Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Want That Job - Or Do I?

On a trip to Nashville, TN, I went with my sister, Kari, to her workplace. She works as a tour guide at The Hermitage, homestead of Andrew Jackson, the 7th U.S. President. During the busiest season, 400 to 1,200 people per day visit this historical landmark. I was intrigued by her job and wished I had one like it.

How fun it must be to bring stories of history to life, I thought.

School kids come to get an experience of U.S. history they can’t get from reading a textbook. Families create vacation memories while gaining a new understanding of early America. And people from all over the world visit on the recommendation of friends and family who have shared their ventures.

I thought to myself, this is the job I want. 

Unlike the confines of a grey cubicle, a day’s work wouldn’t get boring. Meeting new people each day, from so many different places, must be an interesting and even exciting way to make a living. Where meetings, office politics and meaningless projects sucked the life out of my soul, I saw this occupation as freedom from all that.

“I had 110 guests take the wagon ride yesterday,” said Mitzi, Kari’s colleague, while waiting to start the first tour of the day. One by one, patrons surrendered their tickets and climbed into the wagon.

“There’s 8 of us, we’re part of ‘The Vacation Club’. We came down here from Michigan,” said one man from the group of retired folks with matching maroon shirts. A mom and her two young kids sat near the front, the best spot to hear the narration and a man carrying a camera around his neck with a lens to rival the paparazzi took the last seat.

As Mitzi began the tour, “The Vacation Club” kept talking. Mitzi spoke louder and tried to engage them in the story she was telling but the group kept chatting with little consideration for the other guests trying to pay attention.

It was then that I saw how working as a tour guide might not be the job for me. If I had to give the same spiel 8 times a day, everyday, I’m pretty sure it would get boring.  Although meeting a variety of people would be fascinating, for an introvert like me, expending that much energy interacting with the public everyday would leave me drained and just as exhausted as my days in a corporate cube. It looked glamorous from a distance but up close, it was still work.

So, at the end of my own visit to The Hermitage, it’s clear, I’m a better tourist than I would as a tour guide.

Is there a job you thought you wanted until you took a closer look?

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