My summer of fun – two new jobs, future plan?

Adam was made unemployed by his furniture store employer during Covid, earlier this year and he struggled to receive unemployment support payments. In this blog post, he reviews his job experiences since, providing an insight into two very different job roles and their demands. The piece was first published on his blog.

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It’s been a while… which immediately gets the song by Staind stuck in my head

It’s been a while,
since I could,
hold my head up high,
it’s been a while

– and now it’s stuck in yours.

But yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve posted in here. Oh shit FOUR MONTHS?!?! Damn that’s crazy, especially since it’s not like I’ve been super busy – well at least not on my days off, which is something I had plenty of in May since I was basically unemployed. And not collecting. Which made me the ONLY person that hasn’t gotten those free handouts for not working during the pandemic.

Truth be told, I would have LOVED a free handout, but hey that’s what happens when you work for an employer who lied and said “oh no we won’t contest unemployment if you quit” which they basically forced me to do a month after likely having Covid which completely fucked with my head before going back to a job that completely fucked with my head and mental health. Yeah don’t ever work for Jordan’s Furniture. Or buy anything from them. I’ve been gone since February and just seeing a commercial, driving by a store, or even seeing a delivery truck makes my blood boil to this day. If it wasn’t for the cool co-workers that I had I would completely hate that place with every fiber of my being. But hey at least I now know what a loveseat is and that you’re not supposed to sleep on your sofa (which EVERYONE does) or sit on an ottoman (which EVERYONE also does). God bless those who still work there. But I digress…

I did pick up a short-lived part-time gig writing for Seekonk Speedway in May/June, which was a lot of fun and something that I wish I could still do. I can’t because I started a full-time job working as a merchandiser for Pepsi in early June – actually just eclipsed 90 days on the job which is an accomplishment in itself – and I just didn’t have enough time in the day to do both jobs.

Now, let me tell you something about short-track racing… it’s insane. And it has it’s own little (or not-so-little) community which I was totally unaware of. Seekonk Speedway is like 20 minutes from where I’ve lived my whole life, and I’ve always liked watching NASCAR, but I had never been to an actual racetrack. Seeing the track before racing begun literally blew my mind. It is tiny – it’s only 1/3 of a mile for one lap – and yet they often have 20+ full-size cars going way faster than the speed limit during the events. I couldn’t even fathom how 20+ cars fit on that track without getting in each other’s way – which honestly is the best part of racing.

Opening night was nuts. It got postponed because – shocker – it rained when it was actually supposed to happen, but when we did finally have a nice night, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I figured, how hard could it be to write about a race, not knowing how quickly everything happens during said race. You’d think since the track isn’t that big that you could see everything at the same time. And you’d be completely wrong. You look at one car making a pass to take the lead, while another three are side by side by side on a section of the track where three cars don’t fit that way, and then someone who started 15th is now up to 5th, and oh there’s another pass at the front, and now there’s two cars in the grass and I have no idea how they got there which I can’t write in a recap… and all that happened in about 10 seconds. And happened again a lap afterwards. Did I mention there are like four or five races a night and some are like 30-50 laps each? Holy shit there was a lot going on.

Thank goodness I had lots of help from the staff in Seekonk, especially from Doug and Kevin, the two public address announcers who were excellent at their jobs and really helpful to someone who had to learn a lot about racing in a short amount of time. They seemed to know everything and everyone, which brings me back to the whole racing community part. The Speedway can hold a lot more fans that I imagined, although I never saw it at full capacity due to Covid restrictions still being a thing until after I had to stop writing for them. What I did get to see what a group of people that seemed to know each other, know all the drivers and the lingo, and basically grow up and even almost live at the track. It was like being at Cheers – yeah that reference just aged me big time – because it was the place where everybody knows your name. And what’s even more impressive than the fans are the drivers and their crews. They work on those cars for hours on end, week after week, and risk it all on the track where all that time, effort, and I’m betting a lot of money can come crashing down (literally) in the blink of an eye. Which you shouldn’t do while at the track because you’ll definitely miss something. It’s truly a labor of love because I don’t believe they get much in winnings and they don’t really seem to care. It’s about the thrill and the love and the history, because a lot of those drivers grew up in that community themselves. I wish I had gotten to the point where I could’ve started to interview some of the drivers and other members of this not-so-little community because I’m sure there would have been some really cool stories to hear.

I had to step away from that job once I got my current full-time gig with Pepsi. I’m considered a merchandiser which is something I really enjoyed doing in retail – I even took a couple college courses many years ago in retail merchandising – but this isn’t quite like figuring out how to put out seven boxes of clothing when you have zero space in your store. This is basically stocking shelves full of Pepsi product at various grocery stores and Walmart/Target. I have a group of different stores to go to every shift, some of which have their deliveries coming that day (no I don’t drive the trucks or unload it… the pallets of product are waiting for me in the backroom), and I need to stock, rotate, fill coolers, and make the stores look pretty and full before I move on to the next one.

It’s a long and exhausting job which requires lots of driving, early mornings (I HATE early mornings), and some LONG shifts. I was averaging at least 50 hours of work a week to start without counting the 30-45 minutes or more it would take to get to and from home. So yeah I wasn’t doing anything when I got out of work except shower, eat, and die/sleep. The first few weeks were brutal and not very enjoyable… everything took so long and it seemed like there was way too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do it. I really just wanted to quit and told my boss that I’d love to go to part-time if possible, but at the time they didn’t have enough workers because everyone is still getting those free handouts to not work (except people who work for shitty companies like Jordan’s). They did move me to an easier group of stores that were further away, and I’ve definitely gotten a little better and more comfortable at the job. Oh and the pay is really good… like way more than I made at Olympia or Jordan’s.

There were weeks at the beginning when I was racking in 10+ hours of OT that I’d make just as much in a week at Pepsi that I did in two weeks at Olympia, which goes to show you how poorly they paid someone who was there for 19 years (and why they can’t keep stores staffed right now). I definitely don’t miss that job either just some of the people that I worked with. That’s the thing with this new job… you don’t work with anyone. You’re alone, you get your shit done and you leave. Which honestly is really nice because I always liked working alone when doing tasks like merchandising a store or organizing or most retail tasks. And I’m an introvert with social anxiety who doesn’t really enjoy talking to strangers so yeah this is perfect for me. I am a perfectionist which apparently is a terrible trait to have as a merchandiser, because you could literally be in a bigger/busier store for hours trying to get everything done and fully stocked. Which would be fine if you didn’t have 4-5 stores to typically go to in a day.

I’m trying to get better and stick it out because the pay is really good and I seem to always quit things when they’re not really easy for me or I’m not really good at them from the start. Not looking forward to driving in the winter to stores that are like an hour away when I can go 80 on the highway – 65 when there are cops around of course – but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. My hours have gone down to like 40-44 a week and I’m not nearly as totally exhausted after my shifts or on my days off – they go by so damn quickly can time slow down a bit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays please? – so that’s good.

I tend to have a lot of ideas that I either forget or never follow through on for one reason or another – mostly probably self-doubt or not wanting to take chances – and one of them that popped up recently (that I clearly remembered) was possibly going back to school for the third time. Not sure if it was from seeing pics over the summer of everyone graduating – since most of the 2020 class had their ceremonies postponed until this summer due to the pandemic so I had a bunch of former co-workers getting their diplomas in 2021 – or just realizing I’m really not doing anything productive other than working or just trying to figure out how to do something other than a physical job that’s more well suited for people in their 20’s and not in their 40’s – I still look like I’m in my 20’s though – but I’ve definitely considered it.

I’m not even sure what I would go for or what major to pursue or where to go or how in the world people pay for college. Was thinking about communications and either an Associate’s (I’d need like 3 courses to get it) or a Bachelor’s, but then my friend Renee said if I go back I should get my Master’s which I had no idea you could do without first getting a lower degree – I have a Bachelor’s in computer science and an Associate’s in sport management already. So I looked up a couple things and contemplated either communications, creative writing/journalism, or sports leadership/management. I’m just not sure if it would be worth it, if I’d have the time to get it done in a reasonable amount of time, and how to pay for it. Plus I didn’t hatch this idea until late August so it wasn’t like I could actually enrol like a week later to start school right now. Still time to figure it out or likely ignore it and not do it.

So yeah that’s about it. Still single too but that’s likely never going to change either. It would probably be easier to get my Master’s than ask a girl out. Or even find one to ask out. Other than friends – actually I don’t even like asking them out and I’m not trying to date them. And don’t ever get feelings for friends because that apparently is a death wish.

Hopefully it won’t be another four months until I update this. Thanks for reading and as always drop me any comments or advice.

Adam, Sept 7, 2021
https://theinnerworkingsofaredhead.wordpress.com/

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For Your Entertainment — online platforms as a career

The internet offers hope to the isolated individual as a source of social connection and, even, income – through turning a hobby into a business and sharing their stories or expertise. However, as with many careers, I wonder if chances of success are significantly weighted towards those with socioeconomic and other privilege and the dream that is popularised by great success stories is, in truth, denied to most.

I wonder what harm is being done to those who place all their hopes on a self-made online career and what help and education is needed to help them to realise their hopes.

The writer of the piece below identifies themselves as a recent high school graduate who is entering college. They have hopes of using online platforms to pursue a career, motivated, at least partly, by their social anxiety and expectation that they will struggle to hold down a traditional job.


“Since I was 9, the idea of being a YouTuber or streamer was incredibly appealing. I could do what I loved, and still make a living. I didn’t ever have to show my face, just talk and be funny. I didn’t even have to be a YouTuber or anything—I just wanted to do something. I wanted to make an impact.

Over the years, I tried to launch my channel and a few other assorted channels or social media accounts to no avail. I hopped around 2-3 pseudonyms, recorded videos of what I loved on my potato computer, and tried to maintain a social media presence. I explored various avenues, from simple browser gaming to Minecraft skin creation to Minecraft itself. The furthest I ever managed to get was 600+ subscribers on Planet Minecraft. But the bottom line was, I was getting nowhere.”

To read the full piece, check the blog link below.

For Your Entertainment — OurThreeSeas

Making a difference in the workplace

Fern leaf sporangia (Pixabay – Creative Commons)

The account below, first published by by Robin Williams, on her site, Green Fern Coven, provides an example of how one can make a difference in the workplace and society despite relatively limited power or influence, especially, by reaching out to others. It also shows that resistance and reform can and, perhaps, must, occur from within and without, to change institutions. Whilst the wider impact of one’s activism might be hard to measure and may feel small or insignificant, the sense of promoting one’s personal values can be greatly empowering and meaningful and, ultimately, essential for healthy wellbeing and development.

I Work for a Church – But I’m a Queer Artist

Yes, you read the title correctly. I’m queer and work for a church. I’m well aware that there are some beautiful churches out there that do support and love us lgbt+ but the church I work for and grew up in, is not one of them. So then why do I work for them?

The short answer is: I have horrible social anxiety. I got my first job when I was nineteen years old, working as a social media coordinator, and it’s been a blessing. I rarely have to worry about people, only have to answer the phone if my co-worker is off or out, and I have the freedom to channel my inner creative to share with the world.

The long answer: I believe in changing the environment I grew up in.

I am not out to the congregation of my church. I’m not out to my pastor. Only my family is aware and I’m currently okay with that. But I still want to integrate my beliefs into my church, and as the social media coordinator, I can.

During Pride month, my first thing to post if I could, would be the Pride flag telling the community that love is love and all are welcome here. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. So instead I pulled verses from the Bible that spoke about love and kindness, and I pasted those words onto solid colour backgrounds. Each coloured background was in the order and shade of the Pride flag and has been scheduled to post through the entire month of June.

It’s no bold act, it’s subtle, but it’s enough for me to feel like I’ve done something. The church doesn’t realize that their social media posts line up as the flag. They don’t know that each week when I make them a playlist of Christian songs, I go out of my way to find an artist who supports the lgbt+, who may even be part of the community themselves. They don’t know that their prayer card readings are formatted the same way my Tarot card pulls are.

And they don’t have to. Anyone looking will know. Anyone who cares enough will know. And if they want to reach out, by reading the list of staff in our office, they’ll see my name and next to that bold text, the words Alphabet Mafia.

And they’ll know that I am their safe space, here, in a place where they will be condemned by the people they grew up around. I work for this church because I know that there is someone else just like me, trying to find comfort and love in the place that preaches it, but doesn’t practice it.

by Robin Williams, Green Fern Coven, June 28 2001.

Exploring Connection & Anxiety with Strangers – Interview with Davelle Lee, from Singapore

Davelle Lee has run a public ‘social anxiety-free’ blanket fort project to get people to engage with others and share their thoughts and feelings. In doing so, she challenged her own insecurities and capacities. Here, she shares more about her projects, which includes a podcast and talks about her experiences of social fears, growing up in Singapore.

I had been running the podcast for a while and felt like I was preaching to the choir because my listeners were people who were familiar with social anxiety or experienced it themselves. So I started to look for ways to reach a wider audience, but first I had to decide what kind of audience I wanted to court.

The festival I ran my first blanket fort at [in 2018] was called the Conscious Festival by Green is the New Black. The organisers advocate for conscious sustainable living in terms of environment, business, personal well being etc., and my message lined up nicely with their ethos. So I pitched the idea to them to create a cosy space for people at the festival who might get overwhelmed by the presence of too many other people.

I wanted to create an environment that was un-intimidating and could immediately give people a sense of safety. What came to mind was an episode of the TV series Community, in which Troy and Abel construct a labyrinth of bedsheets and blankets in their school dormitory that is quickly inhabited by other students and even faculty. Sure, the pair were accused of being immature for building their blanket fort at first, but the cover from the soft bed linen proved to appeal to large swathes of the adult population at campus.

I set out to recreate this feat IRL, hoping it would attract the same response with the Conscious Festival crowd – and thankfully it did. People would poke their heads in just to check the fort out, and then within moments they’d strip their shoes off and start to talk to me about their lives, their dreams and fears. And I’d listen, for hours and hours on end. Someone described the space as magical, which really moved me because that’s exactly what I’d hoped to achieve – to add a little bit of wonder into someone’s day, and to provide a little bit of solace.

After doing a few iterations of the blanket fort over the last two years, it was clear that I was ill-equipped to support some of those who visited. Sometimes, someone would come in with dark thoughts and a lot of hurt. I’m a good listener, but when they asked for advice, I didn’t know what to offer. So this year, I took a post-graduate diploma in psychotherapy to accumulate the experience and skills to guide others better. It’s been a really fruitful journey. I feel like I’m much better prepared to hold space for people now, and I’m looking forward to when I can run my blanket fort again.

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I’ve always been a nervous kid. When I was in kindergarten, I had this habit of standing at the side of the playground and watching the other children play. If anyone came to talk to me or ask me to play, I would freeze up. I couldn’t even speak to them because I was just terrified of all these tiny humans. That’s shyness.

Not only that, I didn’t even want to play by myself, and looking back I think it was probably because I didn’t know what to do and I was afraid of being laughed at or criticised if I ended up playing “the wrong way”. This of course has nothing to do with being shy, but I would only find out much later in life what it was. 

So I had a lot of trouble making friends growing up because I was painfully shy, and then as I got older I learned that I had to talk to people or I wouldn’t have any friends so I did. By the time I got to university, I would say that most people couldn’t tell that I had once been really shy.

All that time I spent working on my shyness, I didn’t do a thing about my social anxiety. Because I just trusted that voice in my head – the snarky one that pointed out all the things I was saying and doing that was wrong, or embarrassing, or stupid – without questioning it. It seemed like she was protecting me from harm by telling me the truth about myself.

So thank God for university, because if there’s one thing that you get from doing a major in psychology is endless opportunities to psychoanalyse the crap out of yourself. And in the pages of my textbooks, I recognised that voice that was telling me that I wasn’t cool or smart or interesting enough. It had a name: social anxiety.

What is social anxiety? Social anxiety is really just the fear of looking stupid, of being judged, by other people. I want to clarify that social anxiety is not always a disorder. It can be, and when it is a disorder it is completely debilitating. But in my case, it isn’t, it’s just an aspect of my personality that’s heightened as compared to others.

This aspect is the tendency to overthink about what others think of you, and to catastrophize over it. We all compare ourselves with other people. How else do you know where you stand? I’m funny if I make people laugh more often than other people, I’m smart if I know the answers to more things than the next guy. With social anxiety, the comparison is almost consistently negative.

When I learned about this at school, for the first time, I realised that this voice in my head, my inner critic, was abnormally loud and bossy, and that she was ruling my life. That was a powerful turning point for me. I began to notice all the ways that this anxiety was preventing me from living life to the fullest (pardon the cliche).

Long story short, over the next few years I’d learned how to be more aware of that inner critic, to call her out every time she tried to stumble me, and to do things in spite of my discomfort. 

I wanted to share my truth about social anxiety through a medium that could best communicate my internal experience. The objective was twofold: I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and put myself out there, essentially the most masochistic thing someone with social anxiety could subject themselves to. Because I needed to grow, and this was the perfect challenge. The goal was also to help others who are fearful like me understand themselves better and in doing so, overcome their insecurity and anxiety. I felt like I had to set an example.

At the time, I was writing for a magazine and I thought about bringing my message to our editorial pitches. But the written word felt flat, insufficient. In hindsight my editors would probably have thrown out the idea anyway – it isn’t fashionable to be afraid of people.

I really love podcasts. They’re raw and intimate and they allow you to connect with an audience in a way that you just can’t with text alone. Because the human voice is, well, it’s the sonic essence of your soul pouring out of your body unfiltered.

So that’s the direction I chose. My little brother’s a musician in a band called Cosmic Child, and he’s been a huge blessing, supporting me with the sound design for the project. He taught me how to edit, and sent me off with a little handheld recorder to do my first episode. 

And here we are now. I’ve experimented with various formats and topics, and the podcast has evolved from simply raising awareness about social anxiety to trying to speak to our common humanity, whatever the heck that means. My latest series makes an attempt to tap into our universal frustration with the state of the world at present to draw some comfort from the tiny glimmers of optimism in these personal essays.

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To give you a bit of context, what someone typically asks when they enter my blanket fort is, “So, what’s this about?” I introduce them to the concept of social anxiety and how all of us experience a fear of being judged to varying degrees. Then I explain how the blanket fort was designed to be a space that’s judgement-free and that they are free to be themselves and use the space however they deem fit.

At this point, many people will tell me that they don’t have social anxiety, but then quickly proceed to contradict themselves by telling me about situations in which they experience that fear of judgement – at work, in their friendships, and especially dealing with family. In families with very traditional values, it can be hard to have open and honest conversations. There are also a lot of rules, and an expectation of a certain level of propriety (e.g. one must never talk back to your parents). And while this isn’t inherently bad – some rules are good, they provide order and a sense of predictability – it can sometimes cause friction between generations. So this topic came up quite a bit: of parents being unable to accept the dreams, ambitions or lifestyles of their children, and children not knowing how to deal with the conflict with their parents.

A young man based in Malaysia told me that moving away from his family took a bit of an adjustment. He loves his parents and wanted to be a good son, but now realised he didn’t actually know what they expected of him. So he called his mother one day and asked, “What are the unspoken agreements that I have with you that I haven’t been fulfilling?” In other words, what were the things she thought he should be doing for her but was not. 

She said, “I wish you’d call every week.” And he asked, “Why didn’t you ask me to?” 

Her answer: “I always thought that if you missed me you would call me.” As a millennial, texting was his way of reaching out and showing her that he was thinking of her and it hadn’t occurred to him that what she needed in order to receive his love was a phone call.

And so he agreed to call her more. Then she asked him what unspoken agreements she had with him that she hadn’t been acting on. 

I adore the concept of speaking our unspoken agreements aloud so we can love one another better.

The subject of pursuing a career that aligns with one’s passion also came up often. People are burdened with the expectation (their own, and from others too) too that they must make a certain amount of money in order to sustain themselves and their families. At the same time, they worry that they are wasting their time in jobs that they don’t care about.

Conversely, it was really nice to listen to people talk about their passions. Whether it’s writing poetry, or making their own clothes, or saving wildlife, or starting a business. A lot of people are excited about their ideas but afraid to talk about them in case they are put down, or they don’t manage to accomplish what they set out to do.

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I’m working on accumulating client hours to get certified as a therapist. If any of your friends needs one, let me know! I do not charge any fees. It’s been really tiring on top of my day job but it’s been really fulfilling too. I don’t think my calling is to be a therapist, but I do think that I can change people’s lives by teaching them how to have healthy conversations and creating safe spaces for them to do so. I’m trying to find out how to use my skills as a therapist (-to-be) and as a writer, and my experience with the blanket forts and podcast, to create something of value to offer to people that’s also a sustainable business.

Working in magazines was really fun. I got to meet and interview people from all walks of life, celebrities, doctors, financial experts, entrepreneurs, chefs, and also just everyday people with interesting stories. It also really challenged me to become a better writer.

The downside was that the magazines I worked for were pretty conservative (and we also have a high level of censorship here in Singapore), so the stories I pitched were often deemed inappropriate or not of value to the mainstream audience. I’m not proud of the countless inconsequential listicles (“10 ways to please your man”, or “7 things you must eat to prevent bloating”) I churned out on the regular during my time there. Also, it paid poorly and saving money was a struggle.

I left my job and freelanced for a year. That same year, I started the podcast. Then I decided I needed more stability and managed to find a government job as a communications officer.

Growing up, I worked part time jobs just like everyone else. I served frozen yogurt, and was a barista at a cafe, and waited tables at a restaurant. I worked at a childcare centre the year before I entered university. And then for a couple of years, I was a research assistant and project manager for a study on the development in children in different types of kindergartens. 

Davelle Lee’s writing and podcasts, which she creates in collaboration with a variety of people, including her friends in Singapore, can be found on her site, www.somescuffs.com.

Read about her reflections on her blanket fort project in her article, Build a Blanket Fort to Rediscover Connection