“I feel so many things growing–my individuality, my confidence; I feel lines of my character growing stronger. I’m really sprouting, springing up, with mixed feelings of tenderness and bitterness, faith and disillusion, hardness and softness. I have never felt so clearly that my Self is – obscurely and stubbornly self-made.
|—||Anaïs Nin, from a diary entry featured in Linotte: The Early Diary Of
Anaïs Nin (1914-1920)
I woke up yesterday and a rush came over me, an itch so to say, a feeling so powerful I felt uncomfortable, I was vulnerable, it was like a spider crawling underneath my skin. I couldn’t figure out the prognosis of my near crippling condition. Nevertheless, like most of my days as an underpaid and underappreciated undergraduate, I neglected the pain and wasted the day away until it was time to start my closing shift at my infamous retail job in Chicago’s downtown area.
Hours later, I clocked in for my shift and everything suddenly hit me, like a bird and a window. I realized I absolutely hated my job. I had been working at the same corporate retail spot (which will remain unnamed) for nearly two years. My life had succumbed to completing tasks I wasn’t getting paid enough to do, patiently waiting for a monetary raise that was never going to come, and the flustering drama and behind the back talking between my coworkers. I could not do it any longer.
I normally don’t make such rash decisions. This was out of character. I’m responsible and take the time to carefully sort out my future to ensure my financial stability. But yesterday, I threw all of that out the window. I didn’t care. I needed out of that place. So, I quit.
I’ve seen this rebellious act play out in movies. The first thing that came to my mind was Kevin Spacey as a depressed suburban father in American Beauty quitting his job and blackmailing his boss. It was such a liberating, anti-capitalist feeling leaving a job I only worked for money. My time spent rallying for Bernie Sanders had finally began to show for something. I wasn’t a fraud.
In Scarface, Tony Montana states, “All I have in this world are my balls and my word, and I don’t break them for anybody.” I used this as a reference while sending out the notice email to my manager. I signed the email with, “xoxoxo” when I was done, a sheer sign of my sarcastic demeanor. I did not want to send my manager hugs and kisses, but I wanted him to know that I’m in good spirits severing my employment with the company.
Don’t fret, I learned two major things during my two-year drag working retail: 1) It’s worse when you’re a person of color and 2) it would be in my best interest to obtain a college degree.
As a black woman, I felt out of place working retail. The employees were constantly being told to follow around “suspicious” shoppers, who all happened to be black, in case they were going to shoplift.
My friend told me that at his retail job, his manager will page them on the walkie-talkies saying, “Follow that Nick,” or “Follow that Nicole,” when they suspect shoplifters have entered the store. Nick? Nicole? That’s a few letters away from what the slurs they actually want to use.
Nearly all of my white coworkers were paid more than myself and my coworkers of color. Some of whom didn’t work a fraction as hard as we did. “This store wouldn’t run without black people,” I would jokingly say but actually mean. I asked for a raise once and my email was left unanswered.
It will be in my best interest to obtain a college degree, I stated earlier, in order for me to never have to work a non-stimulating job ever again. I used this as a mantra during school semesters. “Do this assignment, Bernie. Get a good grade. Get a great job,” I repeated over and over again.
As of right now, I’m sitting in my living room, eating Popeyes, unsure about my next move, yet shaking with excitement for the next chapter of my life. Will I be able to pay rent for the upcoming months? Definitely. Will I have a flexible disposable income? Probably not. At least I’m free.