Life: The Most Complicated Race

“Life isn’t a race. Everyone goes at their own pace.”

I never found either of those phrases comforting. To me, they seemed like something to say for the sake of making someone who’s behind feel better. After all, why would anyone say those things to someone who’s ahead? It’s like telling someone whose life is going great at the moment that everything will be okay. They don’t need to hear that because everything already is okay for them.

If life were a race, it’d be an extremely complicated one.

The “right” way to live life is supposed to be finish high school at 18, finish college at 22, start a career, get married, buy a house in the suburbs (why is it always suburbs?), have kids before 30, retire at 65, and… that’s it.

Of course, nothing is wrong with that path of life, but there are too many people in the world to expect that to be everyone’s path in life. “No one size fits all”, especially when it comes to how to live. Even if you did everything in the “script”, you might not do it at the “normal” age. Some people finish high school at 16 (in fact, in European countries, 16 is the normal age to finish high school), some people start college at 20, some people start 18 and finish at 26, some people have kids in their 30s (one of my co-workers had her son at 39), you get the idea.

I’ve always been in a late bloomer in the script. Heck, you could say my script was in reverse because I loved adult shows and looked after children as a child, and I’d set myself on fire before I ever relived my childhood (another part of the “script”; you’re supposed to want to go back to childhood because it was more carefree). I finished high school at 19, dropped out of community college at 20, met my boyfriend at 21 (well, three months before I would be 21), got a soul-sucking job at 22 (that I was naïvely happy about because it was my first job), went to trade school at 24, graduated two months before I’d turn 25. That’s the end so far. My script is all screwed up, and really, it’s writing itself. If things go well, I can add “got my driver’s license at 25” to it. But judging by the “normal” life script, I am very late! I’m supposed to have a ring on my finger by now, and be walking down the aisle in a few months! Or maybe I’m supposed to be buying the house. Did I mention I hate rings, weddings, and am neutral to being a homeowner? Wait, can you build a career in four years? Isn’t that assuming you find a job immediately out of college? How do you fit “marriage, house, child” into four years? I guess, technically speaking, it’s possible, but that’d be way too fast for me.

The perhaps-not-so-ironic thing is I’ve never felt bad about being late. I used to for a while, but I usually got over it because I got something good out of it.

  • I graduated high school a year late because I was forced to transfer school districts. I had the chance to skip 11th grade, but I didn’t feel ready. If I did, I would’ve never met my best friend, who I’ve said more than once is the only good I got out of high school. We met in September 2011, meaning we’ve been friends for 7 1/2 years! That means so much more to me than graduating “on time”. And in the end, nobody cares what age I was when I finished high school. Just that I did.
  • I only went to community college because my family wouldn’t stop pressuring me. Had I stuck it out, I would’ve either flunked out anyway, or had a degree I didn’t care about. I was much more focused in trade school because I wanted to be there and I’d been away from school for a few years, which got rid of the burnout from my previous 14 years of schooling (now, I have retail burnout!).
  • Probably the only thing I’ve done “on time” is meet my boyfriend, but I don’t think there’s any “right” age to meet the person you marry (though the idea seems to be you’d meet them in college; there are people who attend college solely for that reason). However, we are not getting married any time soon. In fact, it’ll be a while before we’ve even under the same roof, let alone walking down the metaphorical (or literal) aisle. I couldn’t care less about that. My view on marriage has always been I’m open to it, but it’s not necessary for me to be happy.
  • My license. I’m currently studying for the written test, and practicing with free tests online, but whatever age I get it, it’s still a license. The reason I didn’t get it earlier is I failed driver’s ed in high school and my family couldn’t afford a car anyway, so I saw it as pointless. However, taking the “adult road” means I don’t have as many restrictions because I’m over 21. That makes me glad I waited.
  • My “career” started in retail, and I quickly discovered I don’t want it to be a career! But it’s still work experience, something I can put on a resume, and it got me through school, so I don’t regret it. Whenever I get an IT-related job, I will definitely be late on the “start a career’ checkpoint. But it’ll still be a career. Just got to find it.

Maybe the better thing to do would be teaching teenagers it’s okay to have an “abnormal” path in life,  and that everyone’s path in life won’t be the same. In the end, what age you check a box off, so to speak, really only matters to you. Yes, I wish some things happened earlier – I wish I’d gotten my license at 21 so I’d have it now, and I wish I’d met my boyfriend in our teens so we’d have more time together – but I’m not upset they happened, or are happening, at the times they did. It’s not worth being upset about. Any person it does matter to isn’t someone I want part of my life. The last thing I need help with is comparing myself.

Besides, my end goal in life is to have a life I’m happy with. That includes my boyfriend by my side, whether he’s still my boyfriend or my husband by that point, us living happily under the same roof, never worrying about money, and having jobs we enjoy and don’t drudge through. As much as I’d like it as soon as possible, I’ll go slowly if it means it’s built stronger and lasts longer.

“Not Like Other Girls”

I hate this phrase with a burning passion.

Apparently, we’ve come full circle. It seems this phrase is a rebellion against shaming girls for being “too feminine”. That is, if you’re tomboyish – or at least, less feminine than stereotyped – you’re a faker because no real woman wouldn’t have some feminine traits or preferences. Whereas in the past, the shame would be for not being feminine enough, which is probably where “tomboy” came from to begin with.

Does no one realize the only reason this crap exists is due to stereotypes in the first place?

This discussion came up on a Reddit thread about engagement rings. Those threads usually lead to a lot of people saying they don’t want or care for expensive rings. I’m one of those people. I don’t particularly like rings, but even if I did, I’d kick my boyfriend’s behind to the moon with Princess Luna if he ever spent hundreds, or thousands, on an engagement ring. If it’s for himself, fine, but if it’s for me, I don’t want it. I’d actually question marrying him if he did that because I cannot justify so much spent on something that has no function beyond prettiness. At the very least, it would tell me not to combine our finances (Also, what the heck is the idea of wearing one particular piece of jewelry for as long as you live? That’s weird to me) because I’d view that spending as irresponsible. Yeah, it’d be his money and he can do what he wants, and I can think he’s crazy.

I didn’t say all of that on the thread, but many people were vocal about their opinions. Cue a hoard of offended people with engagement rings screaming how everyone who doesn’t care for expensive rings is essentially a “holier-than-thou” “not like other girls” poser trying to be cool. Or maybe some people really don’t like rings and were just expressing themselves? Isn’t that what Reddit is for? More so, how is shaming people for not liking rings any better than supposedly being shamed for liking rings? They did the same thing they accused the first commenters of.

The easier solution seems to not abide by stereotypes at all, but that would require us as a society to admit we created some screwed-up ideas and, well, we as people don’t do that.

Speaking of stereotypes, I will say this: I do understand why some people care a lot about rings. There are people who judge someone’s partner by the amount of money they have, and I don’t put it past some people to assume an inexpensive ring is a sign of poverty or poor finances. Being blatantly honest, there are still people who believe men are supposed to be the breadwinner (I wonder if not caring who makes more money is also “not like other girls”), and consider it shameful if he’s not.

The bottom line is people should be able to have preferences without being stereotyped as “not like other girls” or “like every other girl”.

And the reason the thread sparked so much emotion? The opening post was a screenshot of someone jealous her sister had a bigger ring than she did, and wanting her husband-to-be to exchange the ring he bought for a bigger one because of said jealousy. She was asking how to approach him about the subject.

I don’t care how “not like other girls” it makes me. That’s petty as heck.

Eve of New Year’s Eve

Counting today, there are two more days left of 2018. Truthfully, I am glad. I hated this year and I’ve been dying for it to be over since it started. Usually, there’s something that makes me not entirely regret a bad year, but 2018 is not in that category. I can call it the second worst year of my life (first worst was 2010).

In chronological order, and from bad to worse:

  • I lost my full-time position because I couldn’t keep up with the workload. Actually, I had to step down from it to avoid being fired for incompetence. If I’d know taking a promotion meant putting your employment on the line, I never would’ve asked for it.
  • I had to delay school by two months for the very stupid reason of my birthday falling after the deadline! Seriously, what pompous a**hole thought that was a good set-up? I would’ve been done with school by now, and wouldn’t have had to struggle with the hell of juggling holiday hours and school hours.
  • Falling out with my sister. We didn’t get along to begin with, but she tried to blackmail me and attempted to start a family feud via my boyfriend. I very nearly cut our relationship completely because he went behind my back to her, but he apologized and I did find out part of it was her taking advantage of his anxiety (which does notoriously make him do stupid things).
  • The Black Friday shooting I was part of. I didn’t have the heart to return to that job, and I still haven’t set foot in that mall. I’ve thought about it, but knowing that’s an annual event at that mall is too much for me to feel good about going back. And yes, I know a shooting can happen anywhere, but when it’s so commonplace that knowing it happens every year is supposed to be comforting instead of terrifying, that’s not my idea of a safe working environment. Or shopping one, for that matter. (Interestingly, I’ve been more easily startled by loud sounds since this incident, especially crowd noise)

Not a damn good thing came out of this year, and I’d gladly burn it to the ground if I could. I don’t have hopes for 2019, especially since it’s supposed to (key word) be the year I finish trade school and go into the field I studied. Note to self: avoid anything to do with networking at all costs. I’m almost expecting it to be worse than 2018, considering certain circumstances I don’t feel like getting into.

500% done with this year!

Forty Percent Off Your Life

I had a rather harrowing experience this past Friday, which was Black Friday, to be specific.

Black Friday is always hellish when it comes to retail. Since I was working in a mall, I expected much more traffic. It was a bit more stressful than at my previous job, where there were never Black Friday sales to begin with, but I was managing to deal with it.

What I did not expect was to almost lose my life that night.

There was a shooting at the mall in a store on the lower level. A huge crowd suddenly stampeded into our store in a panic, and all of my co-workers ran toward the back. I don’t recall if I heard gunshots or not. I assume the immense fear and anxiety is to blame for the unclear memory. But I will never forget hiding in our backroom, scared for my life, wondering if we’ll get out, wondering if we’ll get home.

We hid for around twenty to thirty minutes. Some of my braver co-workers peeked outside the door every so often. The store’s shutters were down, so no one could enter. Eventually, police came and led us to one of the mall’s emergency exits, which was luckily right across from our store. We all ran. I got as far away from the mall as I could and call a relative to pick me up.

Minus the one person who was shot, no one in the mall was hurt and the mall was shut down for the night. The victim wasn’t critically injured, so he/she will hopefully have a speedy recovery.

It goes without saying I was shaken up, as were a lot of my co-workers, especially those of us who hadn’t worked in in the mall prior to this holiday season. One of my co-workers who’d been there for a few years tried to comfort me by saying that mall has a shooting every year (a few minutes of Google searching proved her correct). I have no idea how that’s supposed to be comforting. The mall was up and running the next day like normal, but most of the mall’s workers did not come in the next day. Neither did I. Some people can handle, but some can’t, and I don’t believe violence, and the risk of losing your life, should be part of a retail job, of all things. We didn’t sign up for that. Personally, if I’d known that mall has a shooting annually, I would never have applied. I’ve done active shooter drills at school, and I was still in no way prepared for that.

The bigger question to me, however, is why any sale is worth violence, let alone the loss of someone’s life. I’ve read about Black Friday violence. I know about the crazy crowds that trample each other, that fight to get what’s on sale before it runs with no regard for who they hurt. I know it’s been going on for decades now, but that only makes it worse. The USA is supposed to be the greatest country, correct? How are we the greatest when all it takes to reduce us to the behavior of savage animals is a discount for things we most likely don’t need? Why are workers expected to deal with the resulting violence, that could potentially spell the end of someone’s life in some cases, such as mine recently? Why is this just accepted by us?

I do not care how preachy I sound when I say this: No sale is worth someone’s well-being! No sale is worth their life!

It’s no wonder to me now why retail has such a high turnover rate. Note that outside of pharmacies and grocery stores, retail is not exactly an essential service. Yes, we need clothes, but we can by without spending $25 on a shirt. Seriously. I’ve bought very pretty and long-lasting clothes for cheaper. That’s not to say I don’t think people should be able to indulge themselves, but you won’t die without them. For the fact it’s not an essential and it’s, for the most part, an easy one to learn, I do understand why it pays so little (I’m not of the opinion minimum wage workers don’t deserve a livable wage because no one deserves to go hungry, but that’s another topic that’s been beaten to death), but if risking your well-being and possibly your life is going to be part of the job, it needs to start paying a lot more. And no, “time and a half” doesn’t cover it, and not stores give that anyway.

Though I may not have a choice, if I can help it, I will not work at the mall again. Yes, a shooting can happen anywhere, but that mall’s an annual target and all it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If that were to happen to me, everyone would cry I shouldn’t have been there (in fact, my boss at my other did put the blame for the shooting on me for that very reason). I don’t think I’m paranoid for wanting to avoid it, knowing its history of previous shootings. Just because businesses are willing to trade lives for sales doesn’t mean I am.

Off my soapbox I go.

My Guilty Conscience

Recently, I used Amazon for a purchase.

I stopped using Amazon some years ago because they don’t accept PayPal and, much more serious and atrocious, they’re infamous for treating their warehouse workers like garbage.

Unfortunately, a desire to save some money on a graphics tablet and its unavailability for the same price elsewhere led me to their website. They lost my package, but they refunded the shipping cost, gave me a promotional credit, and resent out the package (I only asked for the last option). Their customer service is wonderful, but that makes my conscience worse.

I do not want to support a company that treats its workers horrendously. At the same time, it doesn’t matter whether I use Amazon or not. They’re big enough, and successful enough, that most people don’t care about those workers, and would I may as well be a speck of dirt in comparison to their customer base. Yet, my conscience still doesn’t let me off the hook.

Yes, I feel guilty about buying from Amazon. I desperately hope the customer service representatives are treated well, or using their services will be on my conscience as well. That said, all workers should be treated well without exception. Despite what I just said above about knowing lack of my business with them means nothing, I doubt I will use Amazon again after I receive the package they lost due to my conscience eating away at me.

I recently read an article where, in response to criticism of how their workers are treated, Amazon responded by saying they pay their workers more than most retailers. The problem has zero to do with money, and that combined with my conscience is more than enough for me to avoid Amazon after they deliver my package. I only wish I could make more of a difference than not giving them my business (which, again, makes no difference at all).