When I learned in the spring of 2016 that John got into Vanderbilt’s business graduate program, I was ecstatic and terrified. I worked at a job I wasn’t crazy for at Dallas’ city magazine, where, ironically, I had dreamed of working for a couple years before snagging my position. Before that job, I had worked two others, one at a PR company and one at a startup, both in creative-ish roles that looked fantastic on paper but fell flat as soon as I sat down at my desk in front of a computer for eight hours a day. Turns out, I don’t enjoy sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day.
After discovering I wasn’t happy or totally fulfilled at either of those first two jobs, going on to the third made me feel like that millennial. The “three jobs in one-and-a-half years after graduating” millennial. Yep, I was job-hopping with the best (worst?) of my peers. My first week at job number three, where I was navigating dozens of Excel spreadsheets and learning how to manage online voting systems for Best Doctors and Best Lawyers awards, left me feeling a bit trapped. I hated it — but how could I leave another job AGAIN? I would not only feel like that millennial; I knew I would be one, no question. And who the heck hires that millennial?
So, I stayed for a year and a half, until the news of John’s school admittance came. Hallelujah. Counting the weeks until our move, I knew I didn’t want to be staring at the clock until 5 o’clock at another desk, doing work that made my eyes bloodshot and my mind feel mushy by the end of the day. Freelance, I thought, is the way to go.
I ended up getting a remote copy editing job for Nashville’s local magazine, which I still have and adore. But that one check pays, oh, maybe a third of my bills. I emailed other publications, applied for freelance roles I found on LinkedIn and Indeed, and, on a whim, signed up for care.com, thinking I could at least babysit or nanny in the interim between moving and finding more writing work.
A couple weeks before moving, I was starting to get nervous. I was literally sitting on my closet floor praying every morning (don’t judge — I can’t focus with my crazy dog barking and throwing toys at me, so closet prayers it was) that I would find something that was fulfilling and that paid enough to live on. I hadn’t heard anything promising from the companies I’d contacted about freelancing when I got a message from a woman needing a nanny for her five-month-old.
I thought, Why not? I definitely wasn’t turning down any offers, so we got on the phone and instantly clicked. I was set to start the Monday after our move — yay! A job! — but, still, in the back corner of my mind, I felt insecure. What would people think about the girl who had three jobs in less than two years, who went to a private university to get a journalism degree, who was moving with a guy (separate insecurity to dive into another day) to a new city to work as a nanny?
I felt unconfident and even pathetic about this narrative that was becoming my life. But then we moved, and I started this new job as a nanny that I felt so unsure about. Out of the now four jobs I’ve had since getting out of school, this one is resoundingly my favorite. It isn’t what I imagined doing two years ago or while I was sitting in journalism lectures at TCU, but that’s how life goes sometimes, isn’t it?
The family I work for knows I freelance on the side and encourages that. Before I was even officially hired, they were telling me to use their WiFi to work while the baby napped and to let them know if I needed time off to take a meeting or interview for a story. The freedom that working in childcare has allowed me professionally, personally, and financially is mind blowing, and I never would’ve known that if I’d listened to the inhibitions I created around the title of “nanny” and turned down this family.
Not only have I done more professional writing (and editing) in the year that I’ve been a nanny than I did in the two years at creative/editorial jobs after college, but I also adore the family I work for, which obviously makes life a lot more enjoyable. All those mornings where I woke up and prayed for a job that was fulfilling actually came to fruition, just in a way I never really considered. Like, for example, I get outside every day! I didn’t think that was something I needed until I got it. We go on walks, hang out at the park, and pick up coffee (for me) and smoothies (for him) at the place down the street. No longer are the days of sore backs and apathetic attitudes from sitting on my behind for hours on end.
All this to say: I know the uncertainty and anxiety that comes with planning for a career that excites you. Maybe you got into one field that you went to school to pursue and ended up dreading going to work every day. Or maybe you stumbled into a job that felt right for a while but no longer pushes and motivates you. I am not one of those people who thinks you should put your head down and stick it out — sometimes, yes, that’s necessary if it’s a season of transition or trial. But, if you’re consistently unhappy with the role you’re in, life is way, way, way too short. Change it. Learn from my time that I spent feeling stuck in a job and then feeling self-conscious about taking a job I was “over-qualified” for. (Not true, by the way. Nannying might be more flexible and easygoing in many ways — like, hello wearing yoga pants every day — but it certainly has its challenges. Especially with a baby entering toddler-hood.)
Now my only regret, if you want to call it that, is that I didn’t find a job setup like the one I have now, earlier. If I’d started nannying (or doing some other unconventional post-grad job) while freelancing right out of college, maybe I’d have enough clients to freelance full-time by now. At the very least, I might have saved myself some pretty low lows and allowed myself to reach for a potential I’m proud of much earlier, instead of feeling quite hopeless and confined to a career chugging away behind a computer, clawing myself up to the next tier of the corporate world.
Of course, not everyone will relate to my experience. (Especially if you’re in love with your job! Which is awesome, by the way. Keep doing what you’re doing.) But if you’re feeling unsatisfied in any area of your life, let me encourage you to shift a few things. First, try shifting your mindset. Sometimes, that’s the most powerful and possible shift someone can make; I understand everyone can’t leave their jobs, hightail it to a new city, and find a great family to work for. So, tell yourself the good things about where you’re at. On many days at my previous jobs, that was the only thing that got me though them.
And then, if or when you can, make the big change. Do the scary thing, the unorthodox thing, or the unexpected thing that even you don’t know how it will turn out. Do it, because I can promise that even if it isn’t perfect (and it won’t be), the result will be a learning curve, at worst, or the imperative step to becoming who you were truly meant to be and where you were truly meant to be, at best. And ain’t nothing wrong with either of those outcomes.