The personal scriptorium of Joshua Corlew.
My first summer job was picking weeds at Disney.
Many people express some sympathy for me when I tell them this, but I deserve none. Half of my eight-hour work days were spent napping in the work van, having free ice-cream, riding roller coasters and getting treated to free putt-putt golf and cookouts. Yes, all while being paid. The other half of my day was spent pulling weeds from beautiful landscaping areas located in the most beloved place on earth, surrounded by thousands of happy, interesting and exotic vacationing families, working with my best friends, joking, laughing, slacking off and getting paid more money than most people in the world earn for doing far more serious jobs.
At some point, while being paid to loll in an air conditioned room, licking the vanilla ice-cream off a spoon, all provided by my employer, I thought to myself that the rest of my work-life might not be as pleasant.
I was right.
My next summer job was nothing to complain about, but to be clear, it was no Disney. In fact, I am incredibly grateful for it, and learned a lot through the experience and didn’t even mind driving an hour to and from it every day.
I was working at a produce distribution plant called FreshPoint. My first two weeks were spent learning the ins-and-outs of sales, working side-by-side with accountants, delivering fresh produce to customers, running a hectic front desk and presiding as quality control. At least, that’s what I put on my resume. What really happened was that I spent a few days sitting by sales people selling stuff, and when they gave me an hour window to do the sales myself, it was 10am in the morning, and no one called. The only work I did for accounting was spend two days straight putting thousands of newsletters into envelopes and mailing them off to clients. By ‘delivering fresh produce to customers’, I really mean that I sat in the passenger seat of a delivery truck and watched the main guy deliver the produce and have me tag along. And when I say that I presided over quality control, what I mean is that I spent the other 12 weeks of my summer standing alone in a cooler/freezer breaking down an infinite amount of boxes of produce into smaller packages.
The work was not deliriously fun, but honestly, I enjoyed it. The time alone gave me ample time to think, which I loved, and it was semi-hard work, requiring me to lift heavy, icy boxes of lettuce, help unload trucks, and stand all day, so I felt satisfyingly exhausted at day’s end. In addition, the job paid well, which kept me with a good opinion of it.
My third summer of work was interesting. I sarted back at FreshPoint with mild excitement to return to the exact same routine as I had experienced last summer. But not long after returning, FreshPoint explained that they were unable to provide me the same hours as last year, and with it being an hour away, and gas prices sky rocketing, it became clear that it was not a wise idea to continue working there. So I looked for another job and found one right in front of me. It was huge blessing and I was able to leave FreshPoint on good terms for a job that was 15 minutes away and paid almost exactly the same.
My new job was at an engineering corporation. That, I too put on my resume. What was I doing working for an engineering corporation? Standing in a copying room, scanning thousands upon thousands upon thousands of engineering drawings. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was sitting, digitally filing those thousands upon thousands upon thousands of engineering drawings. Yes, it was as thrilling as it sounds.
I actually did enjoy working with the various architectuaral drawings and I was able to learn a few good skills. I gained a lot of knowledge in Excel as well as with working with top of the line printers which would help me with my internship the following semester. I liked working with old paper covered in beautiful, intricate technical drawings on them and poring over those fascinating diagrams always kept my work semi-interesting. So I survived what could have been the most boring job ever invented and continued my general success with obtaining good summer jobs.
So here comes my 4th summer, and possibly my last experience of being in the business of needing a “summer” job; I’d like to obtain a job with a bit more longevity and security by the time Summer 2013 rolls around. I am the far more excited and anxious about this job than I have ever been with the others; and for good reason.
This summer I will be teaching reading to pretty much anyone above the age of 3. I’ll be working with kids entering Kindergarten to high school students, to college age and senior-age adults. I will spend 10 weeks trying to help them get better at reading and get more “absorbed” into books and good literature. Our “textbooks” include such material as The Lord of the Rings, Henry Huggins, Jane Austen and Dr. Seuss. If you know me, you know why I am excited for this job. I love to read, I love books and I like to earn money.
There are two other reasons why I am excited about this job. The first is that I will finally experience that part of working I have never really experienced before but am longing to know: the feeling of knowing that my work matters. In all my other jobs I knew that my work mattered to some degree, but it can be mindbogglingly hard to see how packing a head of lettuce into a box for the millionth time is going to do anyone a whole lot of good, and it is easy to feel unnecessary and easily replaceable when you are standing in the same spot for an hour pressing the “scan” button on a copier machine. I believe I did my work well at both of those jobs and I know that both of those companies needed me to do those jobs to run efficiently, but the level of challenge and the actual reward were so minimal that work was not something I saw much joy or purpose in beyond the paycheck. Becoming that single, crucial main variable in a room of 12 kids is going to be radically different. My mistakes might make a difference. A good job might result in lives deeply changed. If my teaching is competent enough that, combined with the curriculum, I can get just a few kids to love reading and they grow up to be book lovers and end up doing something crazy to affect the world because of what they have read, this what I did will have mattered a great deal.
The second reason I am excited about this job is that it will wake me up and challenge me. I am already facing challenges I have never had to deal with, and to be honest, I am loving it. I am currently in Orlando, undergoing the second phase of my teaching training and it is long, involving and exhausting. From 8 to 5:30 we are talking, interacting, teaching and discussing. The first day I left with some anxiety, and when I was headed back early this morning and sat in my chair again, I had a deep sense of fear. I did not want to try teaching in front of the group. I did not. I wasn’t comfortable with the lesson plan, I wasn’t confident in my ability and I knew I was going to fail. The fear was some of the strongest I had ever felt, and it had jumped on me out of nowhere. The day before might have found me a bit timid but certainly not this fearful. In the span of 2 hours, and with a great deal of prayer, the fear subsided. I ended up getting called up to model something I had done really well in a small discussion and it went over well. That was a defining moment for me, a moment I knew was coming. At that moment, I desperately cried out to God and He supplied the strength to overcome the fear of the challenge standing before me.
That said, the challenges come with their share of rewards as well. Right now I am writing by the window of my own hotel room in Orlando, from which I can see the incredible Universal Studio fireworks and turn the air condition down as low as I please – it’s delightfully chipper in here. I can relax and read the Bible or a book without distraction and can kick back to watch the Heat game while eating out of my own personal gallon of Blue Bell Ice-Cream. This summer I will get to travel around the state, and when I am done with my job, I will have some incredible experience to put on my resume. Oh, and I will have substantially more money than I have now, which is certainly not the least of the rewards.
God has been good to me as far as summer jobs come. I have never gone without one when I needed one and He has provided some really interesting, neat and helpful positions over the past few summers. I am excited for what might be my last summer job and I look to take on the challenges of teaching with God’s help and to experience the rewards of truly making a difference with my work.
I’m sure it will be the second best thing to getting paid to nap and eat ice-cream.