When I was about 10 years old, I got my first paying job as a babysitter. After caring for my siblings, watching other kids was a piece of cake. A few years later, I began spending my summers detasseling corn for the seed company near my parents’ farm. Wet with dew in the morning, the corn rows felt like a sauna by lunchtime — which is to say the experience was pretty miserable.
In my late teens and early 20s, I worked as a greeter, table busser, and server in the restaurant industry. Serving customers, I quickly realized, requires a special skill set — one that includes quick thinking and kindness and is largely under appreciated.
Each of these experiences prepared me for the working world I would eventually step into: Childcare required creativity and patience; detasseling showed me that even work that isn’t fun still needs to get done; and customer service taught me about timeliness, the importance of treating people with respect regardless of the circumstances, and how going above and beyond can make someone’s day.
I just needed to decide what it was I actually wanted to do when I grew up.
Early on, I thought I was going to be a nurse, because I enjoyed taking care of people. But that began to change sometime in high school, when I developed an interest in writing. I’d always been an avid book and magazine reader, and as I learned more about the possibilities in the journalism and communications fields, I got excited. The idea of sharing ideas through the written word lit me up.
I declared my journalism major during my first semester in college and soon pinpointed magazine journalism as my specialty. As I researched and wrote various styles of articles for my courses, I fell in love with storytelling that also informs.
As graduation approached, I honed my focus: Because living a healthy life was always a passion, I wanted to work for a health and fitness magazine, an ambition I told to everyone I knew — family, friends, professors, acquaintances. As luck would have it, an adjunct faculty member teaching my magazine-publishing course happened to be a freelancer for this magazine. The rest is history.
Nearly 14 years later, I feel fortunate that creating this magazine is what I still get to do. Yet while my path to meaningful work was pretty linear, I know that’s not the case for many (as charity: water founder Scott Harrison’s story illustrates). Often, it takes years and multiple changes for people to find their thing and their place.
Through it all — whether we’re happily chugging along or still figuring it out — it’s important that we find ways to take care of ourselves at work (for more on that, see “7 Self-Care Strategies at Work” and in our free time (for some inspiration on nurturing hobbies, check out “4 Ways to Find a Hobby”).
And while there are aspects to every job we would rather not do (and some jobs we would rather not do at all, like my early detasseling gig), we continue on, ideally looking for the bright spots that draw us back day after day. For me, the negatives, which are relatively few, are balanced out by the rewards of sharing information that’s aimed at making healthy living more accessible for more people.
And that satisfies the part of me that has always enjoyed taking care of others. Though it’s different from what I had in mind as a little girl, it’s more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined.