Stories I Loved: 'A Day in the Life' Challenge Winners and Runners-Up
Vocal's senior manager recaps a recent Vocal Challenge that prompted nearly 500 creators to share what they do for a living (and why their job matters)
We recently wrapped up our "A Day in the Life" Challenge here on Vocal. The prompt was simple:
Finish this sentence: 'I love my job because...'
Close to 500 creators participated in this Challenge, and personally, I was floored by the responses. As head of Content Moderation at Vocal, I always have my finger on the pulse of the creative community, and I felt that pulse quicken — creators were excited to share what they do, and more importantly, why it matters. Despite the hardships, many of you said:
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And I believe you.
The three winning entries have already been announced, but let's recap, because frankly they can't be talked about too much:
First Place: "Teaching is Not for the Faint of Heart" by Barb Dukeman
Barb has been creating on Vocal for about three months now. This is her first Challenge win, and it was well-earned.
Because of the pandemic, I believe many of our future classes are going to have many broken children. As elementary school students, their minds aren’t mature enough to understand why things happened the way they did; only that they were sent home for two weeks at a time throughout the year or reprimanded for not wearing a mask properly. The ability to gather in groups now is still anxiety-ridden. Schools and teachers are still working at making the classroom and school a safe place, but they are all still afraid of the unknown.
Barb was unassumingly authentic in this gentle, yet hard-hitting look at 32 years of public school teaching. A recent retiree, Barb shared stories about children suffering from parental abuse, suicidal ideation, and the Covid-19 social distancing that has affected those under 18 much more than we may realize for years to come.
What We Loved: Structure
My teaching experience started with the Challenger and ended with the International Space Station.
Barb begins her story with a vivid description of the Challenger explosion and the impact that moment had on students watching on live TV. One of the passengers, Christa McAuliffe, was going to be the first teacher in space. Later on, Barb shared that in one of her last years of teaching, her school was chosen as one of four in the nation to be given the opportunity to speak with astronauts aboard the ISS. This flawless structure stood out to our judges, and coupled with the many heartfelt stories and media elements throughout, it wasn't hard to decide where Barb's testimony to 30 years of public service would land on the podium.
Second Place: "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted?" by Tom Brad
Something of a Vocal celebrity, largely due to his dry wit and Dickensian penchant for the Tall Tale, Tom Bradbury has eight months of Vocal experience and has earned a following as a result. He is even the protagonist of a fiction series currently being written by fellow creator Arpad Nagy. Needless to say, Tom is a valued member of the Vocal community, and this Challenge win (his second) comes as a surprise to no one.
Some farmers will tell you if a sheep could die twice it would. Knowing that still never makes the experience easier. Twenty percent of baby lambs worldwide die at birth. I beat those odds but the thing no one tells you about is how the mothers react. Some will just reject the strange alien thing that has popped out of them. Some will cry for weeks. One year I had a mother chase around the back field. Just searching for the baby she lost.
What We Loved: Emotion
"Am I making an impact on the world, or is the world making an impact on me?" Tom asks in one of the story's most poignant passages. "Each day we live leads into the next. My little world just has a bit more life and death in it." Recognizing that a life of solitude does not reflect a life void of meaning, Tom shines a spotlight not just on the French countryside that he calls home, but on farmers and isolationists everywhere. There is so much wisdom to be learned from Mother Nature, and by all indications, Tom seems to have learned a great deal already.
Third Place: "What Do You DO All Day?" by Robyn Reisch
The stigma against being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) is something that has plagued society for far too long. As the child of a SAHM myself (I was home-schooled, to boot) I nodded along in quiet appreciation for Robyn's depiction of what is, in no way, an "easy" job. In fact, being a SAHM might be one of the most difficult, and rewarding, careers out there, for those who are able to do it.
I've made ten thousand sandwiches. I've helped with hundreds of worksheets and performed thousands of bedtime routines. I've changed millions of diapers. I've shaped behavior with time-outs and serious talks, positive examples and gentle encouragement, crushing punishments and jubilant rewards.
I've played seventy billion and six games of peek-a-boo - and that was just this morning.
Then, just when I start to fear I might die of boredom, motherhood reveals another facet: unpredictability.
What We Loved: Impact
Our team and judges don't just look for stories that are entertaining, emotional, and well-structured. While Robyn's story was all of these things, it landed in the top three for sharing a message that frankly can't be overstated: being a stay-at-home-parent is a hard job. Any parent who opts out of a paycheck and opts in to full-time childcare deserves to be celebrated. Thanks to Robyn for being a creator who challenges stigmas, opens the eyes of society, and on top of everything, raises three beautiful children.
The great tragedy of competition is that there can only be a finite number of winners. While we wish that every story sent to the judging team could win, there can only be three champions. Anything else would be... Anarchy? I've outlined above why these three stories were chosen for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals, respectively. However, I also want to take advantage of the opportunity I have to share the other stories that stood out for their varied masteries of tone, emotion, and influence. Here are a few other submissions to this Challenge that I particularly enjoyed:
"Collateral Beauty" by Christine Picascia
“You can’t save everyone” is a common phrase said in my field, mainly to the newly, eager eyed young therapists, enthusiastically coming into this field before the harsh reality of the world hits them. Discovering this underground bubble of abuse, violence, grief, and mental illness that no one wants to talk about is like entering another dimension of life, one that makes you wish for that childhood ignorance you once had.
"Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread" by Ember Namati Remliel
... I simply love bread. It's my loaf language. And, statistically speaking, you probably love bread too. And in these trying times, you might even need it. And that's why I'm here, I think: to love and be loved, to knead what you need, and to defy the Grain Brain movement at every turn. And to occasionally get paid for it.
"Eternal Sunshine of the Pasta Mind" by Marcel Grabowiecki
I love being a waiter/host. There, I said it. You bring a smile to people's faces every day and deliver the most satisfying thing in the world- food. You learn about the products, meet the suppliers, taste the new dishes, laugh with customers, mock the customers. I'm just kidding. Or am I?
"Casting Pebbles" by C. S. Friedman
I gave her time to vent her anger, and then said, very gently, “You do remember that I tutor algebra, right?”
She sighed heavily. “Yeah, I know that. But we’ve hired tutors for her. Her uncle is a professional math tutor, and he spent months working with her. None of it helped.”
“Well, they’re not me. I specialize in helping people who can’t grasp mathematical concepts. Let me give it a shot.”
"The Most Underrated Job" by Shelbi Gooding
I've been dispatching for about ten years now. The things I've heard and the conversations I've had are things that will never leave me. I talk to people as they take their last breath, as they try to pump life back into the ones that they love; as they pull the trigger on themselves. I've heard screams from so many people in such terrible situations, and I'll hear them the rest of my life.
"A Servant at Heart" by Tara Branche
Nothing humbles you more than cleaning someone else’s toilet. In having cleaning jobs, I discovered that I have a servants’ heart. I love to have clean surroundings in my home, and so on the job, I approached my work in the same way. I took pride in my work knowing, even if no one thanked or complimented me, that I had done my best.
"A Day in the Life of Joey" by Joey Lowe
Let's cut to the chase. In my sixty-plus years in the workforce, I've been a golf-ball picker-upper, a grocery bagboy, a grocery stocker, a meat cutter, a U. S. Marine, a Deputy Sheriff, a City Police Officer, a Drug Enforcement Agent, and an Insurance salesman. I've owned a sawmill business and a cabinet shop. I've been a home builder and I've owned a picture frame shop. ... The problem is most Geminis never grow up.
What About Me? A Day in My Life:
I came up with this Challenge prompt because I wanted to learn more about you: the Vocal storytellers. I know that while you are all storytellers, you are many other things as well, such as teachers, sheep farmers, stay-at-home-parents, 911 dispatchers, and so much more.
As for me, I'm coming up on two years working for Vocal. In that time, I've read tens of thousands of stories. I've done my best to protect the community from misinformation. I've shared some very embarrassing details about my high school writing habits. I've shined a light on the grave difficulties of working in the field of user-generated content. It's been an action-packed era of my professional life, but none of that really answers the prompt now does it?
Finish this sentence: 'I love my job because...'
I'm a content manager at Vocal, and I love my job because there is nothing I care about more than what I'm doing right now: sharing others' stories and helping voices be heard. In his prize-winning story, Tom Bradbury pondered whether he was impacting the world via his work, or whether the world was impacting him. I often wonder the same thing. I think it's the latter — and for that I am so grateful.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Joshua Luke Johnson is a senior content manager at Creatd and head of Content Moderation and Curation at Vocal.