I sat in a coffee shop before starting my shift at a clothing store yesterday and asked God for some encouragement for the day. Here I was again…working in retail.
I applied for the job because a) I had worked at this particular store as a student/intern and b) because it is literally across the road from the college (that I’m no longer attending). So now I’m just another over-educated and under-employed erratic 20-something working in retail, praying that something else will come along.
No other jobs have arrived yet, but the encouragement I asked for did. Gladys walked in the store around 12:50 to start a 1pm shift. She normally works at a location across town, but was training at our store that day.
“Are you a student?” she asked.
“Nope. I’m a drop out,” I responded casually, and then I told her what I’ve been up to the past few years – and my unsuccessful job hunt.
Her story? Quite similar to mine. A Calgary native, Gladys (who, despite her old-ish sounding name is actually my age) packed her bags and moved to Ottawa 2 months ago. She spent an 8 month co-op term here during her undergrad, went back to Alberta to finish school and pay off her debt, then worked in the non-profit sector. She wanted to do something spontaneous, so she came to Ottawa.
It’s a beautiful city, you can’t deny that. In fact, probably the most outdoor-friendly city I’ve ever lived in, with several bike paths (my favourite goes along the Ottawa river and past the parliament buildings), but beauty doesn’t make up for lack of job opportunities.
Especially if you don’t speak French.
Je ne parle pas francais.
(And I’m starting Thai classes on Saturday.)
Gladys is giving herself until January to find a job, otherwise she’ll say goodbye to Ottawa and head west.
In the meantime, she and I have started a support group. We might even start our own NGO.
That was my encouragement for the day. And the irony? When I was offered a management position in my “just for now” job.
I felt a bit like the character Emma Morely in the book “One Day” (soon to be a major motion picture – but frankly I don’t think Anne Hathaway does a very good English accent).
Emma is a brilliant university graduate (yes, I’m brilliant) with a degree in English. What does one do with a degree in English? Well, when you’re unemployed (as you most often are) you just say you’re a writer and that seems to impress everyone. So Emma ends up working as a waitress in a restaurant (of course she’s writing on the side). She’s offered a job as manager (because she’s “going nowhere” – as she puts it) and cries at the reality that to accept this job is to accept the fact that this is her life – and it’s so drastically different than what she wanted.
I knew I couldn’t accept that job, and not because I think there is anything wrong with it. Nor do I think it means you’re “going nowhere.” I think if it’s what you want (and also if it’s what you need) than it’s perfectly fine.
But I know I’m not made for retail. I don’t want to accept a reality that I know is not me. What was even more ironic (or just foolish) was that I actually started to consider the possibility of taking this position (even though the pay is awful!) after calling my mom and lamenting to her “I was made for more than this!” (Dramatic Natalie).
You know what sucks? When you know you were made for something but you don’t know how to get there. And the closest I ever felt to that something was when I was in….you guessed it: Bangkok.
I’m such an INFJ.