This is not a personal-life rut. No, in fact, today is the six-month anniversary of the day I married My American. We said our vows in front of a handful of friends, pledging to hold each other’s hand along this journey called life.
It’s a career rut. And I’m not sure how long I’ve been here.
A happy retail worker … so not me.
A brief history
I had the world by the balls a few years ago, before I got laid off from a major telecommunications corporation in Canada. It’s been a struggle ever since.
I couldn’t find work in Calgary. The bubble had burst for people in the communications industry and companies were looking for people who would, and could, work for less. As a single mother of one aging Maremma sheepdog with health issues, it was difficult to make shortcuts.
A job was available at my old newspaper. I went back to B.C. but that job didn’t last. The individual I was replacing came back from leave and nothing was available. It didn’t matter. The newspaper printed its last edition less than a year later.
Then came the nadir of my writing career. OK, it wasn’t that bad. I enjoyed the job. I managed the blog and social media content for a job search website.
I had no real office. My desk was in the basement of the boss’s house. I could hear him toot in the bathtub every morning at 11 a.m. He was crass and threatened to fire me on a regular basis.
“You don’t seem the type to put with that bullshit,” you think. It’s true. I’m normally not. My ego took such a hit with the lack of response to my resume that I felt there was nowhere else.
And after a few months, My American and I decided it was time to move me to the States, get married and make me an American.
I endured, knowing the job had a certain expiration date.
I gardened. I cooked. I baked. I spent a lot of time with our puppy, Bella.
I got cabin fever. I got frustrated. I was falling into a rut.
I took a job in retail.
Oh no, you read that correctly. I took a job in retail.
I told my department manager during my interview that I wanted to learn about customer service from the inside. I wanted to see what it was like to be in the trenches, an opportunity to hone my understanding and see social media use from another angle.
I quit on Friday, handing in my two weeks notice.
I suck at customer service. It’s the worst job I’ve had since I worked at McDonald’s when I was 16. I laughed as I flipped through the most recent edition of The Inlander, a Spokane newspaper, in which its employees recounted their worst jobs.
People — not all of them — are terrible. They’re rude. They toss clothes on the floor, they rummage through carefully folded jeans on a table and leave them in disarray, they grunt at workers who open fitting room doors for you.
One customer was displeased that we asked her to place the clothes she didn’t want back on a hanger and bring them out to us at the front.
We were reprimanded.
For doing our job.
For doing our job in the way we are instructed by our manager and by the theft management department.
We must sign customers up for the corporate credit card. We must ask to send receipts to their email addresses under the guise of “easy returns or exchanges” but it’s really to sign them up for the email marketing campaigns.
It isn’t all bad. Some of the women I work with are terrific (even one or two of the Millennials are bearable). I’ve come across customers who make me laugh, giving extra love to the Canadians who update me on the weather and politics in Calgary.
I work my ass off. I make sure the floor is as clean as possible. I make sure the clothes are hung right side out and neatly on the racks. I make sure no clothes are on the floor or strewn about haphazardly.
It’s physical labour, exhausting and at times painful, for not a lot of money.
It’s been two months of horrible.
One of the lucky ones
My American has encouraged me on a regular basis to quit.
He says there’s no point in being miserable for a part-time job that doesn’t make a dent in the bill payments.
I am fortunate. I don’t have to work.
I took the job to get out of the house.
I took the job to feel like I was contributing to the house and to feel like I had value.
It made me feel worse about myself. I’ve been grumpy and short with My American and Bella. I’ve been tired (one night I passed out after dinner and didn’t wake up until 15 hours later). I’ve been getting migraines again, something I blame on the blasted bright lights at the store.
I stopped doing my hair. I stopped putting makeup on to go to work. All my cute clothes — including the ones I’ve added with my employee discount — stayed hanging in the closet.
In two weeks, I’ll be unemployed again.
But I’m not digging deeper this time.
I’m screwing up my courage to find something on my career path. But it won’t be just anything. It will be somewhere that I feel worth, somewhere I can contribute, and somewhere that will pay me enough to feel like I’m contributing at home.
And I’m climbing out of the rut by taking better care of myself. I’m eating better, dressing better and bothering to brush my hair instead of pulling it back with a headband or into a ponytail.
I’m going to do one small thing a day that makes me feel good about me.
It could be 30 minutes of yoga. It could be a run. It could be an exploring road trip with Bella and my camera. It could be writing more and working on improving my photography.
It could be anything. Just something.
Because it’s just as important for me to find value in me and my everyday life as it is for an employer to.