After seventeen years of getting up and going to school every morning, I ended my formal education and entered the notorious “real world.” My mother warned me when she said, “You are about to enter a really weird time in your life, and I can’t prepare you for it. Just be aware.” Boy, was she ever right.
Eager to get far away from my college town in Tennessee, I moved back to my native St. Louis and landed a job as a nanny for a wealthy and extremely likable family. As far as nanny work goes, I struck gold. Yet I was uncomfortable with being a college graduate and working as a less-cool version of Mary Poppins. While my friends were going off to law school or getting married or doing the daily grind in glamorous cities, I was concerned about strategically placing Eggo waffles in the toaster so they didn’t burn, while maintaining that crispy grid.
Reason told me that what I was doing mattered, providing care and protection for two young children, but my insecurities thought otherwise. I began to blame myself for my current state of affairs. I made the decision to get this job, to flee Tennessee, and to not invest any time in looking for more “challenging” work. Needless to say, it was turning into that weird time my mother warned me about.
While torturing myself with feelings of insignificance about my job, I tried to find worth in other things, like running, sporadic blogging, weekend getaways, dying my hair, etc., but nothing seemed to fulfill me. Then I had one of those “aha!” moments where everything becomes unmistakably clear. I was playing outside with my little charges when one of them came up and said, “You’re so great. You don’t even have to play with us but you do it anyway. Our other nannies never did that. We love you!”
I was floored. Not only did I underestimate their ability to be so gracious, but they made me realize that it’s truly not about what life hands you but what you do with it. That whole “making lemonade out of lemons” thing really hit home for me on this one. I could easily just patrol these girls, make sure they don’t run out in the street or draw all over the walls, but I don’t. I play with them. I make my life a part of theirs and vice versa. And together, we have perfected the fine art of Eggo toasting. How many people can say that?
So what do I believe in? I believe that self-worth is where you find it and that the most beautiful form of self-worth occurs when you maximize the amount of love you share with the world, no matter how mundane or humble the circumstances may be. I believe that just because you have a college degree doesn’t mean you need a job with a BlackBerry. And most important, I believe in lemonade.
Samantha Jacobs is working toward her master’s in art education in St. Louis, Missouri, and is looking forward to becoming a career art educator. Although no longer a nanny, Ms. Jacobs does continue to babysit and eat Eggo waffles on a regular basis.
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