(I’m loath to write this post, because the well-meaning responses it may illicit will undoubtedly annoy me. But I write it anyway.)
I’ve been grinding my teeth.
I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I grind my teeth when I’m reading, when I’m watching television, when I’m at work. Probably even when I’m sleeping. I can feel it in my jaw, this sort of radiating soreness from my cheeks to my tongue.
You see, I’ve been stressed lately.
In one of the seemingly most successful job hunts of my seven cities, I landed a job here in Seattle within three weeks of touching down, right in the heart of the downtown shopping district. Working in retail again – clothing retail, at that – wasn’t my ideal choice, but it was a job and one I knew I could handle with ease. If need be, I figured, I could snag a part-time gig somewhere else, preferably in food service.
But then, on the dark side of Thanksgiving, in my least favorite time of year, my co-workers and I received the news: The store is closing in January.
To be honest, I’m kind of amazed that in all the cities I’ve lived, at all the jobs I’ve had, I’ve never before gone through a store closing. Well, I can’t say that anymore.
The timing of this couldn’t be worse, for me personally (and my coworkers), and for the store in general.
The store (for legal purposes, I won’t say the name of the store, but let’s just say they’ve been famously making jeans for 150 years, give or take) is currently shedding its stock with a ridiculous sale. This is dumb. The decision-makers in this whole process clearly were not thinking this through.
It’s December and we’re in the weeks leading up to the ultimate consumer holiday. People were going to be buying gifts anyway, even without the product being preposterously cheap. So, now, instead of milking the holiday buying frenzy for a few extra weeks, the company has shot itself in the foot and is now shucking off its stock at cost. I’m no business major, but this strikes me as remarkably shortsighted.
The other poor decision was to close in January instead of February. This decision is certainly financially motivated, and just as certainly not made with any consideration for the employees. If the store remained open an extra month (to run out the lease), the employees would be out looking for work on the verge of spring, when companies start gearing up for their summer hiring season. Instead, we are forced to look for work in the dead of winter. It’s called the dead of winter for a reason. Nobody is shopping (they’re all too broke from their ‘religious holiday’), and in turn, nobody is hiring.
Staying open an extra month would have cost the company a little more money in order to pay its employees, but on the other hand, they could have taken better advantage of the holiday shopping season and still had the Crazy Blowout Everything Must Go Sale afterwards.
Everything about this decision reeks of corporate indifference and ignorance.
I wish I could say I would never work for a corporate store again, but I know that I don’t have the personal leverage to make that sort of stance. I have to take whatever work I can find.
Which brings me back to the grinding teeth.*
I’m out there looking for work. My coworkers are, too. We’re taking each other’s emails and phone numbers and keeping our eyes open for any info to pass on.
I’ve been looking for work longer than most of my coworkers because I knew I needed a second job even before the store closing was announced. I’ve interviewed at multiple places to no avail. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that the week before Christmas is probably the absolute least-likely week to find a job, but I’ve got to try.
This all has the whiff of San Francisco for me. That was the year that took me nearly 5 months to find a job. The recession had only just begun earlier that year and I was probably the most stressed I had ever been. A well-paying medical study helped get me through long enough to find work. This current job is kind of the equivalent of that medical study, a stopgap source of income before I find my real Seattle job. At least, I’m hoping I find a real Seattle job.
Being on my seventh year, I have two voices raging a debate inside my head:
Voice 1: You’ve been down this road half a dozen times, and a job always turns up. Don’t be so worried about it. Everything will work out.
Voice 2: Yes, but past experience is not predictive of future experience. This could be the year I fail.
Voice 1: Maybe it’s not predictive, but it can be sufficiently indicatory.
Voice 2: I don’t think that’s a word.
Voice 1: Of course it’s a word, you ignorant twat.
Voice 2: Shut the fuck up.
As you can understand, these are very annoying voices to have in my head. I can’t help but feel Voice 2 has the more logical point. There is no guiding spirit here, no rule that says I have to succeed. There are plenty of people out there who cannot find work in this economy, who have looked so long that they have given up. What sets me apart? If I press my luck long enough, might it give out?
Voice 1 still gets its say and when the sun breaks through the clouds, I find it easier to listen to him. But Voice 2 has me grinding my teeth, even when I don’t think I’m thinking about my situation.
This project has always been about my right to fail on my own terms, to fall on my face pursuing my dream rather than to achieve success following someone else’s.
And maybe failing would have its own perverse sense of satisfaction attached to it.
But failure is not something I have ever done gracefully, and it is not something I am willing to concede.
In the wake of corporate greed and political stagnation, I press on. We all press on. Collectively. Alone.
And if I grind my teeth to the gums, well, so be it. There’s always dentures.
*I’d hate to think how much more stressed I’d be if I celebrated this present-based holiday.