Many Hats

Here in Northern Virginia, where your job means everything, people I meet often ask me what I do. For the first five years after college, I had a simple answer: I teach eighth grade English. Last year though, things became more complicated. I could say that I was a graduate student and TA, but that opened up a whole other series of clarifications and caveats. I am studying creative nonfiction writing. Yes, that means I write about myself, but also about other issues in some sort of creative way. Well it's true that I'm a TA, but I'm not really assisting anyone. In the future, I'd like to teach and write--and get paid for it. Somehow.

I thought that when I was graduated and figured out a new career path, I'd return to a simple answer. I'm a college professor. Or I do freelance writing. Or I tutor high school students in writing. What I'm finding though is that I prepare for marriage and for my fall teaching assignments, my "jobs" are only becoming more complex. I am simultaneously a part of or preparing to be part of so many very different worlds.

Currently, I am a nanny two days a week for a family with two kids, aged 2 and 5, in a suburb of Northern Virginia. On those days, I function as a surrogate parent, as a temporary member of a unique suburban community -- navigating a stroller through seemingly endless streets of large, identical houses, sharing a playground with sorority girls turned mothers and affluent immigrants from India and the Middle East. On those days, I think about parenting, about what my life will look like if and when CJ and I have kids. I think about what it means to be a wife and mother, how it is that one builds a home. I think too about the strange place that is Northern Virginia, diverse and yet homogeneous, affluent and yet needy.

When I'm not nannying, I spend most of my time at home, dividing my attention between wedding planning and preparing to close on a home and move. On these days, I am in administrative mode, running endless details through my mind. I am a bride and first time home owner, trying to reconcile my desire for a beautiful wedding and home with the reality that nothing's perfect and the truth that marriage and home are much deeper than aesthetics and planning, that there is a spiritual reality more significant than the number of stripes on the wedding cake design or the exact match of ivorys on the chair covers and linens.

And then there are the two jobs I have lined up for the fall. I'll be back at George Mason University, teaching an upper level composition course for humanities majors. I will be a professor, a member of academia, a deep thinker, a creative teacher. I'll be working with students who have a solid academic background, who are preparing for a host of white-collar careers.

But I'll also be teaching two introductory composition courses, one of them a remedial section, at the local community college. And while I don't know exactly what to expect, I know it will be different than GMU. I'll have students who couldn't get into a four-year college or didn't bother to apply. I'll have students who are recent immigrants from other countries, students older than me who have been in the workforce for some time and have now decided to come back and pursue higher education. I will be forced to look beneath Fairfax County's veneer of perfection, to see the poor and struggling, to teach those for whom education and learning don't come easily.

As I think about all of these places, all of these jobs, I feel like my mind is being pulled in a thousand different directions. I am excited about all of the roles that lie in my future, about the many paths that my life might take in the next few years. But I also feel fragmented, wonder what it means to be the woman God has created me to be in all these different spheres, to wear all of these hats for His glory: wife, homemaker, professor, resident of an area that is home to so, so many different types of people.