Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Settling for Less

I once went on a date with a guy who went off on a rant about all the reasons he disagreed with the Catholic Church. This was after I told him that I was Catholic. I didn't say, "Well, enjoy hell then, sinner." I did try to defend my religion, but I admit that I didn't respond as well as I could have; I was caught off guard by what he said. But I don't feel like I should have to defend Catholicism, especially not on a date.

I used to know some people my age who went to church every day. A couple of them criticized me because I only went to Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation. I didn't feel like I had to defend myself to them either, and I didn't like feeling like I had to.

Side note: I'd like to dedicate Sarah Bareilles' song, "King of Anything" to those holier-than-thou people and that guy. I wish I'd heard that song at the time, so that I could say those lines back to them.

I grew up Catholic and I still practice my religion, but I don't try to pressure anyone to accept my beliefs. I figure everyone has a right to their own beliefs, and as long as we can all find a way to get along in spite of our differences, it's okay.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I did call that guy after the date; in spite of his rant, I thought he seemed like a nice guy. But we didn't go out again. Looking back now, I know that it never would have worked out anyway. I would have been settling for someone whose criticism of my religion made me want to do something very un-Christian to his face just so he would stop talking.

It's easy to make the decision not to "settle" for someone, because we can live without dates and romantic relationships. What we can't live without, however, is money. That means we often have no choice but to settle for jobs that we dislike because we can't support ourselves without the money that comes from those jobs.

Recently I burst into tears in front of my coworkers at my retail job. There wasn't any specific reason why, or maybe it was because of several reasons. I cried because I was so stressed out over having to work almost every day, week after week, because this job was taking up a lot more time than I thought it would. I cried because I was just so tired; I only got to sit down for fifteen minutes during each shift, even if the shift lasted for more than seven or eight hours. I cried because I hadn't had time to do any of the things that were important to me, like write fiction, blog, or work on my dissertation. I cried because I hated this job and I felt trapped.

I could have walked out. I could have gone all Godzilla on the store and knocked all the merchandise off the shelves while growling incoherently and the other customers fled in terror.

But I didn't. I eventually stopped weeping, dried my tears, and went back to work. To make matters worse, a few days later a customer I was helping recognized me. This customer turned out to be one of the popular girls from my high school. She is now married to one of the popular guys, who was with her at the store, along with their young children. She runs her own business now.

I felt embarrassed to be ringing up her purchase, wearing a uniform that was several sizes too big for me, with my hair pointing in several different directions, while she looked very pretty and polished. I didn't tell her about all the things I've done since high school: graduate school, teaching, etc. I felt like I was a sixteen-year-old high school student again on Valentine's Day, when several of the girls were carrying around bouquets of roses that their boyfriends had given them and I was carrying around an armful of books.

I don't know how much longer I can keep working at this job. I haven't had any time off this summer, and even a workaholic like me needs to rest. I'm supposed to turn in a draft of my dissertation to my committee soon, but I haven't been able to work on it in weeks. I come home every day too exhausted to do anything. I got my paycheck recently and it's barely enough to cover half my bills, despite all the hours I worked.

Being so tired and stressed out has also made me feel angry about little things. I feel angry when I go to a coffeehouse and I see freeloaders who are just there for the free Wi-Fi; they don't even bother to buy anything and they hog tables for hours. I feel angry when the bus driver passes my stop even though I'm standing right there, so that I have to go running after it. I feel angry that I applied for a good job that would have allowed me to escape retail, but I was passed over for someone who had about five years less experience than I do. And I don't want to feel so angry, tired, and stressed out all the time.

I still have my website job, and I have a small emergency fund. But to be honest I'm almost tempted to go into credit card debt if that's what it took to escape this job. But I've never quit a paying job before unless I had another job waiting. I've applied for other jobs, but I know that if I got another retail job it'd probably be more of the same thing. It's just that when I think of the rest of the summer being like this, I'm afraid that I might lose it at work again. And I'm not so sure that I'm willing to settle for a job that makes me so unhappy just so I can get paid.

Have you ever quit a job before? Have you ever kept working at a job that you disliked? What would you do if you were in my situation?


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  2. I've done that, too--think about a meaningful comeback a little bit after the fact!

    I can relate far too well to what you're going through concerning your retail job. Think of it as only a temporary job. One day/evening you'll walk out of there & won't return. You'll find something else, a job that you really love. A job that you can look forward to going to.

    I've had jobs like that. Jobs that lasted for a few hours per day but seemed like a week. Customers who didn't even notice you. But I always knew that no matter what, those jobs wouldn't last forever even if they seemed that way at the time. Now I can look back at 'em & laugh.

  3. I've never quit a job unless I had another one lined up or was going back to school. I have turned down shifts or moved to a job with less hours in the interest of saving my sanity though. There is no reason to work so many hours that it makes you cry.

    Granted, I'm many grand in credit card debt. But I don't regret a thing.

  4. Hahaha...I agree, I don't think you should ever have to defend your religion on a first date. I can imagine it:

    "Would you like to share desert?"

    "No, not until you dissect the beatitudes with me..no sooner..no later.."

    Everyone knows that's best left for the second date...

    At any rate, I know what it's like to work jobs you hate. But you should definitely make time for yourself. Also, if you're perfectly miserable, if you reevaluate, there's usually a new path that opens up. Hang in there!

  5. Hi notesfromnadir,
    I'm looking forward to my last day on the job, whenever that will be. I'm going to try and save money so that I can leave the job sooner rather than later. I hope that someday I will find a job that I love, and I also hope that someday comes sooner rather than later.

    Hi mmarinaa,
    I've decided to work fewer hours at this job. It'll mean less money, but I really need a break.

    Hi Paige,
    I've been applying for other jobs. I'm not sure if I'll get one before the summer ends, but I figure it's worth a shot. Maybe a new path will open up.

  6. Your sanity is more important than this job. Are there any temp jobs available in your area? Temp jobs sometimes suck more than retail (not that this is any consolation) but they tend to pay more and you get to wear professional attire and not touristy outfits.

    I feel your pain. We don't get funding over the summer. Everyone I know either works short hours as a research assistant or other drone, or they take out loans. A small few get to teach.

    Are you going on the job market this year? I'm hopeful there will be more openings than there were the past two years.

  7. Hi Anna,
    I applied to a few temp agencies; one of them said they could hire me because I didn't have any administrative experience. I think that graduate programs should help out students in some way during the summer rather than leave them to fend for themselves. That way, the students could have time to work on their research rather than spend most of their time working low-paying jobs.
    I'm not going on the job market this year, but hopefully things will look up by the time I do.

  8. I wish I had some words of advice but all I can say is good luck, You're in a difficult situation that will end some day. It will end.

  9. Hi Libby,
    Thank you. It feels like the end is still a long way off, but I guess the important thing is that it will end. I just wish that I had time to enjoy the summer, especially because it's the one time of year where I can go outside without freezing.

  10. Oh honey, I've been there. It's never easy. We all just do the best we can.

    Please never think less of yourself because you're working retail at the moment. In this ecomomy, it could be any one of us, including the popular girl at some point. Keep your head up. <3.

  11. Hi Katie,
    Thank you for the encouragement. I'd always had this fear that one of the popular kids from high school would see me at one of my retail jobs, and then it actually happened. I just wish she had seen me at my grad school or when I was teaching.

  12. Where to begin...

    That guy sounds like a jerk. I'm an ex-Catholic turned Jewish, and I would never do that to anyone. I actually am very turned off by people who bash or push their religions. It's very personal.

    I am so sorry you're stressed, overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated. I am even more sorry that you don't have time to rest, relax, write fiction, and finish that dissertation. Not fair.

    How I feel for you about running into someone from high school. I didn't go to my 10th reunion because I was scared of looking lame.

    But you know what you've accomplished. You know how close you are to the end. You only saw her outside appearance just like she saw yours. Little consolation, I know.

    I don't know if credit card debt is the answer for you. I don't know what the answer is. Graduate school has got to be one of the hardest "careers" to choose. We don't know it going into it.

    If you want to feel any better, read my post. I have 10 years on you, and I'm a giant mess.

    Take care. Whatever you decide, I'm rooting for you.

  13. Hi Theresa,
    Sorry it took me so long to respond to your comment; I always get comments on my blog e-mailed to me but for some reason your comment was sent to my spam folder. I don't know why since your comments have been sent to my regular inbox before.
    Anyway, thank you for your encouragement; it really helps. Graduate school is definitely one of the hardest careers. All the grad students I've talked to said that they had this image of what it would be like before they started; that image contrasted sharply with what it was really like.
    I don't know if credit card debt is the answer either. But on the other hand, this job takes up a lot more time than it's worth, and I especially don't like sacrificing my graduate work because of it.
    For what it's worth, I don't think you're a mess. I think that you're a very dedicated teacher who genuinely cares about her students, and I think that there should be more teachers like you.