Another Shift. Who I Met. Why I’m There.

I just got back from another shift at the convenience store I’m working at. It’s the 3rd time I’ve worked there and my objective is to use that work in order to reintegrate back into the social / working world. I did struggle with anxiety, but I was able to ease it a bit by focusing in on each task at hand. When I was younger, I would often disassociate or daydream the entire time I was at work. I was able to get the work done, but there was a part of me that I had to “turn off” in order to function. In some extreme situations, I would just stop going to the job if the stress and anxiety got to bad. There were other jobs where I stayed way longer than I should have.

I’m trying to approach interacting with my co-workers and customers differently than I have in the past. In trying to be “mindful” and aware, I’m accounting for the fact that I overreact to certain situations, people and stressors. The goal is to allow my own emotional states to express themselves, but then breath deeply, not take anything personally and let any negative emotions dissipate. Trying to learn how the cash register works or making sandwiches isn’t too bad. Washing dishes and filling in the drinks and sodas in the cooler is much more preferable as I’m on my own and there’s a clear task to accomplish. Working the lottery machine is the worst. The software interface is confusing and some of the folks ordering tickets have an almost rabid look in their eyes as they rattle off the tickets they want to buy. I don’t really understand all the intricacies of how some of the games are played but I keep reassuring myself that I’ll get used to it with time.

Another challenge is the characters I come across while working there. There are some co-workers who are the backbone of the store. They don’t want to teach me anything and definitely don’t want me to “get in their way.” Their very good at what they do, efficient, hard working, and intensely impatient about my slower pace and any mistakes I make. With these folks, I just try to ride with it, help as I can and not take anything personally. In the past I always tried to get people to like me. Trying to do this with the “super employees” is a big mistake. I just do what I can and try to ride each situation out. There are others who seem much more laid back, but they can be very rigid about their routines or any “transgressions” which I unknowingly make. With these folks I’m trying to focus on the long term, learning their routines and trying to accommodate them as much as possible. Again, trying to get these folks to “like” me is a real waste of time. There are also the long suffering quiet folks. These folks do what they can and are good at what they do, but they don’t have the same frenetic energy as others. These are folks who are just trying to get by and have really taken a beating from life. Their tired, worn out, and are just living day to day.

The customers represent the large swath of humanity. Some come by because they’re lonely and this small business provides a contact with others they won’t find in larger chain stores. Some are quirky and quiet. They come because they don’t want the hassles of the bigger chain stores and just want to be left alone. Others are friendly, bringing their children or families in because the store is a touchstone of their local community. And on, and on, and on.

I hate this job. But then again I’d hate just about any job. I’m tired of having financial difficulties and there is no job I can get (with my experience and skill levels) which would remedy that. My greatest skill is healing myself from abuse and healing pain. There is no job description for that. I don’t want to interact with people. If I could earn a reasonable living just stocking shelves at the local grocery store at my own pace, I would be okay with that. I don’t want to work at the high stress companies made up of the “quick and the dead.” I’d never survive in an environment of always pushing full tilt, constantly hustling for another penny earned for the company and racing around to meet deadlines. I’ve already experienced more than a lifetime of toxic stress and I just don’t want that in my life anymore. I’m not interested in conquering any worlds or achieving some grand, critically acclaimed, artistic or financial achievement. I’m tired. I’m world weary. I don’t really care about anyone’s achievements as I know they’re all just sandcastles on the beach. All achievements are washed away each night when the tide comes in, with no trace left behind. I’m not impressed by much anymore. I just want to know that my son will be okay and that I’ve done right by my wife and child. I don’t want to be Shakespeare or JP Morgan anymore. I’m putting my time in and hoping that I only live long enough to give my wife and son what they need. No more. I’m not that impressed with life or existence. I find the world and humanity (in particular) to be rather repulsive.

I will soldier on. I will continue efforts towards my own healing and offer empathy and compassion where I can, as I can. That is something worth living for. If I feel this way, there must be ten’s of millions of others who do as well. If I can offer some sliver of “light” or comfort or compassion to another who needs it, then I feel it’s worth making the effort. I don’t mind trudging forward as much if I can ease the pain of others or offer some semblance of comfort or “light.” No one deserves to be in pain. No one deserves to be abused and ignored. No one deserves to be alone, in the darkness, with nothing but their pain and hopelessness.

I will do what I can.

Be Well, My Friends,

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