The summer passed doing the things young people did on Long Island. Another roommate lived nearby and the three of us played and explored, in pairs or as a trio. We visited the beach and bars and bantered about the future and fate. But beneath each day’s adventures, the roots of worry grew deeper in the soil of my self-doubt. I looked for jobs, even had an interview, but deep down knew this was not where I wanted to settle. I collected a small unemployment check, and on each visit to pick it up was bluntly reminded that I needed to find employment – as if I was not aware of my beggarly status. I started searching their information banks for jobs back in the city where I had gone to school, an area that I was at least familiar with. I found a listing for a low paying position at the university daycare center. It was not a professional position but would do for now, a small but steady paycheck. The job also possessed a major draw – I would be working with young children, a deep desire since very early in my own introduction to school, a direction I still wanted to move in. And it would look better on my resume’ than waitressing. I applied and it was soon confirmed that this would be the next branch to emerge on the growing tree of life experiences.
Despite the loss of closeness with the good friends that had supported me through a summer of searching, the move back to my college town felt right. I moved in with another roommate still in the area. Yet more support from another young women that had become my second family at school. Little did we all know that we would be there for each other long into the future, through good times as well as those that challenged our bodies and souls. It didn’t take long to understand that a true woman friend was as valuable as any relationship with a man would ever be; that she would be there even when the more trumpeted union of man and woman hit sour notes that blasted them apart. I started my new job and soon found a small studio apartment.
I didn’t know all that I didn’t know about the development and temperament of 3-5 year old children, especially not in a large group setting. I had taken courses on childhood development, knew Piaget’s stages, but had little experience with this age group beyond one summer job babysitting two kids following freshman year. And I was the team leader, the head teacher, with a college degree and even some professional experience in a school! I learned quickly to value the skills of those under my direction, to be open to suggestions, to listen to the knowledge hands-on experience had bestowed to those without the degree behind their names. I received my first lessons in how to work as part of a close knit team, in the intricate coordination required to keep little bodies occupied and safe. Instilling excitement and joy in learning, that would ideally accompany them through years ahead in education – and in life, was also a primary goal. It was an education for me, one that would become entwined in future jobs in my trained profession. An education as important as any I paid for to have added to my list of accomplishments. As my own experience and skill grew, so did my love for working with young children. My long awaited desire seemed to be met in every way – except compensation. Now I just needed to find a way to do this work with a paycheck that could support more than a one room, third floor apartment and aging car.