As was the situation for most people, nearly a year ago COVID shut the country down and as a result, I lost my job. At the time it was a blessing in disguise. I took the opportunity to re-evaluate my values and my goals. I took the time to focus on myself. And overall the first few months of unemployment were really good for me. I started meditating and working out. I was the least stressed, happiest, and strongest I had been in a long time. I found new hobbies. I learned to build things and how to garden. I took on new interests like meditation and sustainability. I started reading again!
And professionally I had time to take the time to update my resume and learn how to write a good cover letter. I finally had the freedom and the time to seek out and apply for jobs in industries that really excited me.
I even made it really far in the application process for some dream opportunities of mine.
The only problem was, the entire country found themselves in the same boat as I was. A lot of companies downsized or shut down. And that meant a lot of people were looking to fill the few opportunities that were out there, but I didn’t let that get to me, not at first. I told myself not to be too hard on myself that “everyone” was in the same boat as me and that I was qualified and an asset and I just needed to be patient.
But then the year started to come to a close and I still hadn’t found anything and finances were getting scary. I had to do something, so I decided I’d apply for a regular hourly job. Something in retail maybe.
The only problem, everyone else had the same thought as I did and I, unfortunately, had no experience and was “overqualified.”
I never worked in retail or fast food. In college, I spent a few months at a movie theater, a month working at a Santa set, and a summer at DQ, but for the most part, since I started working, I’ve been in an office. In college, I worked as a tutor and admin assistant and after college, I went right into a professional internship and then straight into office jobs.
I applied everywhere around me, any retail store (that’s including places like Home Depot) within a 5-10 mile radius of my house and I got one interview. ONE.
Luckily that single interview turned into an offer, but I was not prepared for what was going to take place next, psychologically.
Before I continue with my experience, I want to make a note here that I don’t think there is anything wrong with working in retail or fast food. I have friends and family members working and supporting their families that way and it’s not an easy job. The hours can suck and it can be exhausting. I am not judging or putting down anyone who has or currently is working in retail or fast food, no matter the circumstance or situation that led them there. This is just my personal experience and I’m not proud of myself.
I was fine all through the interview and hiring process. I was happy to be getting an opportunity, it had become clear how hard finding any kind of work was going to be. I was thankful I was going to have any sort of income.
Everyone I spoke with and worked with throughout the hiring process was amazing, things were going good and then I went to my orientation and I guess the situation hit me.
I kept it together throughout the orientation and then got in my car and proceeded to cry my entire way home.
I then had about a week or two off before my official start date and I pushed all of it out of my mind. I didn’t think about my new job at all, I couldn’t.
Then my start date came and I cried the entire way to work. I composed myself in the car and then started my day. After work, I got in my car and cried all the way home and then I cried for a good couple hours at home. And this process went on for probably two weeks, maybe more.
I was miserable and I couldn’t wrap my head around my situation.
This whole thing is hard for me to put into words, and I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I don’t know how to explain how I was feeling and I don’t want anything I say to be taken wrong. But this was a really difficult thing for me and given the current employment situation in the country, I don’t think I’m alone in my experience. I’m hoping that by writing this, I, one, hope I’ll be able to not only make some sense of how I was feeling but be able to work through it some more and two, hopefully, someone out there will read this and be able to relate as well. I know I felt, and still sometimes feel, very alone in what I was going through and I felt very guilty for feeling how I felt.
Every day that I came home from work I couldn’t stop the thoughts running through my head like, “You’re going to turn 30, broke and working at ###.” or “You’re almost 30 and you already failed at your career.” or worse, “So what good is your college degree?” Taking this job, this job that I desperately needed left me feeling like the biggest loser ever and I hated that. I wanted to be proud that I was working, that I was figuring out a way to get by, but all I could think about was how it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
All I could think about was how a less than a year ago I was working with Buzzfeed personalities and mommy bloggers. Or how two years ago I was living in Hawaii, in my own apartment just a block from the beach. I kept thinking about how great things had been and I couldn’t help feeling like I had fallen so far and now my life was so off track and I felt like I needed to blame myself. I didn’t know what I was blaming myself for or what I had done wrong, but I felt like somewhere along the line I made a bad decision and now working at ### was the best I could do.
Even though I had always said when I found myself between jobs, “well if things get bad I’ll go apply at X,Y or Z.” and I’d never thought there was anything wrong with working at these jobs, now that I found myself there it felt wrong. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And knowing that I was embarrassed and ashamed felt just as bad as the feelings themselves.
I didn’t even tell anyone I got the job. It was over a month before I even started letting anyone know and a lot of people are probably going to find out by reading this.
I started hating myself for being there, for being in that situation, and hating myself for hating myself.
It was this cycle of self hate and discouragement that I couldn’t break.
Then Steven passed away.
And then I got COVID.
And now here we are.
The job was supposed to be seasonal, but I guess I’m actually pretty good at it and they decided to keep me on. So, I’m still working at ###.
I want to say that I’m better. I want to give some inspirational advice on how I got over this and how I’m better now, but I can’t and I’m not.
I’m getting better, but I’m not better.
Just writing this, I realized how raw a lot of these feelings still are. Just sharing the things I thought in the beginning brought back tears, so clearly I’m still working on this.
I don’t cry every day, I actually rarely cry over work now. But, I also can’t say I’m happy or even ok with where I’m at. It’s a process, and I’m trying very hard to get better and be better and it’s working little by little every day.
So what changed or what am I doing? Well first off, time. Working retail, with a much lower pay than I was used to, strange hours and an ever changing schedule was a shock to my system. It’s now been a few months and well that just doesn’t feel as weird any more. I’m still really bad at it, but I’m getting better at working out a daily routine that can accommodate my every changing schedule and that has done wonders for my mentality.
Besides time, it has been a lot of positive self talk and positive thinking. The main one, I remind myself that it’s a job and it’s income and a lot of people right now aren’t even lucky enough to have that. I also remind myself that this is just a bump in the road and that I wasn’t super happy on the path I was on, and although this is the road I’m on now it’s just a temporary detour. I keep reminding myself that I was successful and I am talented and with time I will find my way back to a company in position more aligned with where I see myself.
And lastly, I’m just trying to be happy. I’m trying to smile more and look on the bright side of things. Trying to make the most of the situation.