I became an Educational Programmer in September 2009. I was terrified, but so grateful I had a job, I sucked in my suffocating fear of working with children and I decided to give it a try. I promised myself though, that I would never take the position for granted — it took me five long, suffering months to get a job at all. And here I was, with a decent job — not a store, not something grueling like housekeeping — a nice job in a fun place with a lot of stories and people my own age. That was where my first part of “real life” began — at the John Walter Museum in late September 2009.
I learned more than I ever thought possible in the position. I learned what my threshold is for work and I learned how to talk to children — really talk to them. I’ve never had young children in my family before. I was the youngest and had no one around to practice that skill. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to do it. And by the time I went home for Christmas, there I was — dressing kids up in Nativity costumes and reading Christmas stories… and I never thought it would be possible. The unexpected outcome of this was that I realized just how much you can learn from children, just how much you can appreciate their innocence and their company, and how liberating it is to be with them and do things like a simple craft with them. As an adult, an adult who to reiterate has never been around children before, I think of certain things as boring. But boring activities are instantly revitalized by a small little person whose face lights up when you tell them they’re going to be doing them. Kids are more amazing than I ever realized they could be. I’m so lucky I was given that opportunity.
I gave SO much to Fort Edmonton Park when I worked there full-time. I was always first on site, I stayed late to clean up, I took pride in overcoming fears of tasks like starting fires and chopping wood. I improved my craft skills, I woodworked, I dressed up in a costume… and even on -40 degree days when the hem of my dress got crusty with frosted snow and outdoor moisture and I didn’t have a coat, the kids’ love of Christmas kept me going… as did the appreciation from parents and teachers. I’m grateful for it, I loved it, I lived for it, it was the big break I was looking for.
And now I’m starting a new position that’s more the kind of job I wanted when I was unemployed – and I’m kind of sad to leave the Park and truly terrified to be the “new girl” again. And before I started that, I just wanted to say thank you, Fort Edmonton Park. Thank you for showing me what I’m made of mentally and physically. Thank you for teaching me what kind of people kids of all ages are like. Thank you for teaching me to take special care of childhood innocence and to consider the dichotomy of the beauty, and the sadness and danger, of that innocence. Thank you for introducing me to some of the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen or known and conversely, for teaching me tolerance of the troubled “bad” kids. Thank you for teaching me how to live life without modern convenience. Thank you for giving me a job that allows me to make homemade ice cream and run it off throughout the day. Thank you for showing me the meaning of Christmas, the joy of Christmas with children, the joy of Halloween, the difficult but worthwhile challenge of delegating volunteers.
Thank you, Fort Edmonton Park. I’ll miss you.