It’s time to talk about my new job, already. I started in late October, but now I feel like I’ve been there long enough (almost six months!) to talk about it. The last time this blog saw a post dedicated to my employment, I was overwhelmed, saturated with anxiety and stuck in what felt like a whirlpool of stagnation and unhappiness. If you think that’s dramatic that’s fehn (said in the style of Cartman from South Park), but then you probably don’t understand how my being an introvert rubbed up against being required to have conversations with hundreds of strangers a week (because even customers I talked with–with only, like, two exceptions–were just “regulars” so there was little to no personal interaction outside of work), in a noisy, crowded, hectic environment, then you never will understand that it’s not a case of dramatics.
And that’s fine, not only because you don’t have to but also because I’m not asking you to. I’m glad for extroverts or introverts who don’t mind socializing with strangers (the latter of which probably isn’t too high of a number, if I had to guess) because we need them in order for these places to be successful, of course, but I think most introverts will ‘get it’ when I say that job was Not For Me.
So how do I like the library?
Well, let me put it this way: if I ever had any doubts about that being the ‘right’ career path for me (though I think I could pursue a number of careers and be content with my life, but we now know that none of them would be retail-related), they’re gone. Kaput. I have never been more at peace with my job situation than I am now. Dreading work isn’t really dreading the work of the library so much as it is dreading the little teeny bit of socialization-with-strangers I have to do, or those days everybody has when you say, “You know, I just don’t feel like going anywhere today, even/especially work.”
My coworkers are friendly, supportive, and encouraging. They always ask and make sure that I’ve at least had the opportunity to take a break. A big thing I lost moving jobs was familiarity with fellow staff. Of course! Being at a job for three and a half years versus a new job is going to bring that territory regardless unless you never spoke to your coworkers or interacted much. I had/have personal ties to most of my coworkers at the store, knowing three core staff members before I even started working there from having come in years ago, but as I told my library coworker the other day, I’m finally coming out of my shell there. (He replied, “Well, come on out, sister!”)
It’s just who I am. When I’m somewhere completely new, knowing nobody, it can take me a while to open up. I still don’t even curse much, if at all but once a month maybe, around my coworkers at the library–something I’m sure the store employees have a hard time believing. But that could also be attributed to my change in attitude and lifestyle, and I’m okay with it. I want to present myself more professionally, because it is a professional place. I can count on one hand the number of library employees I’ve seen/experienced or heard of as being unprofessional, and I’ve met/been in meetings and orientations with around thirty BPL employees or so (and again, some of them I’ve only heard about–what not to do, that kind of thing).
I don’t have to try and sell anything–and if I had to choose my weakest area of anything ever, it’s selling things. Even over math. I don’t convince people well if I don’t have personal experience with something. I can tell you my experience with something if I have it, but otherwise I’m going off what somebody else has told me about a product/things I’ve read/heard/otherwise acquired, but I’m kind of the exact opposite of pushy. I can’t even politely be pushy, because a) I dislike salespeople being pushy on me, and b) I just don’t know how.
A card is no longer a case of me trying to convince Grumpy Customer #400 to get one even though GC#400 is gonna gripe about how “it doesn’t do much good anyway” no matter how wrong they can be about that. But at the library, if you don’t have a card, you can’t check out or use the computers, it’s that simple. One of the first changes I noticed about myself was that I began to grow a backbone. I began to stand up for myself. I’m still working on it, of course, but the fact that it’s even happening is astounding and I think really adds to my growth as a human being. (But damn, that “the customer is always right” crap sure gets ingrained in your head. That is probably one of the dumbest things about retail (though I understand why it even became a thing, even if I disagree with it.))
It doesn’t mean I’m rude to patrons. Everyone who knows me and how I interact with strangers knows I’m polite, sometimes too much so, and it’s virtually impossible for me to be rude to somebody when they don’t give me a reason to be. But it means I’ll stand my ground because we have to. You have a $40 fine? Well you better pay that sucker down to $5 or under if you wanna check out because I can’t do anything otherwise. You’re watching porn on our computers? Expect to have your card suspended. And so on. If you don’t follow the policy, you don’t get to partake in the services we provide–it’s as simple as that.
I have a set schedule which is still fairly flexible if I or somebody else needs a day off (though I rarely do, because of the next point). My work day, no matter what day it is, is over no later than six p.m. I have energy–I’ve been cleaning my room, have cleaned up around the house more than I ever was before, and when it was warm for those two-ish weeks recently, I hiked nearly every day. Do you know how many times I wanted to go out or wanted/needed to clean my room and I couldn’t because I simply didn’t have the energy? Oh, I dunno, constantly. I can hear myself think at work. I almost never feel overwhelmed. I’ve also gotten into waking up earlier and going to bed earlier on my own. I could cry out of happiness at that fact alone (even though sometimes it’s inconvenient, like being tired at 10:30 is sometimes pretty lame).
I feel like a new me has pushed past the old, dried-up sponge me and blossomed into a happier, healthier me whose mind is being stimulated by learning about things that pertain to my future career. Like one of my coworkers tells me, “When you wake up and go to work now, you are living your dream,” and she’s right.
I’m not saying I’m ‘above’ retail. It paid my bills for three years, and I learned a hell of a lot–not just about what could be making your dog itch (although if I never talk about flea products again, it will still be too soon), but many other things. I don’t think anybody should be looked down on for what they do for a living unless they’re harming others. But I’m saying it’s not for me, and that I’ve finally found something that IS for me, and it’s awesome.