Sense a change of season today?
I have just finished a year working in the most rewarding position I’ve held in my life so far, as a youth worker.
When colleague asked why I was leaving, I caught myself saying it’s ‘unfortunate’ the role isn’t financially rewarding.
This is not what I truly think.
What I think is this.
It is fortunate – glorious, in fact – that there are jobs like this that pay at all.
I challenge you to find historical precedent for such a salaried position, with the expressed purpose of building trusting relationships with young people with a view to improving their physical and mental health and happiness.
This is new. This is not normal. It is not unfortunate. It is glorious.
A work in progress, perhaps, trying to fund and monetise something so important.
But not unfortunate, in my view.
Telling colleagues and contacts, regretfully, that I am moving on, I was asked, “Why?”
I have stated, without shame, “Money.”
I don’t see shame in this, but I do think it would be a shame to sell all my working hours to the highest bidder, who resides in an air-conditioned world of pinstriped suits and smalltalk.
My wins and rewards in that world were projects I managed, egos I massaged, raises I earned, bonuses I received.
My wins and rewards in this world are making things happen for young people and seeing their lives improve as a result, if only in a small way or for a short time.
Messages such as this one are the bonuses: “Just wanted to say a massive thank you for all the support you give and have given X. He’s very fond of you and I dread to even think where he would be without that input.”
There is no payslip or bonus I have ever received that equals the value of that message.
This is what I mean by the situation being glorious.
In a way, opportunities to make those kinds of differences are priceless to me. I pay my time to make them. When I am paid to make them, I see it as a glorious quirk of our historical moment, to be monetarily rewarded for doing something so intrinsically rewarding.
This season, I have work to do.
I am working three jobs, as a taxi driver, youth worker and learning support assistant. On the side, I volunteer as a mentor, run Humans of Guernsey and write this blog.
Rather than me working these jobs, I feel that in this season, these jobs will be working on me.
There is a common thread that runs through the jobs I have loved. I want to work it out, so I might reweave it into something lasting. Or just enjoy the fact it runs through my life at all.
I am thirty years old today.
What do I value?
What do I bring to the party?
What thread do I weave into reality?
The rewarding roles I work do not pay enough to live.
The finance roles I worked do not reward enough to live contentedly.
A standard working week this season comprises about approximately 6 hours youth work, 8 hours learning support, and 35 hours taxi driving.
Youth work is as follows. I am paid to run my youth club with my motley crew of beautifully chaotic teenagers, and I volunteer my time mentoring a couple of teenagers on a one-to-one basis.
From my side of things, this is too fun and rewarding to ever drop. From their side of things, vulnerable young people need a positive male role model, and one who cares deeply enough about their lives to be a consistent presence.
Learning support is as follows. I am paid to support young people with special needs and behavioural issues, acting as a helping hand and riding with them through the stresses of a school day. Challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
Taxi driving is as follows. I am paid to drive humans from A to B, mostly chatting and chirping along the way. The plan with taxi driving is two-fold: earn enough money to offset the low pay of the most rewarding work I do, and to enjoy earning money in the meantime.
So far, so good: in the last week I have got to hold twin babies, drive a young man to the airport to fly and surprise his love interest at university, and discuss the meaning of life with a conservationist living in Indonesia. My cup of tea, in other words.
And so it is, that on my thirtieth birthday, I finish writing an article in the time between my three life roles, before going for a swim in the sea and then a tipple with my life partner.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.