally saw the film The Color Purple, so I was like, uniquely qualified for this tutoring thing.]
Over the course of the year I spent with this family I am certain I got more from the relationship then they did though they did find me somewhat useful...
They asked me questions like,
“Why do the women wear so little clothing on the American soap operas?”
[And real questions about how things worked at the grocery store or post office.]
While I was tutoring them, I contacted a local volunteer organization and told them about the newcomers in my neighborhood and the need for more English language tutors.
The genius at the volunteer organization, said
“What a great idea! You’re in charge.”
[How did he know?]
They named me the “Project Coordinator” and started listing my project, my name and my phone number in their monthly calendar of volunteer opportunities.
Soon I was getting calls from others who wanted to help.
Together, a group of us
We had a swingin’ little operation going after a while.
In 1992, there was a job opening at the volunteer organization.
They needed a part-time volunteer coordinator to recruit, train and manage volunteers in a Saturday morning academic enrichment program in the city’s most impoverished elementary schools.
They were offering $13,000 dollars a year for 20 hours per week.
I have never wanted a job as much as I wanted that one.
I was nervous and shaking going to the interview and made a last minute stop in the bathroom.
While I was in there I felt a wave of calm come over me and, as dorky as it may sound, I felt the presence of my great, great Grandmother. She lived to be 100 years old and she and I were very close.
I swear I heard her voice say,
“Remember who you are and who came before you.”
I don’t know what it was about those words exactly, but they centered me. I calmed down and did well in the interview.
I got the job, worked 70 hours the first week and never looked back.
I worked all the time and I loved it.
I met amazing people who truly wanted to work for change.
What began as a position managing volunteers in educational programs expanded, until eight years later, I was directing the agency's volunteer programming, marketing and leadership development.
I moved on from the local organization to work for the national network doing marketing and fundraising.
At the time, K was directing the programming of an environmental foundation and both of us were working all the time.
We still liked what we were doing, but we needed a break.
In 2001, K and I got married, quit our jobs and traveled the world on a sixteen month backpacking trip in the developing world.
When we returned to the states, K applied for positions both here and in Washington D.C.
Because I wasn’t sure what was going to work out for him, I didn’t look for work at all. I figured I’d look once we knew where we would settle.
During K’s job search, people in the local nonprofit community started asking me to take on project work… and a consultant was born.
K got a job here, but I never looked for one.
Work found me.
I’ve been an independent consultant for five years now.
I used to think of myself as someone bound by daily ritual and to the assurance of financial security.
In the past I would have told you that I was not a risk taker.
Looking back on my career choices, I have to reflect that it seemed risky at the time to:
---step into the lives of immigrants from Iran;
---accept a part time job for $13,000 a year;
---drop out of the workforce for sixteen months; and
---remain unemployed and unsure about my future while K looked for a job.
Maybe I am a risk taker after all.