Welcome to the au pair chronicles—a serial about how it is that I ended up in Germany and what it was like spending 10 months au pairing for a insanely rich family in Frankfurt am Main. This is the first in the series. You can find an index of the rest of the posts here.
I was a proofreader. Every morning I biked to work. Every day I read custom health publications (that’s newspeak for advertisements for the health insurance industry), searching out missing commas and misspelled words, red pen in hand. Every day I went to the gym to exhaust my remaining will to live, and after dinner I went to bed with a book and fell asleep early.
I can usually judge the state of my life through the quality of my dreams. Dreams about day to day banalities come when my life is interesting and engaging. But when my life is dull, my dreams become vivid action-adventure stories as my subconscious compensates for the lack of stimulation in my waking life. When I was a proofreader I dreamed of international espionage, high-speed chases, and the open mouths of crocodiles.
After a little less than a year several things happened. My boyfriend at the time announced that he was moving to Australia and that, no, he didn’t want me to come with him; I finished paying off my college loans; and I found myself in one of the office’s gray and windowless conference rooms crying into the color proofs. Something had to give, and there was no longer much to tie me to a particular time or place.
Before graduating from college I had considered au pairing or moving to the Marshall Islands to teach English, but the proofreading job that would help me pay off my loans came between me and tropical hermit-dom (some of the Marshall Islands are no bigger than a city block).
Once again, I started hounding the internet for editorial employment abroad, but the few I found involved working for the government. I seriously considered them. Anything that would allow me to travel and pay me to do it. Then I came across another au pair placement agency website, and I registered almost as a joke. It would take me abroad but did I really want to become a full-time nanny? In a matter of days my inbox was full of letters from families in Germany keen on an English-speaking au pair, and in a few weeks I had a job waiting for me with a family in Germany and my resignation on the desk of my boss. I had been a lousy proofreader anyway.
No one was surprised, and before I left my editor pulled me aside to tell me he’d seen this coming the day they had hired me. I was flattered. If there were people who looked like they were born to correct punctuation errors, I didn’t want to be one of them.