Besides working as a writer, I’ve spent the last eight years studying to become a United Church minister. I go to school part-time. I’ve said that my goal is “to try to graduate while there is still religion.”

Frankly, some days, this seems a little touch and go.

Lately, the number of members in my church has been dropping faster than a Nortel-based RRSP. In fact, friends have suggested I consider a career with a brighter future. Perhaps as a typewriter salesperson or a small screen TV repairman.

But I’ve always been someone who follows her heart. Even when everyone’s insisting its GPS must be on the blink.

As part of my studies, I’ll spend the next eight months working at an inner city church and a mental health institution.

To prepare for my first day I boned up on “tips for starting a new job.”

One website suggested, “First impressions are all-important. They determine how everyone views you and whether you’ll achieve success in your job or any other part of your life. Ever. So, be sure to be calm and relaxed.” This was not necessarily helpful.

Nor was, “try to show you fit in.” In the past, my efforts to fit in have led me to join an office lawn bowling team, drink tree bark flavoured coffee and agree that Tiffany is the most underrated artist of our time.

The first day strategy I adopted was “setting the bar low.” At the church, I was issued keys and cautioned never to misplace them.

Some of you are probably thinking, “I bet she lost them in the first ten minutes.” Well, you’re wrong. It only took five. For the next half hour the entire staff searched for the keys that, fortunately, we found. Unfortunately where we found them was in my jeans pocket.

Things didn’t go smoothly at the mental health institute either. Part way through the orientation questionnaire the administrator realized I was there as staff, not as a patient. This wouldn’t have been so bad except we’d already been through the sections on “issues I’d like to work on while here” and “preferred medications.”

Am I up to this new challenge? As I head into week two, I’m saying “definitely maybe.”

What I hope is that when it comes to success on the job there’s something even more important than first impressions. Second, third and fourth ones.

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