Three years ago today, I started my current job. It was a very bittersweet day for me, so now, as I’m on the precipice of new ventures, I thought I’d reflect a bit on these past few years—they’ve been a whirlwind!
In May 2014, I left my job managing a small coffeeshop in a neighboring town. It wasn’t the most amicable of partings. Things had been going downhill there for a while—I’d been hired right around my 21st birthday and swiftly promoted to store manager. Unfortunately, it was a brand new business and a new venture for the owners, so we were never able to generate enough traction (or make any sort of profit, really). It has since closed down and reopened as a tapas bar that, by all accounts, is doing phenomenally! I’m so proud that the owners and the team were able to turn it around into something awesome!
i was a literal BABY back then!
Basically, long story short, it was too much responsibility for me at the time. I had just resumed college full-time, and in the two years I worked there I broke up with my ex (twice, yikes), met my (now) husband, and moved to a different town. My personal life was chaotic—but what 21-year-old has it all figured out? I really did my best to devote time and effort into the business (I was handling scheduling, food prep, customer service, the website, social media, health inspections, inventory and ordering—looking back I’m surprised I managed for as long as I did!) but ultimately, I had to prioritize school and my new relationship. It was the best decision I could have made—it led to a marriage and graduate school only a few years later!
making signs was one of the BEST parts of the job
I’m still in contact with a lot of people that worked with me, and it has been so special to watch them all grow over the past few years. There have been quite a few new babies, new houses, new touring bands! Although that job really did a number on me, time has softened a lot of the hurt feelings, and I look back on it all fondly.
After leaving that gig, I was unemployed for a month. I know that doesn’t seem like a long time, but trust me, when you’re 22 and broke, living on your own for the first time, it is super stressful. My (now) husband and parents really stepped up to help support me, and in that brief window, I became extremely close with my husband’s family, a bond I cherish now. I was in a unique, challenging spot: not only was I a full-time student with a restrictive schedule, but I was a bit overqualified for typical retail and food jobs because of my years of experience. I couldn’t start over at minimum wage—there was too much at stake. I needed a job that was super-flexible and paid really well. Pipe dreams.
My (now) father-in-law’s close friend and coworker’s wife, Linda, was a manager at a local retail spot that everybody in the Eastern MA area knows about. He kept telling me to apply, but I was skeptical—I’d had a terrible, if brief, retail experience years before at a very large corporation that shall remain nameless. After weeks and weeks of applying everywhere and getting no responses (summertime is an impossible time to job-hunt because everyone’s home from college!) I finally called Linda and chatted with her about the store and the opportunities there. She was so kind to me then, and remains one of my favorite people in my life. I applied, got hired, and started shortly after the 4th of July.
The plan was to support myself working there until I found something better. Hilarious in retrospect.
My first (real) day was awful. Orientation had been fine, but my first full day of work fell on a Tuesday. The store is closed on Tuesdays to restock, so only a limited staff works, marking down goods and creating new displays. I had no idea what to do and almost no direction. I didn’t bring a lunch because I wasn’t sure if I got a break. I worked 11-5, cried the whole way home, and drank an entire bottle of wine that night (do not recommend). I was panicked: I needed a job, but this didn’t feel like a good fit. I convinced myself to give it another try since that first day was a bit of an anomaly, and it gradually got better and better until I genuinely started to like it. Within three months of starting, I was promoted and given a raise. I was still about $2/hour shy of what I’d been making at my previous job, but the hours were super flexible, and I got to work with a great group of people. The following summer I was promoted again and given more responsibilities.
an early handbag display i put together
Before I knew it, I was engaged, then married, then graduated! Things were in motion! And through all of that, I had my work family rooting for me.
buying my wedding dress with my best friend and my mother-in-law
There have been great moments and truly challenging moments with my current job. Most of the time, there’s a smile on my face when I walk in the door. I really like what I do. But seeing acquaintances from high school, serving them as customers, has been really tough. I turned 23, 24, 25, and still, I hadn’t completed undergrad. I felt very stuck. Finally, last December, I hammered the final nail into the coffin of undergrad and was forced to think—what’s next? I sought career counseling, but looking at job postings, I felt deeply unqualified. I started to flirt with the idea of grad school, which ushered me into one of the most challenging periods of my life.
Waiting to hear about my acceptance into grad school meant I couldn’t apply for new, full-time jobs, because my schedule was so uncertain. But as a college grad, the retail grind was getting demoralizing. I was so depressed for so long. I was drinking too much, gaining weight, crying all the time. I felt like I’d wasted my life and that I’d never advance. Everyone could tell that something was wrong with me. There are definitely a few things about the past few months that fill me with regret.
But little by little, things started to get better. I got into grad school and started summer classes. I went back on anti-depressants which are truly a gift—I can’t wait to start counseling in the fall! (Taking care of your mental health is important!!) I started hosting bar trivia, which has helped me overcome my fear of public speaking. I scored a Graduate Assistantship job for next year, which will pay my tuition. And, most importantly, I started to get real about what I actually wanted out of life. I have always wanted to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been writing stories and creating little worlds. I let myself get discouraged and quit, but it’s time to own up to my desires. In my bio, it says that I’m an aspiring Conan O’Brien—it sounds like a joke, but it’s true. Writing, and one day performing, is the dream. And I’m way too young to give up on that.
So, even though at times I’ve felt that my job has held me back, it has been the one constant through so much change. Come September, I’m going to have to scale back tremendously and focus on my new responsibilities, which is equal parts exciting and sad. It has been a terrible, wonderful three years. I’m so grateful for them. For all of it.
with the work fam on paint night! (2015)
I’ll share more about my upcoming ventures when I have more details! Bye for now—I have a lot of Jane Austen to read for my seminar!