Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You are not above McDonalds.

I'm 21, so I can scribble most of my employment history down on the back of a napkin. Like many people, I started out in the blue collar retail industry. I made a comparatively low, hourly wage for two and a half years. If you simplified my job into a sentence, it would have been: "I point at and move stuff." Besides remembering my cashier login, there was very little actual thought involved. Everything became muscle memory. I just remembered mundane sequences like "move this here, do not move that, smile."

Then I moved on to a white collar profession in the real estate industry. I've loved it ever since. My wages quite suddenly became a salary that dwarfed my previous income. I was actually able to sit down. And when the boss wasn't looking? I fiddled with StumbleUpon and browser games. Hell, I was even doing something I was practicing in my own time, namely web and graphic design. Save for some intense headaches at the start (holy shit, I was thinking again!), and a mild case of secretary's ass, life was magnificent.

If thrown into this situation, I think a fair number of people would get a little arrogant. If you say otherwise, you're probably blue collar yourself.

I wasn't an exception. I saw people around me who were still toiling away at their blue collar jobs uttering phrases like "Do you want fries with that?" and "Yes, we'll be glad to accept our competitor's coupons." and I smiled. I was glad I had escaped their miserable fate. (At least miserable to me, anyway.)

After all, I was doing so well. Much better than them.


That was when the phone started to ring. Credit cards, collection agencies, car payments, every penny that I had spent beyond my own means was coming back to haunt me. My big, fat, white collar paycheck literally disappeared the day after I cashed it. And you know what? I deserved it. I had been mimicking the big wigs, the dudes who drove BMWs and owned brokerages, second homes and boats, thing is, their big wig paychecks made mine look like dirty toilet paper.

They looked at me like I had been looking at the retail and fast food drones. Suddenly my day trips up north looked pretty puny in comparison to their Caribbean adventures.

Suffice to say, the experience was a little humbling.

So, I poured through my credit card statements, late fees, death threats and suspiciously ticking packages stamped with "FINAL NOTICE!" in big, red caps. I actually bothered to rifle through the checkbook my fiancée had been keeping.

Then I got a sinking feeling in my gut. It was my body telling me that my comfy white collar job was great and all, but it was time to get it a little dirty. And those lovely, leisurely nights I was enjoying? Yeah, welcome to Bust-Your-Ass-City. Hello, 60 hour work weeks.

A lot of people fail to realize that they are not beyond a second, or any job. It doesn't matter if you make $5,000 or $50,000 yearly. If you're in the red and your creditors require more than you make, it is time to roll up your sleeves and bust your ass.

It's human nature to put ourselves in a clique or niche, and when that niche makes us feel good about ourselves and our own lives it's all the better. Except for when you let it cloud your better judgment.

If I had thought about my actions just as I was transitioning from blue to white collar and realized that it was probably a good idea to work both for a short time I would have had to work half as hard for half the time and I could appreciate life more now.

Or if I had worked both jobs the whole time, I would probably have a nice savings account that I could use to say, purchase a home. Or, you know, not have to live off of the space between two pennies.

Thankfully I was able to get my old fairly well paying blue collar job back. But if I had to, would I have taken on a more degrading position, like say, mopping up goo at Chucky Cheese? I can honestly say it would have taken a little while longer for that feeling in my gut to drive me to it, but yeah.

Debt may not kill a person, but it certainly enslaves them. And I think everyone will agree that a little shawkshanking is sometimes required to free one's self from a horrible place.

Just hope they don't hobble you.


Kyle said...

An excellent post, and it's true; you're never too good to not work a menial job. There's a point where ones pride simply has to bow down to reality, and the deeper in debt you are the worse it hits you.


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