Friday, July 20, 2007

Where I Cure Insomnia for You

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.

The joys!

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.

I thought,

"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?

But Miss Scarlet, I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout no home economics!”

Seriously, WTF?

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 wrote plagiarized a “How to be an English Language Tutor” handbook.

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.

Not ever.

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.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm. I think the peace corps sounds so interesting...

Pgoodness said...

I'm still awake! I enjoyed that post a lot. Now, why are you flat on your back and swollen??

karrie said...

Just maybe. :)

Hope the snot & crud are cured by a day or two of rest.

Omaha Mama said...

Sorry that you are sick!

Your story is NOT boring, and quite a bit more interesting than mine. The traveling bit sounds FASCINATING!

Well done you, thanks for sharing.

Paige said...'re sounding mighty hot right now, my sister, eye ooze and all.

Your story is somewhat similar to the way I became an independent contractor too. Interesting.

moosh in indy. said...

Or maybe you're totally awesome.
I'm sending you get better vibes...vibevibevibevibe.

Mona said...

I love this story. I've always wanted to just quit working the 9-5 and be a freelance writer, but I'm too much of a wuss. That's great that you're in the non-profit world. I miss it...sometimes.

WILLIAM said...

Wishing you to return to the sexy way of being flat on your bakc.

Holy Shit We are Getting Hitched said...

Thanks for sharing your story. As a woman who dreams of being an independent contractor in program development and project/people organization, I very much appreciated it. I'm starting to wonder if we have crossed paths before...

JamesMommy said...

Another reason that I adore you, Jess! Fascinating story (really). You are gutsy.

Did you know you were born a social worker (and sounds like Great Great Grandma was too)? That's how it worked in my grandmother was, unknowingly, a born social worker and I've followed in her steps (first informally and then formally with the student loans to prove it!).

Hope you feel better very soon.

Magpie said...

Thank you! That was, dare I say, inspirational. I am on the verge of quitting my f/t job and doing something like what you've done - that is, piecing together consulting jobs in the non-profit world - probably financially focused. Can you tell me what kind of projects you do? Maybe you could email me?

Queen Heather said...

That is so cool. Life...what a ride, huh?

Lurve what your great-great-grandmother taught you. That is so powerful!

I hope you feel better soon.

Jenifer said...

Lots of fluids! That was a great story and I know the feeling of, "look at me and my degree" and ending up somewhere totally different.

Where we end up can be so different from where we planned to be - in a good way.

Mamma said...

I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

I'm not a risk taker either (my first job had to offer health insurance), yet my high school classmates have never left our home town. And there I was 700 miles away.

I often wish I had made different choices. I'd love to take risks now, but with children...

Amy U. said...

Yeah, this was a great post. I love to read about how people "find" their line of work.

Feel better!

mcewen said...

All that to make you the woman that you are!

furiousBall said...


no, don't put the balloons in there again, the monsignor already found the Playboys...

oh ...ahem, what?

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

You go girl! What a totally fascinating career you have had. And what a great example you are setting for your kids, I might add.

I hope the snot flow stops soon and that you are flat on your back for something fun next time. ;)

jen said...

a risk taker, indeed. and jess, i had forgotten he was GONE when i heard you were sick. anticipation, indeed.

Anonymous said...

This explains a lot. I knew you were an organized woman and a leader, now I know why. I think you are a risk taker by the way. It's funny how we see ourselves a certain way, but when we look back at our lives, the things we've done don't really fit with that view. Pretty cool life so far.

Jenn said...

You are a risk taker.

"Personal awesomeness"?

A perfect example of why you should have so very much of that.

Glennia said...

I loved your story! Hope you feel better soon, and I hope to meeting you at BlogHer.

jakelliesmom said...

Not sleep inducing in the least, and I'm glad someone asked, because I was curious, too.

I think somewhere, deep down, we're all thinking that there is some easy way to create the kind of life we want, but in the end, it is about the risks we take, stepping out on whatever limb seems reasonable, that tend to reap the rewards.

(At least that's what I'm hoping, because I want to be just like you.)

Mimi said...

I'm still awake too -- what an interesting career! Go, English Majors, go!

Jobs with titles like 'Project Coordinator' always seem to fall to my lot as well. Damn ENTJ pheromones or something ...

Tracysan said...

What a cool story...but how did you, er, EAT during all of your adventures working for practically nothing?!

Momish said...

You are so many things wrapped up into one that you can only succeed! This was a great look into a more complex side of you, a serious and molding side (oh, I know that makes no sense!)

I am really in awe of the work you do and the fact that you obviously do it extremely well.

Thanks so much for sharing this history. It was anything but boring!

mothergoosemouse said...

Fascinating! I love the twists and turns. They're hard for me to deal with, personality-wise, but in retrospect they're well worth it.

Fidget said...

I found that highly interesting. My best friend has followed a bit of a similar life path thus far. It gives me hope that she will the happily ever after she deserves and not just 13K a year for 80 hours a week

Selfmademom said...

This is very inspirational!! I've had a very traditional career path and have always been nervous to take a "risk." But you give me hope! And, I too, had a hubby come home from a business trip last night, and oh boy, I did not look sexy.

cronznet said...

First order of business: K should heat you some chicken broth, add a dash of cayenne and serve it to you in small doses until you are better.

Fabulous story of your journey into Joyhood.

Worker Mommy said...

ZZZZZ....ok, totally kidding!

Ahh I finally got a chance to stop by. You are a legend, Ms. Lady. Well that is to say I've seen you around and or written about on a lot of my favorite bloggers sites.

Aaaanyhoo, hope you feel better soon!

flutter said...

I love this, a little nugget of you. Risk taker, indeed

NotSoSage said...

You are.

That's amazing.

That was nto boring at all. I love hearing this kind of stuff.

And I'm not just sucking up because I want to sit next to you during cocktail hour(s).

Lotta said...

What you are is in interesting woman, I can't wait to meet you!

painted maypole said...

um... if THAT is a boring history, you can just stop reading anything I have to say now

Slackermommy said...

Wow girl, my life is pretty boring after reading that. The peace corps? That awesome. I always talked about doing it but never had the guts. You're my idol.

crazymumma said...

The journey is always so fascinating. And in this case as is the arrival.

carrie said...

No jobs for English majors in the south huh? Strange . . .

Very interesting bio, you've accomplished so much in such a relatively short amount of time.

Hope you feel better soon and your eye gets back to normal. The horizontal parenting method should help!


tulipmom said...

It's amazing how we come to be the people we are meant to be. I loved the part about your great-grandmother. Thanks for sharing.

Hope you are feeling more like yourself again.

Aliki2006 said...

I hope you feel better! I'm so sorry you're flat on your back and in that awful, non-sexy way.

Starrlight said...

What a great post. Risk taking is a good thing!

Kevin Charnas said...

Much of this sounds very familiar...even the Peace Corps part.

My location? Mali. But, then I almost died and they were like...", but thanks."

Sorry that you're not feeling well, my love. Hopefully you're better today. :)

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear oh the joys. WOW What a great story. I often think what people will ask about my two unemployed years in Ukraine (of which I am only nine months through!) when I want to reenter the workforce.. I guess I can say I learned russian..

Ortizzle said...

It's taking those risks that always lead to the most interesting, fulfilling jobs. (I get the feeling that if you had taken the Peace Corps job, you would have re-vamped their entire system. Whatever that is, of course.)

urban-urchin said...

you're my hero. i wish i could figure out something else to do. i am stuck.

Gingers Mom said...

Oh! Feel better soon!!

cinnamon gurl said...

Um, yeah, I think so.

Hope you feel better soon!

WhyMommy said...

Oooh, that was a neat peek into your soul, J. I think being a consultant is the best of all worlds. Interesting path that you followed to get here.

By the way, I just awarded you a Rockin' Blogger!

Leann I Am said...

Okay...I just found you and you're my hero! I'm so careful about not stepping out of my 'comfort zone.' The world is a better place when people do.


notfearingchange said...


PunditMom said...

Feel better. And I love your story!

Biddy said... described yourself looking oh so sexy i might have to become a lesbo hehe

feel better!!

mamatulip said...

You really thought this would put people to sleep?


You are so interesting. Truly. I love this post.

amusing said...

Can you please bottle that?
I'm about to bluff my way into an ad agency b/c I crave creative, but in researching them, I don't know enough to work there, and I'm an old fogie compared to who's there. Sigh.

I will try to keep your example in the back of my mind as I wander the job/for hire world.

Veronica said...

I knew it. Well, I didn't know it, but this just confirms my orginal estimation of your coolness, or whatever people say instead of cool now.

Tabba said...

you rock my world, woman. and this post just rocks it even more. loved hearing this journey of yours.

metalia said...

First of all, you're NEVER sleep-inducing. Second, I loved this post; I always find it interesting to find out how people came to be where they are. Can't WAIT to meet you this week!

Twisted Cinderella said...

Sorry you are sick right now. I think you are definitely a risk taker.

QT said...

Wow - thanks for posting this- what a cool trip through the past. Funny how it all works out, right?

Feel better soon!

Ruth Dynamite said...

I loved hearing your story. Truly. I'm one of those English majory types who also worked in volunteer mgmt but then took time off and now...excited about what comes next.

Amanda said...

You are certainly a chill creating storyteller.