Since the toy store I worked at closed its doors (and has since re-opened with new owners), I’ve been working at a small local grocery store as a cashier.
This is a store that I’m very familiar with; I started working here at the age of eighteen, just after high school graduation. I had worked here in various incarnations over the years, at the register, in the deli, and in the beer and wine department. When I received my two-year accounting degree at twenty-eight, I went down to part-time, and once I had my daughter at thirty-six, I left completely.
Seven years later, I find myself back here with admittedly mixed emotions.
I have fond memories of this place. I met my husband here (and a couple of pre-hubby boyfriends). It was the stomping grounds of my youth, and I made some good friends here. It helped me not only pay the bills, but get me through community college.
So why, when I started back here nearly six weeks ago, did I feel distinctly depressed? Maybe it’s because I thought I’d finally “escaped” a low-paying, unskilled job (though why I thought the toy store job was any different is beyond me). Maybe it’s because I felt like a failure as a writer-why haven’t I written my bestseller by now? Or maybe I simply felt like the old lady among all the young people populating the cash registers. It was slightly mortifying.
But after being here for a few weeks, I feel better. No, it’s not where I wanted to be at this stage of my life. But I made a choice a long time ago: the only thing I ever really wanted to be was a writer. I gave up the accounting job, and every other chance at other careers, so I could concentrate on writing. There are consequences to this choice, and this is one of them. No point in whining about it now. Would I change anything? Not really.
The job is flexible, helps pay the bills, and isn’t too hard on the brain cells. I see a lot of familiar faces who are genuinely glad to see me back, if a little surprised. I have my little notebook open on my register, so while I’m standing there waiting for the next customer to come through, I can jot down whatever I’m working on at the moment, including this post. My coworkers are curious: what are you so busy about? What are you writing? They think it’s pretty cool that I’m a writer, that I blog, that I have this thing that I’m so dedicated and passionate about.
In truth, I thought I’d be a little jealous of the young people I work with. They’re only there until their real life happens: they’ll go to college, get a real job, make a lot of money in a career they love. They have their whole lives ahead of them. What I’ve come to realize is the tremendous amount of pressure these young people feel to succeed. One teenage girl I work with recently spent $90 to take the SAT’s, and she had to travel to the state university to take it. I remember paying maybe $15, and took it at my high school. That’s only the first of many standardized tests she needs to take. Her parents want her to be a doctor. She would love to be a journalist, but feels her family wouldn’t approve. I can see both sides: I’m a big advocate of following your passion, but on the other hand, I’m forty-four and working in a grocery store. I don’t envy the pressure this girl is going through, or the ambivalence of her choices.
Also, instead of going home to do mountains of homework, I just watch TV for an hour and go to bed. Ah, freedom!