Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Dream Career(s)

It was pretty good timing that I received my usual email blast from The Brazen Careerist in my in box this morning. Today’s email was, “Entry-level jobs have that lethal combination of bad pay + boring work. So the faster you can get off that bottom rung of the workforce ladder, the better off you are.” One way of doing it was to blog about what you want to do for a living. Since I’ve been feeling a little mentally uninspired as of late, I took it as a sign.

BTW, I love reading Penelope Trunk’s blog. It was actually the first one I ever followed and she inspired me to start blogging as well. Hey, 40,000 followers can’t be wrong! No matter what your career/dream career/current job in life is, I think anyone can relate to her.

But back to me. Over the years, I’ve had a variety of dream careers. These are the ones that seem the most attainable or most realistic.

1. Investigative reporter:
I grew up watching the Superman movies, over and over again. As a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be Lois Lane. At that point in my life, Margot Kidder’s portrayal of Lois was my goal. She was smart, brash, in your face, questioned everything, and brave (although a bit stupid at times…jumping off Niagara Falls to prove a point…come on!). Her only downfall was that she was hopelessly in love with someone she could never have, but couldn’t ever prove that Clark Kent really was Superman.

Years later, when Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman came along, I really grew to like Terri Hatcher as Lois, even with the ABC-family-friendly, watered down storylines. Her Lois was an ABC-family-friendly, watered down Lois Lane, but I’d take what I could get because in my world, a non-comic book Lois Lane was getting harder to come by.

I like being in the mix of things. I like being someone that people can come to for answers. Even if I’m not the one to fix a problem, being someone to pass along information can be rewarding. And there is my love of the written word. To fill inches of blank white newsprint with something that hadn’t been there before, over and over again, day after day…that seems like a little slice of heaven to me. When I think back on college, my best memories are of writing for the newspaper at the University of Northern Iowa: The Northern Iowan (not a real original name, but that’s not the point). I wrote for them for about three years. For one glorious (in the beginning, anyway), it was basically my turn to be the News Editor. THAT was a hard job to do: convincing the reporters to come to meetings and actually turn in their assignments.

But those three years as a writer, those were the best. I learned about the ROTC on campus and what a great program it sounded like. I didn’t have any military inklings at the time, but if I had learned about it sooner, I might have gotten involved. I think my favorite article was about Hillary Clinton coming to our campus to speak on Bill Clinton’s behalf, a little schmoozing, really, back in early 1996. We were issued press passes. I still have mine in a scrapbook. I covered Student Government meetings, a professor who had been canned for solicitation of a prostitute, an outbreak of food poisoning from an on-campus International Programs event, a student from Bosnia who couldn’t go home and had lost track of his father, the Public Safety log (and found out about a gun being discovered in a trash can in one of the dorms), the construction of a new floor at the Library…those were good times. I loved trekking across campus in search of a story, beating the pavement and making phone calls up the wazoo.

I wish I could get my foot in the door out here at The Virginian-Pilot to try and start a career there. But a few years of a college newspaper and the random press releases and newsletter articles since then don’t carry enough weight. I’d even willingly write obituaries for a while if that’s what it took to get a reporting career started. Since that’s probably not going to happen, then I’ll write when I can: either at work, wherever that takes me, or here in this blog.

You know, now that I’m thinking about it, I even reviewed some Spider-Man Unlimited comic books online for a short time. I guess that just proves you have to grab your opportunities wherever you can.

2. Shelter Director/Shelter Marketing Coordinator:
I know I’ll never be a veterinarian, because I didn’t go to school for that, so being a vet is totally off my list. However, being able to work in a shelter would be so rewarding. Sure, there are going to be those days when you lose animals that no one wanted for whatever reason and they might have to be put to sleep because of health or behavioral issues, maybe even because of a lack of funding. (Remember how so many of us thought the Vicktory Dogs would all have to be put to sleep once they were rescued from Michael Vick? No one thought they could be saved and rehabilitated. That would be my daily inspiration right there.)

To be able to make a difference in the lives of those pets: the unloved, the unwanted, the unplanned for, those unable to be cared for, and even the lost ones. I think that would bring out the best in me. But it’s not just about them. It’s about making a difference to the people that come to adopt them, the employees that work there, and the volunteers that work there as well. And to be able to go to work every day, surrounded be like-minded individuals…what a good feeling that must be. You’d be surrounded by people who feel the same way you do, working towards a common goal of animal care, adoption and education. Shoot, even working at a zoo would be wonderful.

I like animals, but really, who doesn’t? I like being hands on with them and sharing my experiences with people.

When I was in college, I spent a summer working at a little petting zoo back home as a zookeeper. It was all set up as the typical Iowa farm and some of the animals you’d find on one. Years before that, I was actually a 14 year-old volunteer there. I remember the first task that Dawn, the curator at that time, had me do: muck out the hay from the pig pen. Someone had mistakenly put hay in with the pigs instead of straw. It was muddy and full of pig poop and it needed to come out. It was an early Iowa summer with some heat already and the flies were going to bother the pigs. So, I grabbed a shovel and a wheelbarrow and went to work. We had a compost pile set up behind the pig pen. It was for the animals and it needed to be done. I didn’t mind. Later on at the end of the summer, Dawn told me that while the pen needed to be cleaned out, it was also a test. She wanted to see how I’d react to such an assignment. When I did it without complaining, I passed the test.

Since then, I’ve volunteered as a Whale and Dolphin Spotting Trip Docent with the Virginia Aquarium, and later on at the Virginia Zoo with the Nocturnals and Primates Zookeeper. In that case, I was scooping up monkey poo, among other animals, feeding them, trying to keep my hat from being stolen by the squirrel monkeys, and I made friends with a couple of porcupines and a sloth. I managed to pet a rhino at one point, and I watched one of the elephants trust the vet and vet tech enough with her feet to show them her sole. That kind of trust in an animal that big for an animal so small in comparison (humans) was awe-inspiring, much in the same way to see a humpback whale in our ocean for the first time.

Hell, several summers ago, my father-in-law was visiting. He and my husband saw a truck go barreling down the road and hit a female duck. She was out walking with her mate. He flew off in time and avoided being hit. She survived and my husband came in to tell me what happened. He knew what I would do: go looking for the injured duck.

And that’s exactly what I did. I found her in a neighbor’s yard. She was upset and tried to get away from me, but with whatever injuries she had, the duck wasn’t hard to catch. She was black and white. I found out later on she was a mallard mix of some sort. I brought her in the house and let her sit on my lap to calm down while I got online to look for local wildlife rehabilitators and found one in Virginia Beach. She was a vet tech with a friend who had land for animals that couldn’t be released into the wild. The vet tech took the duck from me and gave me her card. I called her the next day. She had x-rayed the duck. She wasn’t going to die but she’d never fly again (broken wing and shattered hip), so once she was a little more healed, she could go to the friend’s house to live out the rest of her life.

Even at a shelter, I know I can’t save all the animals, but I’m going to try my hardest and my best to do my part.

Until a job at a shelter or a zoo can happen, I’ll have to be content with volunteering as a dog breed-specific rescuer with American Brittany Rescue and Va German Shepherd Rescue. You can only donate but so much money to a cause. After a while, don’t you want to do more, or know how your money is being used? I think that’s what got me into rescue.

Like looking for an opportunity to write, it looks like animal care is something in my life that I’ll take what I can get when I can get it. Animals don’t ask for much. I think it’s my calling in life to spend it in service to animals in some way.

Jeeze, this could be an outrageously long post! Maybe it would be better to save another dream career for another day’s post.

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