Counselor, World Traveler, Wrangler of Young Jews: A Hiring History

On the last day of Camp Firewood

Camp counselor: In the days of yore, when I was eighteen, I chased 6 and 7 year old children around five days week for eight weeks for one thousand dollars. At the end of everyday they got in the cars of their grownups and drove away and I listened to Dar Williams over and over (ON CASSETTE TAPE). I discovered her after our camp music director played “The Babysitter’s Here” on her guitar. I also made out with another counselor a lot, and then drove at high speeds from their house at five in the morning so I could be at work the next day. As you do.

Wrangler of Young Jews

Job A: I moved to the Midwest for four years to try and convince students at a small liberal arts college, infamous for performance art and communal kitchens and organ playing, that being Jewish was important. It was a fractious community, full of bright, rare, thoughtful humans who came to encompass my entire existence. In the best moments, we read the racy passages in romance novels aloud to one another in the dining hall, watched TV together in the dorm lounges, and crammed into my tiny, beloved apartment to eat snacks and laugh. In the worst, I felt isolated and more than a little crazy.

Job B: Similar job, but with a far better work/life balance at a bigger school in New York City: I had weekends off! I didn’t get random phone calls from my boss expecting me to do ridiculous and borderline manipulative things! I stayed there for almost four years, through numerous supervisors, executive directors, and job descriptions. At one point, I was the person who had worked there the longest. I was burnt out, although I was afraid to admit it at the time. The universe knew, though, and the same day as I’d been thinking about how it was time to quit my job and stop being afraid and take writing seriously, I got laid off.

World Traveler: Between 2006 and 2013, I traveled to Ecuador, Uruguay, Mexico, Nicaragua (twice) and Israel (three times) with a group of college students in tow. I got paid to bring these folks to countries to do community service (farming, light construction) and to execute an educational curriculum that would help people process the experience. Also, I got giardia.

MFA candidate: I was in my bed, in that slim space between being awake and asleep, when I realized I was in my 30’s and hadn’t been to grad school yet. I’d been thinking about it for years — at one point, I thought I’d go to rabbinical school- but once that was out of my system, I think I tried to forget how badly that I just wanted to be in school again. And since it was time to get real, I also had to admit that I wanted an MFA, that spending the next two years working on fiction in a structured environment, investing in it, was the only way I was ever going to make myself take it, and my own happiness, seriously. So here we are, third semester in a low residency MFA, which means I go to a hilltop in Vermont every six months and listen to people talk about words and sit in the delightful library basement and smell the books, like a creeper in love.

Freelance Writer: After I got laid off from job b, I staved off unemployment induced panic by marathoning crime shows, taking very long walks, and leaving the country for a little while (see under “World Traveler”), but when I returned, I plunged headlong into the ugliest of depressions. I’d started to do some light blogging while I was working, and had published some essays, and once I was able to get my head above water again, I started pitching bigger outlets and thinking more strategically about it, and now I’m publishing personal essays and reported pieces on a pretty regular basis.

The freelance hustle is of course perpetual, but I would choose it over and over if it means I never have to sit in an open office under florescent wearing business casual clothing. I’m living off a combination of earnings from writing, my savings, the occasional temp job, cat sitting, and a check I get every semester from school (the different in my tuition after a merit scholarship).

Cat sitter: In between feeding and snuggling and litter box cleaning and telling your cat how beautiful and smart and well dressed it is and singing it homemade ballads that mainly consist of the words “fuzzy fuzzy fuzz fuzz,” I have probably taken a picture of it doing something awesome, like staring into a glass of seltzer or laying around like a manatee or looking like a person. It might be in my phone. Hire me!

 

Chanel Dubofsky lives in Brooklyn and is a Fiction MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts, which confuses people. You can read her writing in Cosmopolitan, RH Reality Check, The Frisky, and the Toast. She blogs at Diverge (idiverge.wordpress.com).

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