CBC/QWF Writer-in-Residence: Juggling 2 careers means exploring more facets of yourself

CBC/QWF writer-in-residence Monique Polak juggles two careers - by choice. She's not alone. Meet Janice Greenberg and Shawn Manning. "Most people aspire to have a job they love. I have two," says Manning - a caterer and landscaper.

'Most people aspire to have a job they love. I have 2,' says Shawn Manning, caterer and landscaper

Janice Greenberg, who uses the stage name Just Janyss, has a singing career when she's not leading spinning classes or at her day job, working as a salesperson. (Janice Greenberg)

On a good day, having two careers is fun. On a bad day, it can feel like one career too many.

I'm not the only Montrealer juggling two careers.

Unlike Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, who had trouble co-existing, most of us find that having two careers is a way to explore different sides of ourselves.  

Monique Polak teaches writing at Marianopolis College. (Monique Polak)

I had been teaching at Marianopolis College for seven years when I realized I wanted to do more.

I began to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a writer, beginning with book reviews for the Montreal Gazette. When I gained confidence, I started writing novels for young adults.

Because I spend my work days in the company of teenagers, I never lack for story ideas. And life as a writer makes me a better writing teacher.

When I was my students' age, I had no one to tell me the truth about writing: It can be slow and difficult. It's natural to feel discouraged, and rewriting is as important as coming up with a good idea.

I write my first drafts on long holidays. I rewrite during the semester, often working evenings and weekends. Some weeks, especially when I have a pile of term papers to mark, life feels too hectic.

But even after 32 years in the classroom, working with teens still feels like a privilege. And writing – well, it's like a gift I have given to myself.

Janice Greenberg: not 2 jobs, but 3

Janice Greenberg leads spinning classes - when she's not on stage or working as a salesperson in the telecom industry. (Monique Polak)

From nine to five on weekdays, Janice Greenberg works as a salesperson in the telecom sector.

It's a challenging job.

"I have a quota to make: Some months you do, some months you don't," said Greenberg, who is 54 and lives in Côte–Saint-Luc.

If Greenberg looks a little flushed when she turns up at the office on Wednesday mornings, it's because she teaches an early-morning spinning class at Énergie Cardio on Sherbrooke Street in NDG.

Greenberg also teaches spinning at the NDG YMCA.

Her classes fill quickly.

One of the things participants enjoy most is the musical accompaniment. That's more than the music coming from the sound system. It is Greenberg herself, who – when she is not calling out instructions – likes to belt out songs. Favourites include Dancing in the Moonlight.

Read other stories from CBC/QWF writer-in-residence Monique Polak:

In fact, Greenberg has a third career as a professional singer who uses the stage name Just Janyss.

In the 80s and 90s, her band City Lights performed at weddings and bar mitzvahs. These days, Greenberg is a vocalist with Surf Sisters, a band that does mostly corporate gigs.

"The stage is my home. When I teaching spinning, I'm on stage in a way too," said Greenberg.

Though Greenberg is proud of the life she has made for herself, she admits she, too, can feel too busy.

"Sometimes, I feel like I need to slow down," she said.

When she retires from sales, Greenberg hopes to keep teaching spinning and singing professionally.

"I'll do it until it doesn't look good anymore," she said.

Shawn Manning: from catering to edible gardening

Shawn Manning founded Urban Seedling, a burgeoning edible-garden landscaping business. But it's his job as a caterer for Java U that pays the bills. (Shawn Manning)

As a boy, Shawn Manning dreamt of being a musician, a basketball player and a fireman. He never imagined himself at 34, a caterer – and a landscaper.

At 17, Manning got a job busing tables at Java U in Westmount. In 2006, he began managing the company's catering division.

Manning's work is mostly logistical and can be done from his home in Verdun.

"I get hundreds of messages a day," he said. Because he has three children, he tries to do most of his work once they are asleep.

Manning does not mind supervising when his staff handles big catering jobs.
Shawn Manning started out with Java U at 17 - half his lifetime ago. Now he manages catering for the company. (Shawn Manning)

"I like hanging out with people who are having fun," he said.

Manning's thoughts turned to landscaping in 2009 when he bought a house.

"It had a small south-facing backyard with nothing there," he recalled. So Manning got into square-foot gardening – in which every square foot is used to grow a different vegetable.

In 2011, Manning founded Urban Seedling, an edible landscaping service that specializes in teaching people how to grow their own food. Clients include daycares and schools.

"I'm trying to share the empowering feeling that goes along with growing your own food, becoming more self-sufficient and getting in touch with nature," said Manning.

Juggling two jobs means there is not always enough time to spend with his family.

"Sometimes they say things like, 'I miss you,' and that hurts. But I'm trying to build something for the future," Manning said.

Manning said it's his catering gig that's made it possible for him to become a green entrepreneur.

"If I didn't have Java U, I couldn't have Urban Seedling. It's a young business. Sometimes I can't afford to pay myself," he said.

Despite his hectic schedule, Manning, like Greenberg and myself, wouldn't have it any other way.

"I am a very lucky person," Manning said. "Most people aspire to have a job they love. I have two."   

Meet you here again next month for another blog entry.

Part of me may be marking essays, but the other part is already dreaming up more Montreal stories.

About the Author

Monique Polak

CBC/QWF Writer-in-Residence

Monique Polak is the author of 19 novels for young adults and a non-fiction book for kids. She is a two-time winner of the Quebec Writers’ Federation Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. She has been teaching at Marianopolis College for 31 years and is a frequent contributor to the Montreal Gazette.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.