Surviving a Job You Hate

Two-women-studying-coffee-shop-laptop-notebook Photo: Alanna Bagladi

The worst job I’ve ever endured was not necessarily horrible because of the job itself, but due to the organization’s “restructuring,” which is just a vague way to say, “laying off most of the staff.”  The nonprofit I was working for was flat broke, and our doors would close almost six months to the day after I started working for them. To make matters worse, two of my superiors stopped showing up to work well before we closed. I ended up doing the work of 3 people before slinking back to my hometown in search of another job.

I often imagine being reunited with those people and greeting them both with my fists.

Overworked. Underpaid. Under appreciated. Toxic work environment. Sadistic coworkers. Hostile customers. Clueless bosses. I’ve been through it all. But nevertheless, I persist—or rather, survive—because the bills won’t disappear when these jobs do.

However you spin it, it seems that millennials are in a collective funk. We’re told that we’re no longer in a recession, and yet we’re making 20% less than our parents did at our age. We are the poorest generation with the greatest collective debt, which leads to a lot of us taking menial jobs just to make ends meet. There’s nothing wrong having a regular 9-5 in the service industry or even a desk job, but growing up to make just $7.25 an hour after being constantly told that the sky’s the limit fucks me up.

Growing up I was told I could thrive, but I’m barely surviving at this point. I have two whole degrees, and yet most jobs I’ve held paid minimum wage.  I am just so damn tired of doing entry level work that is regarded as temporary, when for some of us that’s not true.

Some people don’t feel the need to have a job full of “purpose” and “meaning.” Some people literally work to pay bills and find fulfillment elsewhere. I envy these people. I’m in the unfortunate group that needs to a reason to get out of bed and spend 8, 10, 15 hours a day at work. I need my work to matter, but in most of my jobs I’ve just felt like another cog in the machine—another agent of capitalism.

But, the upside to working mediocre jobs is that I’ve developed a great self care arsenal. A lot of self care tips floating around on the internet are either expensive, time consuming, or require a lot of  .  A bubble bath and snuggling a fluffy cat won’t help when I have $8 in my checking account, a boss who is impossible to please, and a sink full of dirty dishes.

Some days my self care looks like coming home, saying fuck it all, and going to bed at 8. Some days it’s little more proactive. Cleaning actually relaxes me. Writing has always been my saving grace. “living with my partner affords me financial and emotion stability to afford kickboxing classes. Unleashing all of my frustrations on a punching bag feels so good. Wine shouldn’t become a habit, but sometimes I need a glass filled to the brim.

I try not to lose myself in my work, or forget what little things make me happy. I love lipstick, and I love nail polish. I often know something is up when I’ve gone a while without wearing either. I’m always in a good mood when I feel cute.

And in every job I’ve had I’ve developed close relationships with at least one co-worker—often other women of color. You need someone who understands you, someone who’s in your corner. I a firm believer in having a ‘work spouse.’I wouldn’t know what I’d do without my work wives to remind me to get out of the office and actually acknowledge how hard I work.

Feminist, activist, writer, and horror movie aficionada. She’s currently trying to lose her Virginia drawl in NYC. Tweets nice things @JenikaMc