So ends my first week at my new workplace. I’ve had a long, troubled history with employment. She’s a fickle master. She wants everything from you, your time, your energy, your skills, and your very essence and yet she returns so little. We work our days away in cubicles or in the harsh weather, before hot stoves or constantly on our feet to afford the luxuries of a house, amenities, transport and possibly that short lived holiday. Our livelihoods are so attached and dependent on our income that to have none, is to not have a life. I’ve always been a worker. From the age of fourteen I found employment in a local Chinese restaurant and quickly advanced my position to that of head waitress, despite my age. I blitzed through the hospitality career path and found myself in management by my nineteenth birthday. I was a star worker. I arrived early, stayed back late, filled in other’s shifts whenever asked and always cut my breaks short. Naturally, my good nature was abused and my age became a problem.
At eighteen I was required a higher wage and as I grew older, I legally required a full adult wage, but despite having managerial experience, I was considered too young by most to be a manager. I was too skilled to be a waitress or barista. I had some potential employers question whether I would become bored in a position like that, but management was never really an option. Why take a twenty-something-year-old when they could take an adult who had chosen this as their career path and had ten plus years in that role or a thirteen year old they hardly had to pay?
I had no other experiences that seemed to matter. My positions in the temporary office world did not amount to the desirable experience of an office worker and my skills and qualifications as an emergency medical responder were handy, but a career they did not make unless I wanted to continue with paramedical science. I did not. Whilst I have never been the squeamish type and was quite apt at the job, my heart wasn’t in it and I doubted my ability to cope with the high stress and often dangerous lifestyle of the working paramedic.
I was in between a rock and a hard place. The most menial of tasks were deemed insufficient for my experiences, but possible advancement within my skill set was not possible. Rent, bills and just living in general became the hardest thing in the world to cope with. At just twenty years old, I thought my life was over. Aided by some bad situations and people, I slipped into a deep depression. Eventually someone would say yes to me, yes, you have the job, but it never lasted long. I left a retail job that hardly paid the rent for a restaurant job. Despite being a trained barista, the owner refused to allow me on the coffee machine and despite stating I was there for morning shifts only, I ended up working nights, double shifts and full, very long days. That restaurant had a high-turn-over rate, as I soon found out. I was there for a few months before he decided he wanted fresh blood. He called me at 5:30am as I was waiting for the bus to come to work and told me simply that I no longer had a job. He wouldn’t tell me why. A month later I was offered a managerial position. The patisserie was staffed fulltime, by children. On wages of about $12 an hour, it only took three months for the owners to realize what a full adult wage cost. I was relieved of my position. It took months to find another place willing to give me a chance, despite some wonderful references from former employers. At this time in my life I was living with my parents again and fighting my last real estate agent for my bond in court as they tried every dirty trick in the book to take advantage of a young couple. Eventually we won this fight, but teamed with the difficulty of finding work, my spirit was dust.
Finally I was offered one position and then, just a week after working there, they decided they had hired too many people and didn’t need me. Last in, first out. I ended up taking this workplace to the Department of Consumer Protection as they refused to pay me for the week. It was three months later that I was offered another position. This one lasted quite some time. The other staff members were lovely, the work varied and my boss was a truly wonderful woman. When I look back on this now, I kick myself for leaving this position for the promise of something better. I was offered a managerial role with another company, a full time contract and nationally recognised certificates. It should have been great. I should have been able to earn my house deposit and finally stop struggling, but that was not the case. The company reneged on the contract, the customers were the most abusive I have every encountered and I was severely taken for granted. It was after my third week of twelve hour shifts, where I was told I was only allowed one lunch break and the manager complained to head office that she could not handle the store as it was, with so many staff numbers down, despite her rarely being in the store and leaving it all to me, that I quit. Luckily I had another position lined up, or so I thought. After a month managing a gorgeous little coffee shop, with so many plans and dreams, the owner decided he wasn’t turning enough of a profit and could manage the store himself. I was let go on my birthday. A few months later I was approached by a friend and asked to work for his small business. Only a month or two ago, that company folded. I was heartbroken.
The prospect of job hunting again crushed me. I’m not a teary eyed person, but I cried long and hard. I was a failure. I couldn’t hold down a job. I couldn’t support myself and I became a financial burden to my partner. I hated myself. I was useless. There was an episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ where Marshall was attending interviews. He started out excited with a mantra to keep him motivated, “You are confident, you are energetic. You are focused”. After many failed interviews he began to compromise, “You are flexible on salary. You are willing to compromise. And you’re not going to cry this time”. Then, after countless more, his will was breaking, “You are sad. You are beaten down. You will get through, come home, get in your big underpants, and take a nap.” My heart broke when I saw this. I was in the same position. I wanted interviews, because interviews meant the possibility of work, but each interview left me more and more despondent. My depression became worse, my anxiety heightened and my stress levels were through the roof. I didn’t want to move from my position on the couch. I didn’t want to put clothes on. I didn’t want to eat anything. I didn’t even want to bathe. For me, a shower is bliss, so to not even want to do this was really an insight to how lowly I had fallen. I didn’t want to try anymore.
For so long I had invested my time, energy and heart into work. I had trusted my superiors and welcomed each day with a smile and a kind word. Now, it took everything I had to roll out of bed, let alone dress myself for another interview. My soul was crushed. My spirit destroyed. I had given up.
When I was interviewed for this job, I felt good. That didn’t say very much though, I had felt good before. I hoped I had impressed and tried not to monitor my phone, waiting for that acceptance call. When I received the confirmation that I had the job, I was ecstatic. Full time work with a contract, sick days, annual leave, finally, my troubles were over. They had been over before though and I was wary. I’ve been here for a week now. Part of me wants to throw myself into it, smiles, cheers, faith…but part of me remembers and awaits the impending doom. I hope that does not occur. I hope this is finally the place that I can rest for a while, learn to breathe again and perhaps establish just what living comfortably means. This is a new chance. Please, please, let this be it.