When you’re working, there’s no better feeling than picking up that paycheck. The bigger, the better. Of course, that paycheck doesn’t just show up. You have to, you know, work for it. One of the churches near my house has a phrase on its sign that says, “No one has died from sweat.” True, but people have died from exhaustion. And let me tell you, making money is exhausting.
I’m no princess. I work hard. I love hands-on, labour-intensive work. One of my favourite jobs was as a lighting electrician in the University of Iowa theatres. It was theatre, physical labour, and with some of my favourite people. I couldn’t think of anything better. It was awesome to be lifting and hanging and sweating as opposed to sitting on a hard desk trying to listen to why Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a good book.
Now, I have two jobs: one in retail, one in food service. I thought it would be awesome to be physically up and moving a ton during the week. I’m running here, running there, serving drinks, carrying frames. I get to interact with people, customers and coworkers alike. I feel good while I’m working. There’s a sense of pride happening when I feel I’ve done a good job.
On the flip side, I’m exhausted. I’m a night owl. My whole family is a bunch of night owls. So, when I work an opening shift at IKEA, I can’t find my groove until after noon. It’s so bad that yesterday I nearly fell asleep in a box of fake plants. When I’m done with a night of serving drinks, all I want to do is rip my shoes off and dip them in a tub of hot water. (I also don’t like the bar my coworkers frequent after work. It still looks too much like the Spaghetti Warehouse.) I used to hate taking naps, but I get so excited to take one when I get home.
While I’m okay with this now, how long can this last? How long will I be stuck in these jobs? Will I be poor forever?
Everyone’s always talking about how bad the economy is. I’ll be completely honest: I really don’t understand most of the jargon. But I’m feeling it. I’m making, on average, $600 every two weeks from both jobs combined. My food service job relies on tips, by which I rely on patrons to leave adequate tips. Here’s how I feel the horrible economy: people, in general, suck monkey balls at giving tips. Excuse you, but if you spend $58 on drinks, there’s a good chance you have the money to leave the proper tip, not just round up to $60 and call it a day. Don’t blame it on the economy. Some of us are trying to support ourselves on your awful tips.
(Ok, I technically don’t quite support myself. I do live at home and eat my parents’ food. But my coworkers do.)
I’m saving up for a big move to Los Angeles. I’m hoping to put away at least $3,000 before I consider moving. At this rate, I’ll never be moving to LA. Most of my money goes to outrageous gas prices, paying for car insurance, and saving for when my student loans kick in. My pessimism makes me believe that I will be poor forever. I’m scared I’ll never be good enough to have a job that pays above minimum wage because of a vicious cycle I’m stuck in.
What is this vicious cycle, you ask? Well. Let me explain:
- If I want a job in my desired field, I need experience when most of the jobs in that field are internships or non-paying.
- If I want to get that experience, I can’t work a lot at my paying jobs.
- If I don’t work at lot at those paying jobs, I won’t get enough money to move to a place where I can get experience.
I know I’ll have money problems the rest of my life. Mostly for just being poor forever. Most of my friends I talk to have the same fear. And I’m not just talking about the friends in the arts or English. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with living with less. However, I’m nervous about deferring on my loans, an inability to pay rent, or missing a car insurance payment. I’m scared. I’m so incredibly scared.
I’m scared I’m going to have to work myself to death to survive.