I received my paycheck for the first month of my job. It was rather modest, but definitely exceeds the industry average considering the number of hours I had to work. As a rule a fitness professional tends to always be overworked and underpaid. I think I'm doing okay.
I'm a Group Exercise Instructor when it comes down to it. Boot Camp fitness, P90x, Shaun T, Jane Fonda, I'm the guy with the headmike up front leading people to get their butts moving with unbridled enthusiasm. Part-Drill Sergeant, part-cheerleader/hypeman, I earn a living making people do pushups and break a sweat, and to maybe undo some of the physical damage that the contemporary sedentary lifestyle and delicious fast food have cursed most of us with. I would consider this my first real, legitimate civilian job. Before this I served 5 rather unimpressive years in the Army, barely making it as a non-commissioned officer. Besides the occasional good times that came with it and the outstanding people I met on the way, I was eventually discharged [honorably] thinking that the Army taught me nothing useful. I was Infantry; our job description eventually boiled down to shoot, move, and communicate. (And to jump out of airplanes, because I'm not a "Leg".) I learned how to shoot well enough (qualifying "expert" on every weapon system I was assigned), but moving and communicating proved to be rather challenging. I'm primarily an Asian/Pacific Islander; I have short legs and low calves. I am neither built for speed nor carrying large loads for long distances. I had also been in the country for a mere 6 months when I enlisted, and culture shock was definitely a thing. On top of that, being on the Autism Spectrum made communication, to me, about as simple as making contact with aliens (i.e. not at all).
So I did my time, I tried to stay out of trouble, I followed orders without questions, and I remained as close to invisible as I could manage. In other words, I was, in theory at least, a great soldier. I mopped a lot of floors, pulled a lot of guard duty (a sometimes unbelievable amount, actually), and mowed a lot of lawns. At the same time I earned six different fitness certifications and completed 12 units towards a Master's Degree. I exited Active Duty thinking that jobs were going to be lining up for me out in the civilian world. Wrong.
I was unemployed for seven months coming out of the service. I lived off the emergency fund (that I saved as a contingency plan in case this happened) and credit card debt. I botched close to 20 job interviews, because although an impressive résumé will get you through the door in most cases, being an Autistic halfling with cauliflower ear is apparently a very difficult fact to hide.
Eventually though I received an offer for a job. I was to lead groups of people of varying fitness levels through one-hour workouts at 6 in the morning. Then I would have to mop the floor. Perfect. This is almost exactly what the Army trained me to do. And so far, for some reason I enjoy it. I find myself looking forward to working, which is to me rather confusing, since for years I have perceived work as just an unpleasant toll that we all must pay in order to exist in society.
I'm hoping it's not just some honeymoon period. But even if it is, this is definitely a great step in personal development. I have a reason to roll out of bed in the morning, and I believe I have interacted with more people the past month than I have the past year. Sure, I am teaching people how to throw a punch, maintain a plank, and perform a deep squat, which are all ultimately valuable lessons in a white collar world; but at the end of the day, I believe I am eventually learning a lot more from my fitness students which could possibly prove to be more valuable in the real world than any of my 10 current certifications. Maybe.