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Oh the Places You’ll Go

May 23, 2020
Another Way for week of May 22, 2020

Start Somewhere and You Never Know

Forty-five years ago this month I did not know what I was going to do after college. I took walks up the hill at school and cried out to God for guidance. Would I find a job anywhere close to my interests and capabilities in writing or journalism? Where? When? Who would hire me?

Senior picture from college yearbook, on one of the hills I loved.

I feel especially sorry for this year’s seniors whether they are graduating high school or college amid our sea of uncertainty. A couple weeks ago you heard from one of my great nephews, about how the lockdown in Michigan affected him. Then I learned of my great niece in Florida who was named valedictorian of her class: but what do you do if there is no gym or football stadium full of admiring parents, teachers, and fellow classmates? You give the speech anyway, to a small group outside your school building. These two kids have great families and I know they will go on to become fine adults and citizens, despite the recent huge disappointments.

As a college grad, what do you do when you or your parents have spent from $40,000 to $100,000 on four years of college and you need to land a job in one of the worst worldwide economic downturns since the great depression? Languish in your room or your parents’ basement for months? I hope not, but inevitably, it’s going to be hard to find work. There are jobs to be had—locally the poultry companies are offering sign-on bonuses to work on production lines.

Moving into the paid work force is a leap for most of us and I remember how stressed and worried I felt as I sent off resumes and cover letters the last several months of college. My Spanish professor asked, as everyone does, what I was going to do after I graduated. When I told him about various places I was applying, he said “Why don’t you apply where my wife works?” His wife, Ella May Miller, was a fairly well-known radio speaker for Mennonite Broadcasts. They had an opening for a secretary.

Anyone remember using a microfiche reader? This is me in a senior year yearbook photo with my head buried.

A secretary? My lofty ideals crashed into reality. So I took their typing test. I passed. And I got the job! I always say it was my high school typing teacher who gave me the main skill I needed for my first job. And the woman who was leaving taught me everything I needed to know working in an office. Running a copier. Fixing the jams. Coding a piece of mail. How to make the right number of carbon copies. (If you are younger than 40 you probably have no idea what a real carbon copy is, which is not just a CC on an email.) I was forever grateful for how Linda Brubaker patiently taught me the basics. You learn from the bottom up the way an organization works—always valuable.

I’m also indebted to my bosses at the organization, who allowed and encouraged me to move far beyond running a copier. They read through my portfolio and within several months, I was able to begin ghost writing for Ella May’s Heart to Heart program once a month, which meant attending brainstorming meetings. For my first writing project, I got to interview my Aunt Susie about the art of quilting. We offered a quilt pattern on the radio, and letters requesting the pattern came tumbling in: almost 2000. I was off to a good start and some years later, in 1987, I began writing this column which technically was a spin-off of the radio programs we were producing at the time. Those columns got spun into books. I enjoyed my work immensely.

The future journalist/writer/producer.

So you never know. Don’t be too proud to start with typing, or working in a poultry plant—which is where my husband-to-be worked when we started dating. Don’t be too haughty to wash dishes like I wrote about last week. And good luck to all the seniors!

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What was your first job out of high school or college?

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Thoughts and memories when you were at this stage of life?

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I still have some postcard/bookmarks from the Heart to Heart radio program which we called “Beatitudes for a Busy Day.” It makes a nice bookmark. Request yours by email at anotherwaymedia@yahoo.com or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at FindingHarmonyBlog.com a week after newspaper publication.  

6 Comments
  1. Your senior photos are so contemplative – and flattering. I was PLAIN in mine, but therein lies my story.

    I remember Ella May Miller and the Heart to Heart program. How interesting that you were working behind the scenes even then, building your writing career. Yes, Melodie, I do remember the microfiche machine, which I used for research back when I was working for my MEd. degree. Ha!

    Back story: At EMC (now EMU), Prof. J. Lester Brubaker encountered me in the halls of the Admin Building shortly before I graduated and snagged me to apply for one of the two open positions at Lancaster Mennonite School, teaching English. A few years later, I was a secretary the summer before I got married, which proved to be a bust. When calls came in, I kept cutting people off. It’s a wonder I didn’t get fired. I worked at Calvary Presbyterian Church, NC, and the pastor (technically) was my boss. He also officiated at our wedding!

  2. I’m thinking I remember J. Lester Brubaker but I’ll have to look him up. So you didn’t do so good answering phones? (P.S. I never did very well at transfecting calls to someone else, even though I kept explicit directions in my top drawer.)

    It took me awhile to discover myself in that microfiche picture. I had noticed in the index my name and a page number indicating that there was a photo of me on that page, but I certainly don’t remember being asked my name. The photographer may very well have known me though and never disturbed my study to grab the unusual photo. But I laughed when I finally figured it out because I recognized the jeans, and the haircut at that point in my senior year. 🙂

  3. One of the good things about planning to be a teacher was that the path to the job was pretty clear. When I graduated, I had two offers in the local area (those were the days). But teaching that first year at Harrisonburg HS turned out to be harder than I thought it would be when I student taught.

    Ah, we all have so much to learn. And we stay both humble and young by remembering that.

    Your photos are lovely!

  4. I’d say Harrisonburg HS could have been a challenge! I was guest speaker for one class and they challenged me–not in a bad way. Humble and young? I thought it was older and wiser. Ha.

    Thanks for the comment and the compliment.

  5. Thank you for this candid post. Do you remember someone from India using some of your writing during the latter part of the 90 and almost up to 2003? That publication competed its course at about 2004. Yes, you never know where God leads.

  6. Alexi, hi! Yes, I remember your name and your use of my column in your paper for a number of years. I hope you are doing well in whatever endeavor you are involved in now. I was always a little surprised that you found my material relevant for your audience in India but now online there are readers from everywhere, of course. Thanks for touching base here!

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