validation

I joined a dating site (again) because I’m bored and a masochist, apparently. This morning I had the pleasure of speaking with Drew. Drew asked me a couple questions about the software engineering degree I’m pursuing, whether or not I was at work and who this man is in one of the Instagram pictures on my profile. I had initiated the conversation because he mentioned he was plant based in his profile and vegetarians and vegans love meeting other vegetarians and vegans and talking about it. By the time he asked about the mysterious man in the picture (my brother, btw), he expressed I wasn’t giving him much to work off of when I said it was a weird question to ask who the man is. He said he was grasping at thin air, trying to find something to talk about.

The way I understand how conversations work, one person asks a question or makes a statement, the other responds to you and the conversation builds; dialogue 101. Drew, however, asked me random questions that didn’t relate to each other and thus the conversation did not flow and it was difficult to build any deeper conversation. It was more like a job interview than an actual conversation. Still, I thought it was going fine until he really lost his cool with the brother question. At that point he called me a “minimum wage loser” for working at Whole Foods (WF) and staying in bed till 10:30 AM on my day off.

It goes without saying that Drew is in fact, an ass hole. I do not understand this idea that your value as a person is wrapped up entirely by what you do for money. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I continue to go deeper into the software engineering program and work more at WF.

I have had a lot of jobs since I started working when I was 16. Since I graduated from college 8 years ago, I have had 6 different jobs. I have been an account manager, a paralegal assistant, an office assistant, customer service representative, a dishwasher and a cook (to be fair the last 2 have been at the same company). I have hated all of those office jobs for various reasons. I hated dealing with the 9 – 5 traffic, I hated sitting at a desk, I hated staring at a screen all day,  I hated that I was completely and totally bored by these jobs and what I hated most was that I felt like I was wasting my life away and wasting my intellect on things I felt completely disconnected from. Everything about these jobs was designed to increase profit and that is what I chased at every one of them and I hated it.

Of course, I understand that a business needs to make a profit to function. However, my job at WF is to make food. It needs to taste good and look good so people will buy it but the goal of the profit is more or less removed from the actual practice of my day to day life. I can talk to cool people all day, or listen to music and get lost in my own thoughts. My best ideas for poems and stories and art come when I’m at work and can let my mind wander.

Drew made a lot of assumptions about me, based on his insecurities about himself. He thinks I’m a loser and unmotivated to better myself because I work in the service industry. To Drew, people who work service jobs aren’t smart enough or work hard enough to “make it” in more glamours fields. It didn’t occur to him, that I chose to work at a grocery store and it wasn’t because it was the only job I could get. It didn’t matter to him, that I had tried his lifestyle for many years and every time it made me completely miserable. I gained weight at these jobs and had anxiety dreams almost every night about being late to work. Some weekends I couldn’t even relax because I was too anxious about Monday. I would take a vacation and still be expected to be available if someone needed something in the office. I was never in charge of my time, at these jobs.

I’ve been struggling with whether or not I want to continue with software engineering because I know it’s going to put me back at a desk, surrounded by more Drew’s.  I know I’m going to be so mentally exhausted, that I won’t paint or write. Since I started at WF, I created this blog and made active efforts to maintain it, I’m doing more art, I’m more social and engaged with the world, I’ve lost 20 lbs and have started working on other bigger projects. I’m networking with more people who inspire me with my projects and set my mind ablaze. These are huge positive changes.

I’m scared, however. I’m scared of people like Drew who think I don’t have any value because I work at a grocery store. I’m scared of disappointing my inner circle that thinks I’m destined for great things and my grandma who wants me to be an executive because, in her time, women didn’t do that. Drew is scared too because Drew is unhappy and insecure about his own life. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have felt the need to degrade a stranger on a dating app for no reason. He wouldn’t need to judge people’s income if he truly felt secure in his own. I’m sure Drew’s life seems excellent on the outside but he’s deeply unfulfilled and that’s what happens when you work a job that doesn’t have any value to you. The difference between me and Drew, however, is that I am finding the courage to jump over that fear and be in a place that allows me to pursue the things that make me excited about the world.

I don’t know what I’ll do with my education. It’s interesting to me and I can certainly become a freelance programmer as a side hustle if I felt so inclined to do so. What I do know, is that I haven’t felt this free in a very long time. Is my job perfect? no. Are there days I do kind of hate it? Of course. Does the good outweigh those days though? Absolutely. Drew will always be unhappy because Drew is living a life he doesn’t actually want, even if he can’t admit it to himself. I may never have the executive career my grandma wants for me and it’s very possible I will disappoint my entire family by building a career at a grocery store but what they don’t understand is that maybe then, I’ll be able to fly.

 – Neptune

having a REAL job

I’ve had a lot of jobs since I entered the workforce when I was 16. I’ve worked everything from fast food to evictions, to tech support. I struggle immensely with working and I’m sure I’m not alone. It isn’t that I don’t like to work, it’s that I feel like every job I have is a waste of my time and intellect.

I know it’s a millennial thing to want meaning in your work and I realize that we can’t all have really cool jobs that are deeply meaningful. That’s not to say, of course, that what I find meaningless is equally meaningless to someone else. I just can’t stand the idea of spending 40 hours a week, roughly a quarter of my time doing something that doesn’t matter. When I worked in the call center, I recall sitting there asking myself am I going to just sit here at this desk, getting yelled at by people who don’t know what a power button is, for the rest of my life? I don’t know how anyone can stand it and I truly give people in call centers mad props for dealing with the psychosis of the general public.

Maybe it doesn’t bode well for me, that I’ve only held 2 jobs, longer than a year since I graduated college. My first big girl job out of college was doing evictions at a property management company. As you can imagine, the work was rather unpleasant. No one wants to tell someone they have to get out of their house. It’s the only job I ever been fired from and in retrospect, I wasn’t a very good employee. I made an effort but I was young, inexperienced and under qualified. I worked there for about 3 years.

Then, the next significant position I held, for 2 years, was a call center doing tech support for cable TV. This is the 2nd worst job I’ve ever had (next to McDonald’s). I was well on my way to gaining a position in leadership but ultimately, I couldn’t wrap my head around that being my life. I once decided to follow money over passion and I’ve regretted it ever since. Was I going to stay doing work that was deeply unsatisfying just because it paid well?

So I quit. I was living in Florida then and decided to move back in with my dad (because I’m a millennial) and go back to school. I’m oversimplifying for the sake of not boring you to tears. I should note, it’s significantly easier for me to uproot my life when I find it’s not working for me; I don’t have any kids, I’m unmarried, I don’t have any assets like a house, that I have to consider. I do have credit card debt and student loan debts which to be honest, that’s a post in and of itself and I’m not going to spend any time with that. The point is, I’ve chosen to build my life in a manner that allows me the freedom to figure out what’s going to be satisfying.

I decided to go back to school. Since I have the aforementioned student loan debt, I opted to not take on more debt, and pay for school out of pocket (hence living with my dad). It occurred to me, I was more or less reaching the end of my skills. I knew customer service really well but other than making a movie (what my B.A. is in) or talking about books, I lacked any meaningful skills that would allow me to break out of the customer service mumbo jumbo. Why not get new skills, then? I opted for a job that has a relatively high turn over and something that won’t be dramatic when I do find a position my aligned with my long-term goals. I work at Whole Foods.

Now, I opted for a place that I don’t really have to invest in. I care about my job and make efforts to be good at it, but ultimately, I know this is just a stepping stone. My family does not understand why I opted for a $15/hr position at a grocery store when I can easily do any number of real jobs that pay significantly less and have more stress.

That’s what my dad said to me today when I mentioned I don’t normally work 5 days in a row and that I was tired. What are you going to do when you get a real job? was the response I was met with. As if I don’t already have a job. My family is always telling me about such and such place and I can’t justify working somewhere that isn’t going to matter to me, once I’m done with round 2 of school. Like I can’t justify allowing a company to invest me when I’m not going to invest in them unless it’s something I really want to do. They don’t seem to understand, I’m in a transition phase of life.

The reality is, not everyone can work their dream job. I’m probably not going to be an actor and maybe I’ll get paid to write one day but writers aren’t known for being millionaires. Does that mean I’m going to stop trying to get my dream job? Of course not, but we still need people to work at grocery stores or pick up trash or any number of jobs in the service industry and I don’t think it’s healthy to look down on these people or act like they don’t have a real job.

Those are my thoughts for today. Until tomorrow, friends!