When I was about fifteen years old, during a visit with his family at Christmas time, my dad told me that the shirt I was wearing made me look like I worked in a gas station. He then proceeded to lecture me about the importance of “dressing for success.” (The shirt, by the way, was a yellow and black plaid shirt that I bought at The Gap. They were very fashionable at the time.) That conversation actually stung quite a bit at the time and still sits with me all these years later. Silly, right? Well…..
You see, I’ve always had this fear of being a complete failure. So strong is that fear that it has, in years past, led me to abandon progress just as success is within reach. That is part of the reason it took 22 years for me to finally settle down and earn a college degree. That fear of failure drives much of the anxiety that I experience from day-to-day. So, the notion that maybe I should be working in a gas station is never far from the back of my mind; and it is sort of recurring theme in my life.
A few weeks ago I read a story that someone shared on Facebook which compared starting salaries at QuickTrip (QT) gas stations and convenience stores to the starting salaries of teachers in the Tulsa, OK school district. Granted, these salary comparisons are often skewed by various factors, but the fact remains that the fact that a comparison of the two is even remotely close is, on its face absurd. I haven’t seen such a comparison with other districts either in Oklahoma, in Texas, or any other state, but I suspect that they would raise a similar level of ire. What does any of that have to do with me worrying about having to go to work in a gas station?
Well, you see it’s like this: when I got sick during the school year last year and had to resign my position, I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I applied for positions in three nearby districts at the beginning of this year, but was not even called for an interview in any of them. I’ve looked for opportunities to teach online to no avail. I did online tutoring for several months, but the position was so part-time that it didn’t even come close to paying my bills. So, recently I took a position providing technical support to Comcast internet customers. It’s a work-from-home position, so it requires little in the way of travel, food expenses, clothing, etc. And the pay…well, I won’t even go into that. But, it’s a job, right? Right. And I’m happy to have it.
On Tuesday I had a 79-year-old woman tell me that if she lived through the day it would not be because I had made her life any easier. Any of you who’ve communicated with me via email know that below my signature is a quote most often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, which reads in part, “To know one life has breathed easier because you have lived–THIS is to have succeeded.” So, what she said kinda hit me in the gut, especially since there was nothing I could do in the first place since the problem wasn’t due to Comcast.
Yesterday, my first call of the day was from a man who could not verify any of the information on his account. He couldn’t give me the right address, nor could he provide the right telephone number. Rules specifically forbid us from making any changes to accounts unless they are fully verified. When I told him this he said (if you’re sensitive to bad language, skip over the following quote):
“Well, you’re a stupid mother fucker and maybe you should be working in a gas station.”
There it is again! The gas station motif. What the heck is it with people telling me I need to work in a gas station and seeing articles about how people who work in gas stations make more money than teachers?
Now, while I’m writing this little tale partially for laughs, you must know that this is starting to get to me a little bit. I’m not stupid. Far from it, actually. I know I’m a little flighty–okay, I’m a lot flighty. And, I know that I have a serious case of wanderlust, but geeeeeez! Do people really think I should be working in a gas station somewhere?
For people like me with anxiety about…well, pretty much everything, stuff like this, while humorous in a way, also really hits home. See, I’m a little lost in the weeds right now as far as what I want to do, where I want to go, and who I want to be. And that scares me…A LOT! So, when people tell me I need to work in a gas station (over and over and over again), it kinda makes me wonder…
Maybe they have a point?