Tales Of A Part-Time Employee

Working Part-Time Is A Difficult Part Of Life To Navigate, But It's Something Many Need To Experience.

I don’t talk about where I work. Anyone who has worked as a part-time employee—call it hourly, retail, lackey, regardless of the term it’s a job where you’re a small piece of the bigger machine—can resonate with this to a certain extent. Sometimes the reluctance to speak about work stems from the number of years you’ve wilted away in the same position or the title you technically have but refuse to acknowledge. There’s something about a job far from where you actually want to be that gives you a little resentment every time you announce your position. As if each time you speak about your job the dream inside your heart is cleaved into smaller and smaller pieces.

I work in a Pro-Shop.

What does that even mean?

People ask and I divulge into an explanation of what exactly a Pro-Shop is: a hockey store that doubles as the site of an adult daycare where grown men of various ages are paid and slowly lose their minds. I wish I could answer with this whenever anyone pries for further information. In actuality, the Pro-Shop is a hockey store. We fix gear, sell gear, answer questions and watch the hours grow larger.

I work part-time, and sometimes that part-time feels more like full-time. I’ve been working at the Pro-Shop for five years. I was twenty when I started. So young, full of innocence and terrible decisions.

The amount of years doesn’t matter. Working a part-time job is an experience that many should get and completely experience to their fullest extent. Long have I proclaimed that everyone should have to get a part-time job. Something you do for a couple of months in the summer, maybe a year or two at a restaurant, bar, a store that’s being run by incompetent managers (please don’t consider the times you got paid under the table by a family member or neighbor to do yard work or watch the dogs). I’m talking about clocking in and waiting for paychecks, the kind of things that will make you constantly think about your life and every decision you’ve ever made for at least five minutes a day.

The way we are perceived is often a direct reflection of what we do for work. Our job. It’s pretty shitty but it’s true whether people think so or not. If I said I was Regional Talent Scout for Big Boyz Entertainment, you might think I’m working in the porn industry and doing well for myself. But if I said I was Assistant Manager at a Baskin-Robbins you might think my life has strayed from the track, or I’m just committed to serving frozen goodness to those in need.

We’ve all had a job where we need the money, don’t want to search for something new, and somewhat enjoy the people you’re with. We say, it could be worse, and push on. Sometimes we get stuck and sometimes we move on to better opportunities quickly. Regardless of the tenure, there’s a lot to like about getting stuck in the same situation, living and growing with the same people, dealing with an absurd array of interesting humans, contrary to those who will chastise and judge for the position we find ourselves in.  

I’m not sure where to begin. Have you ever been rifled in the testicles with a tennis ball and still have five more hours left on your shift? Have you ever killed a mouse with a hockey stick? Were you ever the idiot who worked for thirteen hours straight when nobody else could?

Some can relate, but I assume most have their own ridiculous anecdotes about their own jobs. I’m unsure whether or not the absurd plays a direct role in the time spent at a certain part-time job. There needs to be a graph, something displaying the amount of bullshit you deal with in relation to the number of years you’ve been there. Opening the math in my brain that has been untouched for several years, there are way too many other variables to make this a reliable explanation of time spent at a job. There’s management, pay, coworkers, location, life, age, basically everything that revolves around you while you try to pay rent for the month.

And, if we build a graph for staying at the same job, then we must also create one for the number of times you’ve undoubtedly considered leaving.

I’ve said I’m going to quit more times than I want to admit. Often I mutter it like a mantra, some sort of disjointed prayer, in the hopes that one day it may come true. Everyone can relate to this. There’s always some other job alluring us to move on. Everyone dreams of a better job or a place where they don’t have to deal with the amount of unrequited bullshit slung at them on a daily basis for eight hours.

So, what stops us from leaving?

Why do we not leave for something better at any given moment?

Of course, there’s the fear of failure. Attempting to spring yourself from the shackles of your current job, only to fail and return, head sunk into your chest, to your old position. Perhaps it’s location, leaving friends and family and relationships (in the literal sense) for a new opportunity is never easy. There’s a litany of reasons and it could fall back to the opportunity itself: whether or not it’s worth it for you.

I’ve heard the term work family before. It’s true, if you work with the same group of people for long enough you develop a kind of appreciation or love for them, the kind that I assume is akin to what prisoners or hostages begin to form when they’ve been trapped together for a sustained period of time.

It’s difficult to be retrospective when you’re in the moment, when you’re the one working the hours and wishing that a new opportunity to move on will present itself to you. But, it’s easy to see when co-workers or managers or whoever with whatever title genuinely cares about you, as both the employee and the person. It’s a kind of experience, similar to an anomaly, like seeing a shooting star or a rat be slung to his death from the end of a stick blade, that grants you some appreciation in the midst of your constant existential crisis.

Life is tough. It really is. I withhold judgment on anyone’s jobs and everyone else should do the same. Like those graphs, there are so many external variables that tether us to certain jobs nobody can see unless they are the ones working. Sometimes it’s out of our control and sometimes we stay out of comfort. The dreams will still be there. Life continues to revolve outside of these jobs. I sound like a shitty self-help book you buy at the airport, but sometimes it’s about finding the good in the part time.

Saying the title of your job with authority will always give off the impression that you’re somewhat content with what you do. Often, because I don’t have a choice and am committed to honesty, I say I work at the Pro-Shop with pride and a smile, knowing very well that even though this may not be how I envisioned my life going, I got to experience the best and worst of part-time employment with people I love. Many won’t understand this if you repeat it back to them, but that’s because it’s your experience alone to hold and cherish. And you softies who worked two months at Old Navy and never worked until you got out of college again can’t relate to that, no matter how much better your life could be.

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