my childhood careers

My Childhood Careers by Jenna Templeton

Jenna Templeton gets all nostalgic about her childhood occupations that eventually led her to a career in magazines.

“Where’s dad going?” I’d ask Mum every weekday morning when I was a tot, any time I heard his car keys jangle.
“He’s going to work”, she’d reply.

My head would admittedly go down with a frown (other days I was always his shadow). Why would he choose to go to this ‘work’ place instead of staying home all day to play? My mum quickly let me know that adults couldn’t always be in charge of everything and that Dad needed to go to work so we could ‘buy nice things’ and ‘put food on the table’.

By primary school, my mum had headed back to work and would travel one and a half hours just to get in to the city for her job. From a young age, I figured if adults had to spend all their days at work, I better choose an occupation I loved. This was the beginning of playtime becoming test trials of jobs…here are a few of my childhood careers circa the ’80s and ’90s.

Hairdresser
I’m sure every child wanted to be a hairdresser at one stage. Once I discovered how to use scissors, I couldn’t help but experiment with different cuts and hairstyles on poor Barbie. I went that extra step further…most of the cartoon characters from the ’80s and ’90s such as Dorothy Gale from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz cartoon series always had a permanent part in their fringes. I couldn’t get my fringe to stay the same way (also we were out of glitter hairspray) so one day at kindergarten during craft time, I convinced one of my friends to cut a triangle shape right in the middle of my fringe. Unfortunately, my kindergarten teacher didn’t quite appreciate my creativity and I got in trouble and burst into tears (she was worried my mum would be mad).
That was pretty much the end of that career.

Bus driver
My mum didn’t drive, so on days when Dad wasn’t home, Mum would take me out to town and anywhere else we needed to go by bus. I always enjoyed making all the little stops and seeing what interesting characters would get on, and try to guess which stop they would get out at. For a week, my backyard became a bus route, where I’d imagine driving around on a make-believe bus, picking up make-believe people. Turns out I preferred this more as a casual role, because it got a bit repetitive after a while.
On to the next career.

Radio presenter
I’ll never forget the time in primary school when my sister and I won a tape recorder – a real flashy one for its time too. It was grey and had neon pink and green coloured zig zags splashed all over it. So rad! The best bit of this masterful piece of technology was that it could be used to record and came with a microphone. Clearly I was handed with an opportunity of a lifetime. The last couple of years were dedicated to perfecting a radio show. My sister and I took turns DJing. All of our family friends and the kids in our class were invited over to be interviewed and introduce songs on our show. Without even realising it, we were scheduling playlists of our favourite hits: I Should Be So Lucky (Kylie Minogue), Eternal Flame (The Bangles), Please Mr Postman (Teen Queens) and You’re The Voice (John Farnham). We were also ad-libbing and writing talk-back content. Highlights of the stint included a full rendition of the Lip Smacker ad jingle (going ape over grape) and getting one of my after school care friends to declare his love for someone in our class. Gripping stuff, I know. I don’t know why I gave up this career (perhaps I ran out of cassette tapes).
It’s something I’d love to revisit now – in the form of a podcast perhaps?

Teacher
Some of my favourite books were activity-based ones. The ones filled with puzzles, mazes, find its, interesting facts and problems you had to solve. Visits to my local op shop and ‘teacher’s textbook shops’ helped me accumulate quite a good collection of educational reads. I spent lots of my childhood playing with my neighbour who was like a brother to me. Some days he’d come over and we’d set up a little classroom at our house. He was a year younger, so I’d teach him all the things I learnt in school ahead of his class. I’d make up maths tests, read out loud from books, and dedicate time to doing cover pages, crafting book jackets and even marking the work. Some days it would be ‘excursion day’, so we’d go on nature walks around the yard. So much fun. At least for me it was!

Graphic designer
When a new school year began, I always looked forward to drawing and decorating my text books and its cover page. Art and craft was always a favourite subject of mine and still is today, so I asked dad about jobs that combined the two – books and design. I love books, so I was super excited to find out that someone’s job was to spend their days designing book covers – a graphic designer. By this stage, I was almost heading into high school, so it was a career I held on to for a long time.

Writer
Given my love for books, art, editorial planning and design, it’s no wonder that my final career had my name written all over it. Writing and specifically working in magazines just felt like home. It combined all my likes and loves. Even though at the start I wasn’t very good at spelling and grammar, I didn’t let this stop me from achieving the career I wanted the most – writing. My parents encouraged my love for the subject by getting me computer programs that I could write and record my stories in. I loved the ’90s computer program Creative Writer + Fine Artist. It allowed you to write and design your own books and newspapers. I remember compiling lots of newsletters, printing them off and filing them in a folder. All through high school, I’d pore over the latest teen mags, Dolly, Big Hit, Bliss, TV Hits, Girlfriend, Smash Hits and study each of the sections. My favourite issues were the specials they did on the magazine teams that had a bio of each person, what an average day was like for them, and info about their role and how they got their job. These were the pages that I would blu-tack over my bedroom walls.

And I guess you can say the rest is history

Words + Illustrations: Jenna Templeton