Have you ever worked a job that made you want to bash your head into a wall? A dead-end position with no hope for advancement, with even less hope that your boss will say hi to you when you walk through the door? And have you ever stayed at this job for years, sacrificing social encounters for so long that your friends stop expecting you to show up at all?
I quit mine last week.
I worked at a shitty New Brunswick nightclub. I’d just gotten my bartending license and hoped that one day I’d be able to bartend, raking in hundreds of dollars wearing relatively sexy clothing and loving my job, slinging drinks for all my regulars. They hired me and said I’d train for bartending within the first week, and I couldn’t even contain my enthusiasm.
Fast forward to 18 months later: I’m a coat check girl and (occasional) cocktail waitress, serving pigs in a blanket to snotty 16 year-olds and little Abigail Weinstein’s 85 year-old grandmother and hanging up the snow-covered 50-pound leather jackets of cranky members of what we lovingly called “New Brunswick’s finest.” My carpal tunnel had never been worse, I’d leave shifts without the capacity to use my feet, and, most of the time, I’d leave with only my shift pay in my pocket and hardly any of my dignity. I’d run up and down that same godforsaken flight of steps with 15 coats over my arm, hoping I wouldn’t fall or — actually — hoping I would so that maybe I could leave and never, ever come back again.
The plight of “the dead-end job” is a phenomenon experienced by many, especially college kids. Out of desperation and blind optimism, we take on jobs that seem promising and quickly realize that they were only offered to us in the first place because no one else in their right mind wanted them. And then we feel violated, realizing that the employer knew this and simply preyed upon our naïveté and willingness to work for less pay than our post-grad competition — and what’s worse, they don’t care if you quit because they know they’ll find another equally-naïve replacement as soon as you walk out of the door.
The reclamation of my own legitimacy as a worker occurred as soon as I realized that I could do better. Recognizing my own worth and finally just breaking free allowed me to no longer be a slave to the under-the-table money in my pocket. Never again would I be asked to work one hour before the shift began. Never again would I be shunned into coat check, while girls with not even one-third of my experience raked in hundreds of dollars a night poppin’ bottles after a week of employment, having the nerve to ask me, “Oh wait, are you new here?” Never again would I say no to parties, sacrifice schoolwork for shift pay, or feel worthless when my boss didn’t acknowledge my presence. Ultimately, my boss never replied to my “I think I’m quitting” voicemail. She found a replacement and didn’t even say goodbye to an employee who’d been fiercely loyal for two years. I was just a stand-in for the many naïve girls that would take my job in the future, and you know what?
I’m better than that.
And so are you.