The Box of a Retail Job

Recently I started a new job in the world of retail on a busy street in Austin. It’s at a store that sells handmade gifts from around the world, and I’m happy that I finally found one.

That being said, most of my readers will know that my story-driven and sometimes overly sensitive brain will easily have a heyday with this type of situation.

For one thing, this is the first time in several years that I’ve had a job that demanded I be at a certain place at certain times all throughout the week. Even my last job that payed great and put me in a leadership role only demanded me to be in a specific spot two days out of the week- the rest was just over the phone, which made getting a few hours off impossible to count on.

One of the things I am most struck by is how nice it is to have a job that I can actually leave at the job. When I come home, I get to spend my time however the heck I want to without having to give a second thought to what happened at work. It’s the first time in many many years that that is the case for me- usually my work comes home with me or is home-based.

But I must say that delving back into the world of retail has my head spinning with critiques and questions about the way we run things in this world.

Right now, when I think of heading to work, it feels like I am heading into a box. A box where they can tell me how long I have to stand and when I get to stop and eat. A box where they tell me what to do and how to do it, and where I have to smile and be a blank slate of joy and service for whoever chooses to walk through the doors to buy things they don’t need in a city where they are trying to pack as much joy and excitement and consumerism into as short of a time as possible. If I didn’t know better, I would assume that all tourists choose Saturday for these endeavors.

I want to make that box into more of a home. Not really a home, but a small room in a home. A room that has a certain purpose that does not have to affect the rest of it. Like a utility closet, or my dad’s wood room in the basement. He would go there to load up wood into the stove and heat the house. It is hard work to do that, but the house stays warm in winter and wood doesn’t have to be burned all over the place.

I can go to this job and put on a smile and make money while also getting to talk to people and find genuine joy inside of me because that is much easier than faking it. I can learn the systems and the cash register and the stories about all of the merchandise. But I have to remember and remind myself that the box of that job does not define me as a person and does not need to impact my opinion of myself even if I do a less than decent job some days.

This new situation also reminds me how little I am able to actually empathize with the people I encounter each day. All throughout the day we are interacting with people who are currently at work. Whether we have to call the telephone company or go to the gas station, we are talking to folks who are at their jobs doing what they do in that small room of their mental house. Sometimes as obvious as it is, I forget this. I forget there are things I can’t empathize with because I have never worked at a telephone company call center or at a gas station. I know what it means to go “to work” but the specific demands on each person in those roles is going to be unique. I don’t know how long they have been standing or sitting or how badly they want to go get a snack.

That’s all I’ve got for now, folks. There are stories and blog posts brewing in my brain but those will have to just wait. Right now, I just want to share my process about this box and how I want to choose to relate to it so that it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.

Do you like your job? Do you remember the last time you changed into a new type of job from the one you previously had and how that affected your mental state?

 

 

Busy Being Humans

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

An old song of mine that has words related to duality http://jenniferstuart.bandcamp.com/track/let-the-noises-in-2

The Buddha pointed out long ago that we do not have a solid self. The denial of this fact can lead to suffering.

I’m noticing that we are expected to feel, often times, one way. Either hurt or happy, sensitive or tough, falling apart or totally together.

I’m noticing that this isn’t true to most of our experience.

If someone gives me criticism, it is one of the most potent times for me to notice that split. On one hand, I may really try to take in what they are saying so that I can fully absorb it. On the other hand, I may be a little hurt in a little kid way. On the third hand, I might be touched and thankful that they actually gave me feedback at all.

But it’s hard to put all of those things into a tidy sentence in the moment, or to wear it as a sensible facial expression.

When you think about how we are presenting ourselves to much of our world right now, via Facebook and texts and twitter and anything else, this idea is even more pronounced. You write a single status update, for every single friend. You send a text with no voice intonation, maybe even to someone you just met who doesn’t know the nuances of your speech patterns. We constantly seem to be in situations where having one thing to say or feeling one way is appropriate, expected, and normal.

This seems simple enough, doesn’t it? I think it’s a nice thing to think about, especially as we listen to other people talk. It’s sometimes useful to remember that every feeling has a whole lot of others that are also there, not always expressed, and not even always incredibly conscious.

My theory is that the more we all are aware of these things, the less we will feel like we are “doing it wrong” when we actually are just being humans, and the expectations apply more easily to robots. And the more we allow for this type of thing in others, the more everyone else gets to feel less isolated themselves.

I just lost my well-loved job. Now is a time of many mixed feelings. Maybe that’s why this topic is on my mind in this way. I spent a lot of the day making jewelry on my living room floor, listening to local music and thinking about the future. I have to figure something out soon, and until then, I’ll sellĀ  necklaces at little markets and spend what I saved as little as possible while I wait for more potential work with the same organization to come back.

But yes, these are interesting times. I hope everyone is well, and I hope that I’ll be writing more often soon, I know it feels so great when I do!

Do you think that you often times feel just one way, or is it usually a mix?

Do you feel like it’s easy to express that mix in a way that people understand?

Do people ever expect you to feel one way when you don’t?