January 16th, 2009 was supposed to be a good day. It was a Friday, which automatically makes the suck factor a lot less. It was also the airing of the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. That night I'd planned to have my fellow members of the colonial fleet arrive at my house with booze and the knowledge that one of our favorite stories was about to come to a close.
Well, my friends certainly came over but there were more than expected. Battlestar had been put on the DVR back burner because the end of another very important story had reared it's ugly face; I'd just been laid off from the greatest job I'd ever had.
Besides numb, all I could really feel about it was sad. When you work for a bunch of assholes that have treated you like shit for years it's easy to say 'fuck you, I hated this place anyway!' but when you love not only the people you work with, but the company itself, the middle finger doesn't really have much of a logical place to point.
So that night I did what I do best, I drank and chain-smoked, and sang karaoke with my friends. Some that I'd worked with, some that got fired with me, and some that drove a helluva long way just to give me some comfort.
I'd gotten all my tears out before the festivities began so there wasn't a huge Jerry Maguire break down on my end, but I did need to lend a shoulder to cry on to Cara. She'd been my best bud at work and after a few beers she couldn't help letting herself be all female and the tears started to fall.
I hated it, too. I hated that I wasn't going to get to see her everyday and write snarky emails, and blow off work steam at happy hour. I told her that it wasn't going to change our friendship, and it didn't, but it was more difficult to hang out when we didn't have the same schedule.
Unemployment was rough. I've always been the kind of person that places a whole lot of their self worth in what they accomplish throughout the day. Not having a job, made feeling that self worth a little tricky. I set up a kind of schedule for myself so that I wouldn't be tempted to stay in bed.
I basically kept the same hours I had been at work. Woke up around 9, ate breakfast at my desk, searched for jobs, then exercised. After that I'd work on whatever crazy project I'd concocted in my head. I started studying Microsoft Systems Certification books, I freelanced for Examiner.com, and sometimes I just sat around trying to figure out how to make enough money writing novels.
Come six o'clock, my best friend Jen would come over and we did what we did before the unemployment; had cocktails and cigarettes on the porch and tried to figure a way out of our situations.
There were days when it wasn't so easy to actually get out of bed. Days when I'd ask myself "What's it really going to change, Summer? Do you honestly believe that the ten jobs you apply for today are going to call you back any faster than the hundred you applied for last week?"
And I honestly can't tell you what it was inside me that actually made myself get out of my 'oh so comfy' bed, but I did it. Weekdays were for work, Saturdays were for social activities, and Sunday was laundry day. Just like it always had been.
But I couldn't look at myself in the mirror. It's so easy in hindsight to want to go up to the girl I was and just hold her in my arms and tell her to cry, or scream, or punch... whatever she needed to do to let all of those horrible feelings out. And then when it was all gone and there was nothing but emptiness to tell her "This isn't you. You are so much stronger than you know, and you're gonna have to be because, baby, this isn't even the biggest monster in the mountain. Things are only going to get worse before they get better, but you will make it to the other side. I promise."
Luckily, I had the greatest support system in the entire world. My parents helped me out with money and loving advice. My girlfriend would come home and see that I'd bought Ramen noodle's at the store and take me out to dinner no matter how much I protested that we didn't have the money. My best friend was there to let me escape mentally from my self imposed prison. And Cara still invited me to happy hour every single Friday; showing me that I was still a part of the team. I was invited to company birthday lunches and my old boss, Susan, kept telling me that if things got better I'd be able to come back.
But the holidays started to roll in and I still didn't have a job. So, I continued to hit the pavement and, as fate would have it, a consumer trip to the liquor store after an interview led me to what would be the most horrendous working experience I've ever had in my life. I'm going to try not to be the asshole that is me, and refrain from mentioning the name of the establishment I worked for, but I will say that it's a chain mega-store on the east coast.
I was so excited to get a job at all that I overlooked a lot of things at first, but after a while I started to realize that I was in a special kind of hell. I don't even know how it was legal, but these people would work you 12 hours a day with only a 30 minute lunch break away from the floor. I literally had to ask permission to go to the restroom and sometimes was DENIED it by a super special member of the team who just thrived on throwing her power around at work because her life was so God damned miserable otherwise.
The place was run like a Nazi work camp. You couldn't talk without getting yelled at for slacking off. You couldn't sneak a few bites of a granola bar in the six hours before your lunch without getting shit for it. Nearly every member of management was a paranoid back stabber who was constantly trying to get the next guy in trouble.
One day during the holidays I was working with one of the people I'd deemed a cool chic, and they wouldn't pull her from the register at her assigned time because the manager on duty had to shove his nose up the ass of a customer who wanted to buy expensive wine. This girl was a fucking diabetic and needed to get home to take an insulin shot and when I told the manager he needed to get his ass on the front, he actually said to me "Whatever, I'll buy her a fucking candy bar."
I wanted to punch him in the face and shove a Snickers up his ass.
Luckily there were a few angels there to save me from the insanity. I made a lot of friends that would help alleviate the tension by cracking jokes or just (here's a concept) being nice. Jessica and I were like Batman and Robin. Jim and I were two peas in a pod. Jerek taught me how to point out the hot girls without being obvious. If it weren't for all the little things these people did I would have been even more miserable than I was.
And I was miserable. Katie told me that she thought things were bad when I was unemployed, but they got even worse when I took on this job.
Because it wasn't just the asshole portions of the staff that made things suck. It was the glimpse I got into just how disgusting the human population is to retail workers.
Big burly men want the little cashier to pick up their fifteen cases of beer, because the situation isn't that of person and person; it's that of slave and master.
Alcoholic penny pinchers berate you for raising the price a dollar on their handle of McCormick's vodka.
Rednecks literally curse your ass out because "There's not any God damn Budweiser in the God damn cooler."
If God does exist I certainly hope he's devised a special place in hell for the overpaid assholes that come in there and act like they are the king of wine. You try to create a little small talk about a nice bottle you've recently had and they act like you just fucked their mother because you didn't go down on their Kendal Jackson. Fuck you, you middle class undergrowth!
I got so tired of getting accused of being racist because I asked for ID on credit cards, that I started ignoring the policy all together. I'd rather get yelled at by a manager for not following procedure than have one more bout with an angry black woman who has no problem deciding that I'm the one who's responsible for fucking up her entire life.
And the old people. My God, my hatred for the elderly went up tenfold while working at this place. They get mad at YOU because you're the only cashier at a liquor store at 8am on a fucking Monday morning. It's you're fault they are having to wait and then they're gonna write a check just to be even more of an ass-hat.
Take this formula, multiply it by twelve hours, add some disgruntled holiday shoppers, multiply that by a thirteen day stretch and you've got yourself a job that breeds depression.
After the holidays were over I thought things would get better, but that's when my homophobic, racist, bigoted, evil supervisor decided to show her true colors. She started to realize that I was kinda performing better than her and made my life a living hell.
Around February I'd made a verbal pact with myself: if I didn't find another job by the holidays, I'd kill myself. Literally.
It got so bad that I even started thinking of ways to accomplish this. Now, I'd thought about suicide on a completely theoretical scale before just because I think it's something everyone does from time to time. I'd had conversations with people about how my way out would be to over dose on something and try to go with as little muss and fuss as possible.
But now I wasn't just thinking about the way in which I'd do it, I was thinking about the way in which I'd accomplish doing it.
What drug would be the most effective? What drug would be the least painful? Would I leave a note? What would I say in the note?
The last question was always the one that got too scary even for me and I'd eventually give up the thoughts for another day.
"How much will this hurt the people that I love?"
As I write this, I think I've actually figured out that it was that one question that kept me going.
I always knew I was pulling strength out of my ass, but I didn't really know where it came from. It'd be cheesy as hell to me if I didn't really feel it, but yeah, I guess it's true. Love is what got me through it. It's almost kinda beautiful.
Then after 9 months at that terrible place, I started getting calls from Susan. They needed me to help out on a Friday. Then one Friday turned into a Thursday and Friday. Then that turned into every Thursday and Friday. I was working 60 hours a week to accomplish this at both jobs, but it was worth it, because on one of those Fridays she pulled me into her office and asked if I could come in full time... indefinitely.
I dropped the f-bomb, I cried, I hugged everyone, I dropped the f-bomb some more.
I felt like I'd won the lottery. And if I were cheesy enough I'd say that I felt reborn after nine months of a hellish incubation period.
When I left the liquor store I made sure to tell everyone who made the experience bearable just how much that meant to me. I also gave them my objective opinion about who I thought they should avoid and what they could do to make things easier on themselves. Then we partied.
So to bring this looooong story to a close I'm gonna finish with a snippet from last night's conversation with Cara.
Since I returned to the office, I've been a little jittery every time a door closes. I've got this fear that is always in the back of my mind that it could happen again. I haven't even put my pictures back up or decorated my cube because I'm so afraid to make it my home again and then have that taken away.
This is basically what Cara told me:
Summer, I don't want to see you hold onto this fear and let it turn you into someone who starts to resent the situation. Nobody is promised anything tomorrow. You've got to start living in the moment and be grateful for what you have now. We may take another dive, but this time we are all doing it together. And you can't control that anyway; worrying won't change anything that the future may hold. You deserve to be back. Let yourself feel that, and just do your best.
She then told me to manifest this change by bringing my pictures in on Monday.
And that's what I'm gonna do.
I've been pulled out of the quicksand; now it's time to make sure I don't let myself sink back in.
This is my thank you to any and everyone who even as much as said a kind word to me during the past year of my life, let alone let me break down and bring me back up.
I truly believe that all these things combined were what got me through it all.