I couldn’t be inspired by anything more appropriate than #SASideHustles this morning as I began my Monday. Next to my keyboard sits a Venti Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. It’s my treat drink that I only order when I have worked hard to deserve it. Today is one of those days. It’s Monday morning and I am operating on 4 hours of sleep (which is quite rare considering I consistently get 8 hours of sleep on the weekends.) This weekend I clocked in 32 hours of babysitting two toddler boys. While this may not be an every weekend occurrence, it is a great example of my life outside of work and school.
Hi, my name is Mercedes Amador and I am an #SAPro and an #SAGrad with a mean #SASideHustle.
I entered college as a First-Generation, out of state student and the oldest of 8 children between both of my parents. During my undergrad, I worked nearly full time between two to three on campus jobs to support myself. When I graduated, I moved across the country to Minneapolis to start my career in Higher Education. I worked in housing and found myself with very few friends and a whole lot of time. The dramatic decrease of hustling to make ends meet to having a salaried and stable job forced me to think about my own personal interests. Who was I other than a student and a student leader? What was I to do with all this free time? None of which I had answers for.
I struggled to make connections at work and it took a long time to develop strong relationships outside of my job. That year, Minneapolis experienced a bitter cold, one that was cited as “the worst one in twenty years.” Slowly, I began to feel isolated and depressed. I found that my feelings of homesickness often revolved around my siblings, friends and often times their children. For me, there was nearly nothing that couldn’t be soothed by holding a baby or playing peek-a-boo with a toddler. Working with children was engrained in my being; it’s something I did naturally. Once I came to this realization, I created a profile on Care.com. Almost immediately, I landed interviews with a few families who were looking for either an occasional break or date night sitter. Before I knew it, I had 8 families scheduling my evenings and weekends. While sitting children didn’t “fix” all my problems as a transplant, it forced me out of my apartment and around the Twin Cities. I felt happier and a stronger sense of purpose in my days. Whether I was rocking a two month old to sleep or playing video games with a fourteen year old, I felt purpose. These children reminded me that there is more to life than conduct meetings and program shopping. They valued my visits and wanted to learn something new with me. I came into the office each morning feeling a little lighter than when I left. Over time, families posted reviews of my work and raved about my interactions with their children. Five out of five stars is a record I am incredibly proud of.
Fast forward a full year, I was offered an opportunity that I was unable to refuse at my undergrad. I still work full time (off campus) but I’m happier in this new role. I’m also closer to my family and friends here in Arizona, so my sense of purpose is strong in multiple capacities. However, I attend graduate school now. Luckily, my institution covers 80% of my annual tuition so I’m paying for only a couple of courses out of pocket.
Once I became situated, I started caring for children again. These days however, my priorities have changed. I’m more engaged at work, in class, and in my relationships. My sitting jobs are mostly scheduled near or after the children’s bed time. Once the kids are asleep, I pull out my readings and start studying. At the end of the night, I collect payment and head home with a strong sense of accomplishment for a full day’s work.
I never imagined that working through my lowest point with an #SASideHustle would benefit me in so many ways. It has gotten me through emotionally hard times and kept me financially secure. I couldn’t feel any more blessed.