When my son started first grade, I decided to look for a part-time job to help supplement our household income. I had worked as a free-lance writer for several years, but both the assignments and the pay were sporadic at best. I heard that the local school district often used substitutes for their various offices, and so I applied for the job. Shortly afterwards, I was called for an interview to be a substitute teacher. I knew there must have been a mistake, but since it had been a long time since I’d had a job interview, I decided to go anyway, just for the experience. Surprisingly, I was hired on as an elementary-level substitute teacher (my bachelor’s degree qualified me for short-term assignments), and added to the list of potential office subs as well.
Early one morning a few weeks later, I got a call from a woman in the Human Resources Department, wanting to know if I could come in right away. I should have been thrilled, but I was standing there in my underwear, with my hair still dripping wet from the shower, and I had no way to get there because my car was in the shop. “No problem,” the woman said when I told her I had no transportation, “I can come get you. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” So I scrambled around and got ready, and spent my first day working as the only person in the Human Resources office, answering phone calls, fielding questions, and even securing a substitute for a teacher who had to go home sick.
Still later, I was called in to actually be a substitute teacher for a third grade class at my children’s school. The administrators and other teachers were very supportive, the teacher I was subbing for had left an easy-to-follow lesson plan, and the kids were mostly well-behaved. I was exhausted by the end of the day (don’t let anyone ever tell you teaching is easy), but I must not have screwed up too badly because I got more assignments, and even had teachers request me for planned absences.
Eventually, I gave up subbing in the classrooms, but I stayed on as an office sub for the next twelve years. The work was sometimes mind-numblingly routine, but I really liked the people I worked with, greatly improved my computer skills, and the job provided the flexibility I needed to pursue my writing career and be available to my kids. In short, the job was a good fit for me and my family at the time, and I was fortunate to get it.
It would have been so easy for me not to go on that initial interview, since it was for a job I didn’t apply for and didn’t think I qualified for. And it would have been so easy to tell the woman who called from Human Resources that I just wasn’t available to come in that morning. Looking back on it, I’m surprised I said yes, because taking risks is not my strong point. I tend to play it cautious in life, choosing the easy option over the difficult one, and am a little too quick to think, “I can’t do that.” But if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone all those years ago, I would have missed out on a great part-time job.
I try to remember that these days, when I’m faced with an opportunity that feels a bit too challenging and my first instinct is to say, “no thanks.” I try to remember that every good thing that has happened in my life: my marriage, my children, my writing, my volunteering, etc., came only when I was willing to try something new and take on a challenge I wasn’t entirely sure I could handle. Mostly, I try to remember that, when given the choice, it is almost always better to take the risk.