“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.