The Mixer

Flemish painting of Inn 17th century
Jan Steen, “Revelry at an Inn” (late 17th c.) via Wikimedia Commons

“So what do you do?” he shouted above the din of the crowded event space.

“Umm…” I took a sip of my Sprite to give myself a chance to think. I dropped the straw from my lips, and replied, “I’m a freelance child wrangler.”

“What?” he responded, confused if he had heard me correctly.

“A freelance child wrangler,” I repeated. “I substitute teach at a Jewish Day School, after-school Hebrew programs, babysit children. I’ll even dogsit. I was an environmental educator, taking kids out into the woods in CT. Now, I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do next. ”

“Do you like it?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “I do. The pay isn’t great, there are definitely hazards – I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure the 2nd graders gave me the flu right before winter break – but it’s a generally a pretty fun thing to do. It also gives me time to work on job research and develop my blog.”

When I first found out about the “Young Professional” Mixer, I was hesistant to go. First, I don’t usually drink. (Although I like beer, cider and related fermented beverages, my tolerance for alcohol is so low I could never drive to these things if I actually imbibed grown-up drinks.) The gatherings are incredibly loud and I dread answering the question, “So what do you do?” because, it’s complicated. Also, I find it hard to think of myself as a “professional” anything. Maybe a professional dilettante. At any rate, there comes a point when my natural extroversion overcomes the desire to lock myself in my bedroom with a cup of tea and book.

I love talking to people. I love telling people my stories. I like meeting new people. I am awesome at remembering names (survival skill cultivated as a substitute teacher.) Maybe I should have put a little more thought into what I was wearing (unremarkable jeans, and a hopeless retro fuzzy hot pink fleece sweatshirt with an Alpine pattern that gave me the air of a frenetic muppet.) But I ended up having quite a lovely time, meeting new people, reconnecting with old people and becoming more comfortable repeating my fanciful profession of “freelance child wrangler.”

Also, I realized that many, many people my age are in similar “transitional” places – living with parents, working multiple jobs, freelancing, etc. It’s a comfort to know that I’m not the only one – a failed slacker amidst glittering “professionals” – which I felt like for so long.


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