Knowing my work means something.

It’s taken me until my late twenties to find a job that I really, really enjoy.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a journalist. I imagined myself writing reports, conducting interviews, sitting up late into the night typing frantically as I tried to beat the deadlines. It all seemed so exciting, so varied and challenging. Then I took a journalism course at university, and was shown it in another light altogether. My lecturer was a short, fat, arrogant little know-it-all, so far up his own backside that he was incapable of talking about anything but his own greatness. He name-dropped. (Constantly.) He swaggered. (All 5’4″ of him.) He told stories about his own career. (And none about journalism in general.) He told us that none of us would ever be successful like him, because we lacked the motivation. (Nothing to do with the utter boredom that was his class, obviously.)

I realised that I could never do the things he bragged about. I couldn’t be a pushy, self-important, arrogant, feelingless, intrusive “journalist” like him. And he so tainted the profession for me that I no longer wanted to go there.

Nor, of course, did I want to continue in any of the jobs I took to support myself during my education. I worked in a pet shop, a bureau de change, several supermarkets… let’s just say that customer service and general dealing with the public is not for me! Cash register work bored me to tears, and the meaningless small talk we were forced to make with customers, even more so.

Then, I got a temporary job doing administration for an interior design company. I liked it for a while: I even ended up staying for 5 years when I made friends there! But eventually there was nothing new for me to learn, and the work became monotonous. Answering phones, filing invoices, trying and failing at customer service again… I tried to get into the interior design part of it, but I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about matching colours and fabrics, nor was I any good at it. I left, dissatisfied, to be a travel writer.

Now, admittedly, if I ever get a lucky break and land a “real” travel writing job, one where I get an expenses account, and am paid to fly around the world and write about it, this will most likely turn out to be my dream job. But winging it as I did, although fun for a year, was not a long term solution, and rarely provided job satisfaction. I wrote about boring topics and was paid very little for my efforts. I had to live on a very tight budget, and couldn’t afford anything I wanted without feeling guilty about it. At times, it was fine – but most of the time, I battled that niggling “something’s missing” feeling.

And then I stumbled into teaching English as a second language, pretty much by chance and as a last resort. I hated kids, and teaching had always sounded incredibly dull to me. I could never teach, I have no patience, I’d tell people with a laugh.

And what do you know? I’ve never felt as challenged, motivated, happy, and fulfilled by a job as I do now. I know that it matters if I’m not in work – they need me there to do my job. I get to ramble on all day about my favourite subject:  the English language. I love the little kids and their smiles and laughter. I watch Disney movies, read Dr. Seuss, go sledding, and get paid a decent wage for it. I sing and dance and play games. And I get to witness that amazing moment when I overhear a child say something that I know I taught them. The knowledge that they’re soaking up my lessons like little sponges, becoming equipped with a useful second language that will help them in their futures, makes me feel like my work has meaning and purpose.

It just makes me happy.

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