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“So, what do you do?” or rather, “What did you do?”

In the last month or so, I think I have been asked about a dozen times “so what did you do before this?” (THIS being my current job. In business. More specifically, economic development. Non-profit. That’s all you’re getting.) And sometimes I just say “I was in child care” because I always get the “HUH?!” when I tell them I was a nanny. I don’t know if people just don’t understand “nanny” or they don’t think it’s a ‘real job.’

For the record, it IS a real job. A real hard job. Although a very rewarding job. Shaping the life of a child is commendable no matter who you are to that kid – mother, father, teacher, care giver. But I think people question why I chose to move 1,200 miles away for a job as a nanny. I understand people’s curiosity, but sometimes there is judgment, and that’s the part that bothers me.

So why did I move 1,200 miles from family + friends + everything I knew?

In two words: for change.

I went to high school in Otsego, Michigan, a tiny little dot on the map in southwest Michigan. I then moved about 20 minutes away to Kalamazoo, where I lived for 5 years and attended Western Michigan University. I knew Kalamazoo like the back of my hand, and although I had my entire family and most of my friends in the area, I wanted a change for myself. I wasn’t sure I could picture myself staying in the area, raising a family and never seeing or experiencing life in another area. As I was nearing graduation in the spring of 2006, I applied to over 50 jobs across the US in journalism and similiar fields, but I didn’t hear from a single company.

On a whim one night, I was searching nanny position on GoNannies.com, where I made a profile. Incase you were wondering, this wasn’t just a hair-brained, crazy idea from left field. (I actually have tons of experience with kids; I started babysitting when I was 12, including babies, I tutored Spanish to 2 elementary-aged girls for a couple years in college, I was a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters for 2 years in college, and when I was 15 I spent the summer watching 4 kids under the age of 7.)  I had an idea in my head that I could possibly find a position and maybe I would go back to school or freelance somewhere while I worked. I made a profile on the site, advertising for a position as a nanny, but I really didn’t expect it to go far.

Shockingly, I got 5 emails and phone calls within 2 weeks. One position was offered to me in New Jersey, and one just outside of D.C., both of which I turned down for several reasons, none of which I really want to get into. I also turned down a position in Kansas, mostly because I wasn’t sure there was anything of interest to me in that area. I got a crazy offer from a single dad in south Florida, but there was no way I was taking that; the whole situation gave me the creeps – the fact that the guy was ready to fly me down to stay with his kids, but I didn’t know anything about them and he didn’t even want a background check on me blew my mind! During all of these interviews, I was recovering from my first foot surgery and completely bored out of my mind. I was also prepping for my role as bridesmaid in my roommate’s wedding, and decided I was going to give it more time in Kalamazoo. I was actually going to delete my profile from the GoNannies site when I got a call from a nanny agency in Jacksonville, Florida. The owner has friends or employees scour the internet for potential nannies for clients, and someone stumbled upon my profile and suggested a job in Daytona Beach.

After several interviews with the family, a short flight to Daytona, and a few short weeks later, I was packing up my college apartment. I think my family and friends were a little taken aback by the news, but most of them knew deep down I would not remain in Michigan my whole life. My parents were both happy for me, but sad to see me leave. I said goodbye to all my friends in a couple days, which was more painful than I could have imagined. Of course, I’d be seeing them again, but it was just so weird to be leaving people I grew up with. It was like an out of body experience, I was hugging them and crying and saying goodbye in the present, but I knew I’d be fine once I was in Florida.

And I was.

But life as I knew it was over. I moved 1,200 miles from everyone and everything I knew. I didn’t know anyone in Florida besides the family I’d be working for. I didn’t know anything about the area, except that I was thrilled to be surrounded by palm trees and living 15 minutes from the ocean. I didn’t know how to get around – I’m not very good with directions – and I didn’t know where the cool spots were.

It was definitely a challenge but it taught me how to be okay by myself. I was very lonely the first few months, and I flew through books because I didn’t have any friends or anywhere to go when I got off work. But things were not as hard as I expected. I didn’t lay in bed crying at night. I missed my family, but I just talked to them more on the phone. I bonded quickly and easily with the family (still love them) and I learned my way around town. I met a couple nice friends, who introduced me to other nice people, and eventually, Kevin.

It was the bravest thing I have ever done.

And as they say, the rest is history.

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2 Responses

  1. Good for you. That’s all I have to say, really. Good for you.

  2. This was a very interesting post, and I must say, you are far braver than me! It sounds like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s paid off for you, which is fantastic 🙂

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