This summer, I decided to get a job to rake up extra birthday money. I told everyone I was working at a cheesecake shop, because I thought that sounded kind of glamorous. But in fact I worked at a fast food chain.
I hated that place from my first day until my last. I knew from jump-street I’d have to earn my paycheck serving customers and making sandwiches. The extra manual labor—mopping bathroom floors, scrubbing the grill—wasn’t fun, but a job like that isn’t supposed to be. What I didn’t expect was a co-worker who kept “accidentally” brushing up against me and giving me unwanted attention. I could finally understand what it’s like for girls to deal with some creep at work who wants to sleep with them. But I never told my boss. How could I? My manager was always playing mind games with me, constantly nitpicking everything I did, from my look to how I rolled sandwiches. I felt like every time I came in with a smile, she revolved her day around making me frown. Like she wanted to see how long it would take for Anthony to crack.
And I really almost did. The job filled me with self-loathing, because I felt like if I stayed there, I’d grow accustomed to the fast food life. That’s something people in my family would be proud of—if I became a manager, say. But not me. I’m trying to get to college, and find work where I can really help people. That job was the fate I was running from.
So finally, I ran from the job. Little did I know, just a few weeks later, the stock market would tank. With that came historically low youth employment rates, according to research out of Northeastern University. Until recently, I thought I could always get a job, as long as I was willing to flip burgers or do manual labor. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve applied to a bunch of retail jobs since leaving the fast food industry, and nothing’s worked out. Truthfully, I’m not sure if my bad luck is because of the economy. The people at H & M and Louis Vuitton didn’t tell me why they weren’t hiring me. They just said no. But I can tell you, knowing how depressing it is out there just makes it harder to keep trying.
And I’ve seen first-hand what a miserable job can do to a person. My mother comes home from work angry, and she’s always telling me to go to school so I won’t have a horrible job like hers. She’s an activities director at a convalescent home. When she used to tell me how much she hated some of the people at her job—not the residents, mind you, some co-workers—I thought she was being overdramatic. If it’s that bad, I’ve always wondered, why doesn’t she quit? Now I realize, my mom can’t just up and quit her job, especially in this market. She has a household to run and our survival—hers and mine—to think about.
Bills and babies. That’s what she calls it. I just so want my life to be about more than that.