Make It a Religion
I had written this piece for a guest blog spot on a local ladies empowerment group. I thought y'all might enjoy it!
I watch my e-mail religiously. I sit behind the bar opening my inbox and scrolling down to refresh the screen. Nothing important, some shit from Netflix and Sierra Trading Post. Nothing I want. I get busy at work, serving craft beer to the hipsters and grad students and professors and young professionals.
I used to be a grad student, it was good. There was work to do and a reason to do it. I was educating myself and when I was done, there would have to be a job. No one can turn down a master’s degree.
My inbox looks at me, sad. All spam and order confirmations from Amazon.
The door of the bar opens, and my boss comes in with her dog. They are both awesome. My boss is a thirty-year-old, lady business owner. And the dog, well the dog is a dog and dogs are awesome.
I watch my boss be successful. I watch her be good at what she does, and it frustrates me. Not because I don’t want her to be successful but because I feel like I am smart and talented and funny and resourceful and thoughtful and all the things my boss seems to be. But I am not a boss. I am a bartender with two degrees and a blog.
I feel stunted.
I apply for every halfway interesting job I see. I pour myself into the resumes and cover letters. I get responses like:
This position is extremely competitive, and your lack of industry experience has led us to go with another candidate. Good luck in your job search.
Thank you for taking the time to apply to this position. However, it has been filled.
I look on all the job sites religiously. There are titles like “Administrative Secretary,” and “Clinical Scheduler.” They are full time jobs but the salary starts lower than my annual income working 3 days a week slinging beer. There is nothing wrong with those jobs, but I already have a job that supports me. A job with a great boss and great coworkers and a great schedule and everything you want and need out of a job that isn’t going to be your career job.
I watch my friends move away to cities. Wilmington. Pittsburgh. Albuquerque. Denver. Ashville. D.C. Houston. Some of them get jobs where they work nonstop on important things. Things that will eventually change the world. Some of them get jobs like nurse, teacher, clinical scheduler, or administrative secretary.
They seem happy on social media. Some of them get married. Some of them have kids. Some of them live in vans and rock climb all day, every day. Some of them teach yoga and some of them go to the beach all the time. Some of them sit in cool coffee shops and drink smoothies and lattes. Some of them take sunshiny selfies wearing trendy sunglasses and lip gloss. Some of them make cute crafts and some of them start businesses.
But some friends stay here in WV like me. They have degrees too. And they might have also over-prioritized their service industry or retail or customer service or whatever entry level job they worked through college. Sacrificing an A on some paper to make money for rent or forfeiting a non-paying internship because they couldn’t afford not to work. Those people look and sound a lot like me. Frustrated and defeated by the lack of progress and opportunity in this place. This beautiful, great, wonderful, and wild place. This place with a crap-ton of beautiful, great, and wonderful people.
Here is the thing about the lack of opportunity and progress here. There is a whole lot of room to be the first person doing whatever thing you are doing. If you are educated and hustle, there is a boatload of room to grow in this humble place.
So, yes, I am a bartender who has two degrees and a blog. That is because I hustle. I am also a partner and a sister and a friend and a West Virginian. I am passionate and stoked and I am involved, and I care about this place and its people. I care about the perception of this place and the real, deep-down change that needs to happen here to move forward into this ever-changing world.
I care about it for myself, but I also care for all the other small-town kids who were promised opportunity, if only they got that degree. Here’s the thing they didn’t tell you or me, the opportunity only comes easily if you get that degree and get the fuck out. That answer just doesn’t work for me. And it shouldn’t work for any other young woman either.
So here is what I am doing to help create change.
1. I am volunteering with non-profit groups whose goals and missions I agree with.
2. I am making plans for the job I want, not the job I have.
3. I am prioritizing the work that is important to ME, not the work that is important to my aunt’s uncle’s cousin’s sister.
4. I am going to keep religiously applying to the jobs that are just a tad out of reach, maybe I will get one of them. Who knows?
5. I am jumping on opportunity when I see it. I shush any hesitation I feel because most of them are housed in fear and fear is the enemy of opportunity and progress.
6. I am investing in MYSELF. I bought a website. I bought business cards. I bought a lot of coffee from cool coffee shops to fuel my productivity. If you are serious, these are the tools that make people take you seriously.
And what this generation needs in this place is to be taken seriously; because ladies, we are serious and we’re bringing change right to the damned front door.