I am newly-employed and surprisingly ambivalent about it.

I don't even want to start on how well this job meshes with my anti-corporate stances... let's just say that my co-workers seem really nice, and isn't that what matters?I recently took a part-time job at a Corporate Coffee joint (which shan’t be named). Yes, this might be a terribly embarrassing way to use my top-notch honors degree, and yes, I’ve spent quite a lot of time agonizing about it and feeling unnecessarily ashamed. Coffee-slinging was not on my list of post-collegiate goals, but it’s honestly an ok job to fill the time between now and grad school. Not impressive, but certainly not terrible.

Being out of school for almost a year and not planning to go back until 2012 (16 months! Argh!) is difficult for me because so much of my identity has been tied up with academic achievement. It seems especially difficult for high-achieving folks to be without a goal or measurable success, even if it’s only for a brief period. If I’m not a stellar student, then who am I?

I assume that I’m not the only one here who feel enormous pressure to always be doing something very impressive. After all, when someone asks me about myself, I’d much rather say that I’m a student at [Prestigious University] working on a thesis in [Fascinating Topic] than that I work at Corporate Coffee and make just above minimum wage.

But fuck that noise. The pressure to be impressive probably won’t go away, but it’s important to remember that being impressive is not the most important thing there is.

When I think back on what I have actually done since graduating, I feel good about it. I took care of my dad full-time while he was battling complications from his transplant, and I stayed by his side as his condition continued to worsen. Because I did this, my mom was able to continue working full-time to support the family and made it possible for my brother to continue going to his expensive-but-totally-rad private high school. So yeah, I’m actually pretty proud of myself.

Readers: is your post-college life living up to your (probably high) expectations? Any thoughts on dealing with self-criticism when things aren’t so stellar?

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5 thoughts on “I am newly-employed and surprisingly ambivalent about it.

  1. fuck that shit. it may not be on the list of your post-graduation goals, but there are so many more worse jobs you could have. Besides, there is a certain sense of joy running around during the hectic parts of the day trying to fulfill the army of different drinks marching down the counter towards you. Just live it up and steal a bunch of drinks while you’re at it.

  2. I actually interviewed not long ago for a job at what I’m assuming is the same nameless coffee joint, and they didn’t hire me! The sad thing is, if they HAD hired me, it would have been a step up from my last job (not counting temp and freelance work), in which I literally cleaned up dog poop and pee for minimum wage.

    But yeah, needless to say, I really connected with this. I actually think one reason I’ve done so many temp jobs in the last few months was just that I didn’t want to be asked what I was doing with my life and having to say “well, I work in a dog daycare….” At least with those other jobs, I could say “well, right NOW I’m doing…” and be able to skip that entirely. It was as much driven by my own sense of shame as by my need for more money (and a better wage). Even worse, it always feels like most people around me of similar ages are doing so much better than me, although if I actually step back for a moment I realize that isn’t really the case.

    Which is, I think, probably mostly how I deal with all this these days. I look around and realize how many people are in similar circumstances, especially other recent grads. Sure, it’s not fun telling older people not going through the same thing about where I’m at in my life, but the cooler ones understand given the economy, and the others, well, fuck them. They created this mess anyway, so why should I want to impress them?

    1. I absolutely agree. Even though it feels like all of my peers are off doing terribly impressive, world-changing things, we’re still pretty much in the same boat and I think/hope that they understand. The most uncomfortable thing is talking to relatives and my parents friends, who have a tendency to ask things like, “well now that you have that fancy degree, whatcha gonna do with it?” I am not too keen on just saying, “oh, I’m working at Corporate Coffee for the foreseeable future.” But I like you’re attitude, because who are they to judge anyway?

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