A few weeks ago, for my NYRIcan in LA column, I wrote about how my retail gig in a major department store necessitated an additional shift in my identity and how unhappy that makes me. What I didn’t share was just how unhappy it really makes me. Last week I spent nearly an entire morning sobbing before heading into downtown for another shift. This morning, I cried again while having a conversation with my pareja about my limited options as a college dropout and my frustration at seeing others get jobs I feel qualified for.
My pareja blames my lack of focus since I moved to Los Angeles and he’s right in some sense. The truth is that I feel like now I juggling more than I did when I was single back in NYC. There’s more housework including laundry and cooking. More house responsibilities like repairs which means more house costs to pay exterminators, electricians, gardeners, contractors. I work anywhere from 22-35 hours a week in retail earning a dollar an hour more than California minimum wage. I write a column twice a month and contribute five to six posts a month to a political blog. I tutor 2-5 hours a week. I pay for the bulk of the groceries, the house gas bill, and student loan debt from a college I dropped out of. I care for my two kids the best I can, trying to keep up with their homework assignments and sending the youngest to an after school program so I can work later shifts. There are many nights I come home and the younger one is already asleep. Yes, I am very distracted and the truth is I’m also very depressed.
I don’t expect a ton of sympathy. As my pareja points about often, most people hate their jobs. And I’m very privileged. I live in a house. I have access to food. I am relatively healthy. But yes I would like some sympathy or at the very least some understanding and support. The truth is that I feel like I am doing less writing than ever. My loyalties are stretched thin with work and family relationships taking priority. But I remember when blogging was right up there. When I considered it work even if I wasn’t getting paid. I remember when with less I felt like I did more, including volunteer work. Now I feel like I have more but am getting less.
I see projects like Fem Future and lifestyle bloggers getting non-profit gigs while I get passed over for a local writing gigs and non-profit work that would leave me feeling more human than retail work does. And it makes me feel horrible. Like no matter how much work I have done online, for magazines, websites etc, it’s still not good enough because I don’t have a college degree.
The other day a customer I was ringing up told me, “I know times are tough but you shouldn’t be here,”. I wanted to kiss him and slap him at the same time. He was right. I shouldn’t be there but not because I’m any better than any of my co-workers and certainly not better than my mother who raised my sister and I while working retail, only just retiring less than a year ago. I’m no better than some of my dear friends who work retail. I just don’t want to be there.
Retail kills my energy and brain cells. I will admit to not wanting to write about an eight hour shift on my feet. In fact I don’t want to do anything after working. I especially don’t want to talk to people after making small talk, making change, and taking payments with a forced smile. I can see why my mother and so many others zone out in front of the tv after work. Anything to escape until the next shift begins.
But there I am and there I will be until something “better” comes along that hopefully will make me happier or at the very least cry a little less.