The other day, I was trying to log into a secure screen online to make a payment. I’d forgotten my password, so I had to answer the security questions I’d answered way back when I opened the account.
One of the questions was: What was your favorite job? Apparently, I’d answered this question initially — but at that moment, my brain completely froze. I had no idea what I could have been thinking when I signed up for the account. I’ve never been a fan of “jobs,” I always just did what I had to do, even though I’ve always had ambition and work ethic and anything else involved in doing my best.
But did I ever truly enjoy a “job”? No. Never. Never ever. Because inevitably, I always felt oppressed, whether by the nature of the job (watching-the-clock hourly crap, wasting my life on long commutes, enduring ever-annoying office life wilting under fluorescent lights and listening to coworkers open-mouth chewing potato chips, etc.), or if it was a more active job involving work I innately enjoy — like writing — there was always some miserable, jealous control freak in the mix to make sure I was never allowed to shine.
This is why I don’t work “jobs” anymore — I mean, I still have jobs to do, but will never go back to that dreaded J-O-B mindset again. Because ultimately, it’s all a mindset, usually a subconscious one, that gets you stuck in constant take-this-job-and-shove-it mode. Which admittedly is kinda fun when you’re younger and get to act out a little rebel yell, quitting a few shitty dead-enders here and there. But it’s not sustainable, at least not for me. That’s why I said goodbye to it all a few months ago when I started my own writing and PR business.
Since I’ve taken the plunge — all-in, for real! — I am going through a process now where I see why I was stuck in oppressive J-O-Bs for far too long, and why I decided to fight losing battles all of the time within that context with truly terrible narcissistic bosses who would never just… let me do what I knew how to do to the best of my ability. I never had any other intentions than that in a job, because I’m not an asshole and don’t want to make things harder than they already are. I don’t like to take work home with me, at least not 24/7. Being a journalist, for example, is really hard in itself, and you do need to take work home with you in a sense in that role if you’re a good one. But there is always some editor who needs to make it harder with needless, daily psychological torture, blurring the boundaries between professional and personal with their insidious behavior.
At least, that’s been my experience. Why? Because I was mirroring the family that surrounded me my entire young life — the very family I took jobs to get away from! I know now that I was subconsciously recreating the losing battles I was constantly fighting with my father. This is how I unknowingly found myself in abusive situation after abusive situation in the working world — because that’s the world that was modeled for me when I was a child.
I’m 41 years old now. I’ve worked a lot – A LOT – of jobs. When I was young, I used jobs to escape the chaos I was experiencing at home as early as I could. So right out of the gate, I didn’t work jobs because I really liked them or even because I needed the cash — I worked them because I was running from something much worse. As mundane as some of them were, they all served as temporary surrogate families. Let me try to think of every single job I’ve ever worked, starting at age 15:
Ice cream shop ice cream scooper
Animal hospital kennel cleaner
Grocery store bottle returns attendant
Casino cage cashier
Italian restaurant prep cook
Dorm cafeteria dishwasher
Football stadium parking lot attendant
Theater shop technician
Music store cashier / salesperson
Music store sales floor supervisor
Freelance musician (solo and with a band)
Music store inventory manager
Wine bar waitress
Secretary to insurance adjuster
Hotel bartender / waitress
Country club banquet server
Community newspaper staff writer
Community news website editor
Restaurant bartender / waitress
Community magazines publication manager
Video closed captioning transcriber
Hotel bartender / waitress
Online business publication content editor
Publicity firm manager
Freelance writer / editor
ErinSchultz.com: Writing. Editing. Publicity – owner
Although I met some great people over the years, most of these experiences fucking sucked for what they were (and I know I’m missing a few here and there). But looking back at this in list form, I can’t help but think that this at least is one interesting if not completely distracted journey to where I am now. The jobs I did really like I did not consider “jobs” at all: freelance writing, playing as a solo guitarist and singing and playing bass with my cover band, helping my friend with insurance adjusting in Louisiana after Hurricane Rita (where did THAT come from, you ask? LOL — that’s another whole story, folks!), and now — running my own business and freelancing on the side.
What do I want out of a “job”? Freedom. Number one. Freedom to be me and do what I do, because I’m good at it and don’t need anyone breathing down my neck, fluorescent lights or the sound of open-mouth potato chip chewing. I used to think it was money, security, benefits, etc. Status. Climbing the ladder, playing the game, kissing up to whatever narcissistic jerk I had to in order to tolerate life minute to minute and maybe just maybe rise up out of every glass ceiling that only went as high as my ankles I’ve ever been under — because, deep down, that’s about as high as I felt I was worth for all those years.
Every time I tried to get trajectory away from all this, oh how fast I let myself be pulled back in, as you can see from the three times I trudged back into that music store, because I was too scared to stick with one of the things I loved the most: playing music. Talked myself out of it completely, and not just because of all the critics out there. Actually, it was not my own voice in my head telling me I was not good enough to do my own thing — it was my father’s. He hated everything I had in my young mind I wanted to pursue for a living — writing, music, theater, history, etc. — because those are things he would never pursue himself. He was a physics, math, science guy. But who fucking cares what he was, right? You’d think as a parent, you would expect each of your children to be a little different than you, right? Nope. Not when you’re a blazing malignant narcissist. I had no support, no guidance at all out of the gate. My mother showed up once in a while, but she was too tired with the chaos she dedicated herself to back at home with my father and my siblings. But someone who sticks with that chaos needs it for their own psychological addictions. So there was no help there either. “Erin’s always been the strong one, the hardest working one, she’ll be fine on her own,” she always thought.
Thus, my distracted resume of shitty jobs. I wanted share this with you to let you know that after all this, I have come out on top. That I won’t be sucked back into the mindset vortex of the minimum wage circus I lived through for so long, nor will I bang my head against job boards looking for yet another dead-end salaried job in journalism or any other field starring Mr. or Mrs. Needlessly Insidious Control Freak Narcissistic Boss.
Why would I? As far as the working world goes, I’m done running from anything — I’ve finally found my freedom. And when I sign up for a new account somewhere, I’ll know the answer to a certain password question.