United In Struggle

A common questions kids are asked is what they want to be when they grow up. As teens, that question becomes, “What do you want to do after high school?” (usually, the expected answer is college and little more than that). As an adult, the question is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Or any number of years, but I’ve mostly heard five.

For me, the answer is: I don’t know.

While I’m not one to think life just happens with zero control over its events, I don’t think in the other extreme of having absolute control over everything. My life certainly has not gone as planned, and I do not mean solely my adulthood. My life has been going unplanned since my childhood days. While I’m not entirely ungrateful, it’s only because the end result is I lived through it to reach what I’m happy to have now. And even that can be counted on one hand.

Something I have noticed with my co-workers is almost everyone either attends college or has a second job. The former is obvious, but in the case of the latter, it’s simply because it’s that hard to manage for them. And of the jobs I know, their first ones aren’t what’s usually considered low-paying. On one occasion, I also had a customer mention he works three jobs. Why? To pay his mortgage. Even my former clinician, who is well-established in her career of 10+ years as a psychologist by now, has told me she and her husband resides in his family’s home because they struggle financially otherwise.

That is truly terrifying to me, even more so than having nothing planned to begin with. I understand what they do is out of necessity, but merely one job for me creates feelings my life is slowly descending into a meaningless existence of work and sleep. To need to hold two or three to survive? I question if passing life in a coma would be preferable. I suppose those examples emphasize everyone has it hard in some way, but that’s little comfort to me. I do not want to have the same struggles at 33 I’m having at 23.

If someone were to ask where I see myself in five years, I truly couldn’t answer. Any position I’ve gotten myself in, especially my job, has been unexpected. If someone asked me in 2015 where I saw myself in 2016, the answer would not have been anything close to working. The truth is I cannot see myself in any position I’m not currently in or haven’t been in previously. Until it happens, I subconsciously believe it can’t happen.

Perhaps this is another discovery of adulthood taking me by surprise and I’m slow at keeping up. At 23, I feel as if I haven’t aged a day past childhood, despite my life as it stands resembles nothing of my childhood (and I’d have killed myself by now if it did). In the end, many things feel very confusing and I’m uncertain if they’re supposed to feel any other way. The one thing I’m certain of is no matter how much I learn, how much better I supposedly become, I still feel like I know absolutely nothing. That makes no sense, and as far as I can tell, neither does much else.

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Some Things Are More Important

Including today, I’ve had two days off from work. Today, one of my bosses called to ask if I’d like to come. Normally, I would’ve said yes and gotten ready as quick as I could. This time, however, I had to decline.

Well, that’s not the complete truth. I didn’t have to. Nothing was really stopping me from saying yes. But at the time she called, I was with my boyfriend, who I do not have the pleasure of seeing as often as we’d like. I was also in pain. Pain I deal with every month, but it’s still pain.

Accepting would mean I have to leave immediately, cutting my time with this person I see infrequently with barely a chance to kiss him goodbye. We’re used to the distance. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to use every minute we can have together.

It sounds strange for someone who needs money to turn down an opportunity for it, especially for a reason many would consider flimsy. I know very well jobs are hard to come by. But so are good relationships. While I would love extra money, there are some things money can’t make up for. In my situation, that was time.

Yes, more money would let me visit my boyfriend more often, but what would be the point if I had no time? My next day off is after three straight work days. The day I see my boyfriend, if we are both fortunate, may be on that day off. Three scheduled work days to one possible day with who I call the love of my life. Perhaps it’s me sounding haughty, but it’s not really a hard choice. I know I’m fortunate I can turn down the chance without worry. Some people would need to say yes.

When our time was finally up, we had to run to ensure my boyfriend got the bus he needed to get back home (it came earlier than expected). We hugged and kissed each other goodbye, and he waved at me through the window as the bus drove away. There will undoubtedly be many more goodbye affections and waves, but at that moment – when it was happening in the present – it meant everything. Nothing could replace it.

Seen and Heard

I’ve talked about this before, using a different phrase, but after working in retail for some time now, I can’t help bringing it up again.

“Children are meant to be seen, not heard.”

The sentence ignites a great amount of irritation in me. I won’t repeat myself because I went into plenty of detail about why the similar phrase, don’t speak unless you’re spoken to, is outdated and makes no sense. But this one feels even more so.

Although it’s short, after the time I’ve already spent working in retail, if there is any age group that should be seen instead of heard, it is adults!

The majority of the customers are pleasant and most transactions go normally with zero trouble. Of the problematic customers I have had, however, I’ve never had one who was a child. Neither have my co-workers. When my co-workers talk about the trouble they have with customers, they are referring to adults.

That’s not to say the children are always angelic. Of course, I hear children cry and occasionally throw temper tantrums. Or they touch things and don’t put them back correctly. I won’t deny that behavior is annoying.

But it pales in comparison to the adult who yells at me because I can’t do their return due to lack of any proof of their purchase (receipt, phone number, and/or sale tags). It’s nothing compared to the adults who frequently come to the register at closing time with a large amount of items for purchase, layaway, or both. It’s not children who leave the aisles a mess, with clothes and trash strewn across the floor (our toy aisle is very rarely messy!).

The worst thing a child has done to me directly at my register? Chatter. Yes, the “worst” experience I’ve ever had with a child at my counter is them sparking up a conversation with me. How dare they speak to me, an adult, when they haven’t been addressed?! Actually, I’m glad they do. They’re quite cheerful and tend to be the bright spot of a long shift.

In fact, the only times so far I’ve heard children continously cry are when they are tired or otherwise uncomfortable, and they’re usually small children (under three years old). I remember one particular small girl who was wailing so loudly, she could be heard throughout the store the entire time she and her family were there. My curiosity got the better of me and when they came to my register, I somewhat jokingly asked if the little one was having a bad day. Her mother flat out said she was tired and needed a nap. Is it the child’s fault she’s not being permitted to sleep? Who isn’t cranky when they’re being kept awake?

Now, I do not at all think children should be treated like adults, and in general, adults are more mature than children. I do believe that. But this concept that a child shouldn’t be allowed to speak solely because they are a child isn’t one I’ve seen to have much merit to it.

If this also refers to interrupting adults when talking, again, that should apply to everybody. Interrupting someone is rude, regardless of your age. I don’t want to be interrupted by a 30-year-old any more than I want to be interrupted by a 3-year-old.

Four Small Words

Recently, my little state of NJ I call my home had a blizzard. Ah, got to love the strangeness of the seasons. I thought January was the dead of winter.

I was scheduled to work on that day and still had every intent of going. Some people didn’t exactly agree, however. No one in my household supported me going. Two questioned why I’m willing to endure a snowstorm to attend work, but not school (because my job pays me), and one even had the nerve to say something is wrong with me (this same person had to stay home from yesterday night because he got sick from being too drunk, and that’s not the first time; you can guess how seriously I took his opinion). The last of those three tried again to make his vague threat of not picking me up or dropping me off. A threat is not really a threat when you can get around it.

Yes, I know the weather was bad and potentially dangerous. I’m not suggesting they didn’t have a point (though they could’ve made it more tactfully). A small part of me felt bad for going because, as it turned out, if I’d stayed home, the manager on duty could’ve closed the store since I was the only cashier who came in (yes, we still got customers). Whoops! The joys of still learning how retail works. On top of that, she’d told me on the phone I didn’t have to come in, but I somehow missed that part. All I recall her asking is if I’m still coming in. If I’d heard her tell me I didn’t have to, I would’ve stayed home. Plus, I really would’ve loved to have stayed in bed like just about everyone else was probably doing!

So, why was I hellbent on going to work? I wasn’t. But I genuinely like being at my job, not so much because of what I do or how I get paid, but because being around my co-workers is a lot more pleasant than being around my family members. In the end, I worked for 9 1/2 hours that day (I was scheduled for 4 1/2), and I have no regrets because of one thing I got to hear from one of my (now former) supervisors: “I’m proud of you.”

To give some context, since the store was open, that supervisor decided to still come in. A broken down car resulted in him being two hours late, but he still came. I’d say he’s even more determined than I was because while a snowstorm wouldn’t stop me, my mode of transportation being dead would’ve been where I called it quits because I wouldn’t have seen another way. Anyway, when he came in, he came up to the register to see how I was doing and I mentioned I’d been there since morning. He already knew. I wasn’t surprised he knew I was there because he’d called the store three times and I’d answered every call. What I didn’t know was he knew how long I’d been there. Apparently, the first manager had told him. What followed was the quoted sentence.

It’s certainly not the first time that particular supervisor has praised me for what I’ve done, but in those situations, I’d asked for his opinion because I was anxious about if I’m really good at my job or not. On this occasion, I hadn’t asked. I was shocked to hear that come from him, especially since there wasn’t much of customer service to run since we had only a handful of customers. But it made my day and, besides the pride of doing my job, hearing him tell me that made enduring that weather to come to work worth the effort. Few times have I been so happy to have been born with a stubborn personality.

Maybe I still am crazy for going. Maybe people would call him crazy for still coming, in spite of having a broken down car. Maybe everyone who still worked that day is crazy for showing up. I can say with certainty if that ever happens again, I will opt to stay home, if only to let everyone else stay home too. But I really cannot say I wish it hadn’t happened or I regret I went. What he told me is going to stick with me.

Four small words. And they meant everything.

Ending One Chapter Starts Another

I know I’m probably going to eat my words somewhere down the line, but this year is already starting off well. And that means something since it didn’t particularly end well.

My job as a cashier is a seasonal position, so after a certain date, I was supposed to be let go. Key word: was.

I learned today it’s planned for me to stay on the team after the seasonal period ends, although it’s probably news I wasn’t supposed to learn this early. When I was working today, I confided in the supervisor on duty it was a concern on my mind, but I didn’t want to come across as a nag for daring to ask the manager in charge of it. She told me to ask anyway since we’re allowed (my workplace has an “open-door policy”, which means you can speak to any manager or supervisor you want at any time if you need something) and since I was already at work, I swallowed my fear and asked when I went on break. The answer was yes. When I returned from break, I very happily (but quietly) thanked the supervisor for encouraging me to do that. She was happy for me.

I work my first job and I didn’t fail at it! I still marvel at being able to hold down a job, so to learn I’m keeping it blew me right out of the water!

The other goodness for 2017 is, although it was unneeded, I got a reminder of just how strong a certain person’s love is for me. The circumstances that revealed it weren’t so pleasant and I have enough humility to admit those circumstances were my fault. No, I’m not asking for a cookie. The end of the matter of was when he became hysterical over me and sobbed for about five to ten minutes. Few things have crushed me with so much guilt as when I realized I caused that. To top it off, he called himself pathetic for crying and pushed me away when I tried to comfort him (after asking for me to do it just two minutes ago), insisting he didn’t deserve it. Let me make that clear: I hurt him, but he was crying over me. He was hysterical over the person who hurt him because he believed it was the other way around and he’d hurt me.

Before that happened, he’d been prepared to wait all day for me because he didn’t yet know I’d already left home. Now, I’ll admit that sounds stalker-ish on the surface, but these plans were arranged and agreed to, and he didn’t have reason to believe they changed.

I’m fortunate to have someone who loves me so much, he deems me worth having an emotional breakdown over, and right after I hadn’t been so kind to him. I deserved that guilt and, really, so much more than that. He once said I spoil him because I often pay for much of our outings since I have a job. He’s wrong. He spoils me with so much love and patience like that. I genuinely love him and I don’t plan on putting him to a test, especially when I know all too well the misfortune of not having people who love you or have your best interests at heart.

I already know the happiness won’t last and there are some difficult times coming up. In fact, there’s one I’ve been aware of for a very long time. But I’ll have to face it when it comes and knowing I have the above, I’m not afraid of it anymore because it’s not a problem I created. For now, however, I’ll simply enjoy the joy ride.

Favorites of 2016

I keep coming back to this blog and finding I have so little I want to write about.

My life hasn’t really changed in any huge way. There are no news or articles I really want to discuss. There’s nothing nagging my mind or that I’ve been deep in thought about. Same old aggravations, same general routine, and all. I’m not unhappy about that. I simply don’t want to talk about it all the time.

So, I’ll do this. I’ll end my blog posts for 2016 with my favorite things of this year. If I come up with something else to talk about, I’ll post it, but for now, I’m considering this my last post of the year.

  • Movies. This year, I saw Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Storks, and Moana in theaters. Moana was my most favorite because it was an awesome movie and the very first Disney Princess movie I ever got to see in theaters. My least favorite was Storks. It was a cool movie, but it had a very annoying character throughout it that I personally didn’t find funny.
  • My job. This one is probably as obvious as crystal clear glass. I finally got my very first job and was finally making some money of my own. I confess I’ve done the typical thing and spent my money almost as soon as I got it, but only once have I spent all of it. I’ve been much more careful since and I try to never let my bank account fall under $100. This was the first year I was able to buy Christmas presents and that felt great!
  • Travel. I hate traveling, but to be with my boyfriend makes the trips worth it. Since I started working, we’ve gotten together almost weekly instead of monthly like we used to. For me, that’s the best reward of having this job. Of course, being who he is, he’s not letting me pay for everything. One thing I told him long before I got a job was I would never let him go hungry on any night if I could help it. He thought I was kidding, but I meant it. I have to argue with him to get him to take just $10 for food if he needs it. I appreciate he’s so grateful and won’t take advantage of me, but he knows I hate him going hungry. I was also finally able to bring him to my house once. No, my family didn’t meet him, but I was glad I could finally show him my room. My bed is too small for us, though. He was more content on the rug. 😛
  • Pokémon. First off, I loved the year-long giveaway for the 20th anniversary! I got every one! I’ll never use them, but I love collecting, so I’m so glad I didn’t miss out. Meloetta and Manaphy are my favorites. Sun and Moon come after. Although I still have some small gripes, the games have not disappointed me. I think my favorite feature is Poké Pelago. I also question if the games really do cater more to kids. Sure, it seems so on the outside, but the games are really darker than any previous game has ever been. I’m almost willing to bet the creators did that on purpose. Make the games seem too easy at first, only to later shock the players with the real difficulty. And it is hard! Something I’m doing in S&M that I’ve never done in any game I played before is using the X items. It’s either that or all the bosses kill me. Well played, Pokémon Company. Well played.

I’ve been considering trying to get my driver’s license if I keep my job after the seasonal period. I don’t have a car to drive, but I think it’ll be nice to have it my license is all. Then, if and when I do have a car for myself, I’ll have getting the license out of the way.

2015 brought me a wonderful partner and 2016 brought me a great job. I’m hoping 2017 will bring something good as well, although I imagine there’ll be some heartbreak before it comes.

A Different Perspective

For the most part, I like going to work. Maybe not the actual “work” part of it (who does?) because it is tedious, but I like being around my co-workers and getting out of the house every once in a while. They’ve been slowly increasing my hours, and I think they did it well. They started me off with 10 hours a week. Then, they gradually increased it until it was 19 hours for a while. Now, I’ve been working over 20 hours per week as of late. Granted, in one case, that was due to being called in because another person called out and I accepted, but besides that, the hours have been scheduled for me.

However, there’s one particular thing at my job I really appreciate.

I’ve talked about my family plenty of times on this blog. Sometimes, it’s been positive, but most of the time, it hasn’t. Most of my family members are very judgmental people who make me feel like I live in an eternal high school. They criticize the tiniest things, and I don’t mean only myself. It goes without saying I’ve struggled with my self-esteem most, if not all, of my life. I don’t believe I had any esteem until my late teen years, and while that was partially due to over a decade of school bullying, my family was worse than any bully ever was.

At my job, it’s the total opposite. Not only is there no judgment, but much of the time, I’m discouraged from being hard on myself. I’m told to relax and go slowly. I feel guilty and incompetent when I make mistakes, but instead of being yelled at or criticized, I’m simply told it happens and to be a little more careful. If I need help, I get it without hesitation. I had a customer get angry with me because I didn’t know the answer to a question. One of my co-workers told me not to be bothered by it.

It’s not only the other cashiers who do this. The supervisors are the same. One supervisor outright told me to my face, “You’re human. You’ll make mistakes.” He then proceeded to tell me about much worse mistakes previous cashiers have made, that, in my opinion, sounded like there was no way they could’ve been mistakes. This same supervisor had previously told me about customers attempting to return items that belonged to other stores not of the company’s.

I love the lax attitude and it really does help me feel good about how I perform at my job. At the same time, it feels so strange. I’m so used to being criticized for something as small as the color of my headband, it feels odd to not be told off for mistakes I do make. The person at my job who kicks myself most for screwing up is me. Staying calm about it is easier said than done.

I do try to learn from my mistakes and figure out something that’ll prevent it next time. Most of my mistakes, ironically, are a result of me working too fast because I feel self-conscious and like the customer feels impatient when I work slowly. To be fully honest, I’m surprised I’m even capable of holding down this job. Being a cashier is by no means the most difficult job on Earth, but as someone who’d never held a job before, it was nerve-wracking to me. Of course, now, it’s another part of my weekly routine. I feel like I’m going to miss it when the seasonal period is over. Or, more specifically, I’ll miss my co-workers.