For a while, I worked three jobs. I was burning the candle at both ends, and wasn’t doing a very good job at any of them. One night while I was bartending, a friend told me that I had their dream job. I was a bit confused, because I had three jobs. I asked him which of my jobs was his dream job, and he told me that my AmeriCorps position was his dream job. I didn’t want to discourage him, but I had to ask him if he knew just how much I got as a living stipend, and why I had two other jobs. He said that he knew and that he was planning on signing up once his wife finished school and got a job so that he wouldn’t be the only salary coming into their home.
Last weekend, I went over to his house and we sat and talked about why we do what we do. It was one of those late night conversations where people talk about changing the world. He talked about his time as an officer in the Navy, and I talked about why I’m in AmeriCorps. Our stories are surprisingly similar; he joined because he wanted to serve his country, I joined (or, more accurately, signed up for a second year) because I want to serve my community. Both of us had different ideas about what our service meant when we signed up than we do now. When my friend signed up, he thought that he’d be helping to make the country safer, and became disillusioned with military service for a variety of reasons. When I signed up for my first year, I did it because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and needed some kind of income. Now, I’m all about AmeriCorps and really believe that what I’m doing is making a change in the world.
I’ve got to admit that it’s uncharted territory for me, to be seen as the kind of person that other people want to be. For one thing, it makes me want to be even better at what I do. If there are people looking to what I do as something to achieve, I feel like I have to live up to their image of what I do. It also makes what I do more than “just a job” to me. Up to the point where my friend and I talked about my AmeriCorps years, I never really believed that I could be a role model – that there are people who might want to do what I do.
It’s not that I didn’t know that this year would bring me to a leadership position; I knew that I’d have people who I work closely with and who would come to me for guidance or to help solve problems. What my friend and I talked about is something different, though. I had never considered that people would want to follow me just because of who I am and what I do. It’s a nice feeling to be respected to the point of emulation, but it’s also an awesome responsibility. It’s something that wasn’t ever in the job description.
It’s something that I hope I can live up to.