I’m working again. I’m a produce clerk in a grocery store. When I first got the job, my sister asked me if I thought it was beneath me. I told her that no, it wasn’t beneath me. When you’re hard up for cash and want to make an honest living, there’s no such thing as a job being beneath you. But then, I started having flashbacks to junior high health. This being the early 90s, emotional well-being was stressed as much physical health, so there were units devoted to job-related stress. Within this unit was the differentiation between “job,” “occupation,” and “career.” And now, as I look back on this unit and comparing it to what my sister said, I still believe that a job in a grocery store isn’t beneath me. But, a career in a grocery store is very beneath me.
The good thing about working in this grocery store instead of ol’ Extra Evil is the fact that they offer full-time hours. As such, they are expecting an employee who is going to be somewhat permanent. I haven’t had the heart to tell them that I’m just doing this as a summer thing and I’m going to be gone on August 31. They figure my training period will end around that time and I’ll be ready to work on my own. So, most of my new coworkers have been at this job for a long time.
The youngest one has been there 6 years. In these first few weeks, she has delighted in sharing the details of her career. She started when she was 16, and she is now 22. Working at this grocery store has been a real family affair. Her mother is a cashier and her sister and fiancée work in grocery. In fact, it’s at this store where she and her soon-to-be first met and fell in love. She goes through her schedule in great detail, as she tells me how you must work really quickly in produce, and that, by noon, you must have all your duties done so you are ready for whatever unexpected things may happen. She even shared her secret with me. If you come to work 15 minutes early, and have your break in that first 15 minutes, then you can work your entire morning straight through to lunchtime! She takes such great pride in this schedule and the work she does. Now, being the young trainee that I am, I just nod and take mental notes so, when I’m working on my own in September, I can be as great as her. But, in reality, in my head, I’m screaming, “ALL YOU DO IS WASH LETTUCE AND MAKE SURE THERE ARE ENOUGH APPLES ON THE SHELF!” And she’s been doing it for six years, with her entire family helping her out. I just think, “My God! How can you survive doing that?”
Let’s be honest. I’ve only been there two weeks and I’m already starting to grow loathsome towards it. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s just a summer job, I know for certain I wouldn’t last. I look back at my life and I know that if I worked at Extra Evil any longer, I would have gone loopy. Well, not true. I probably worked at Extra Evil about 6 months past loopy. But I look at these people, those who have committed their lives to making sure the apples are clean and that there’s enough salad dressing on the shelves, and I think, “Don’t you aspire to be anything more?”
This is the small town mentality that I’m fighting against. This is what I fear becoming. My co-worker looks at her life of washing celery and trimming broccoli and looks at her husband, the greasy stock boy, and thinks, “I have it all. I have reached the pinnacle of my existence.” But, don’t these people realize that there’s more to life? We live in a world; a society where we can grow to become anything we choose to be. And these people choose to stay in their small town working in their small grocery store.
Well, that’s not true. The permits have been signed and it’s been made official. Drayton Valley is getting a Wal-Mart. So now, they all aspire to work for Wal-Mart. But that doesn’t negate the fact the sun rises and sets on their small town, and the prospect of seeking what lies beyond is something that they consider intangible.
I know I shouldn’t dictate to them how they should live their lives. If they can look at themselves in the mirror every morning and be truly happy with the life they’ve chosen, well then, it’s their business. But I know that, if I were to do it for any length of time, I wouldn’t be able to do that. No, I aspire to grow beyond my limits. I want to get out of these towns and just try to be more than I already am.
I still don’t know where I’m going to go or how I’m going to do it. That’s the fun of getting into broadcasting. It’s a very nomadic existence; you go where the work is. My ultimate goal would be to settle down in a city somewhere. I’ve have very like-minded classmates. One even expressed a desire to go do her practicum in New Zealand. Just someplace bigger, where I can get lost in the crowd and get lost in my thoughts. And that won’t happen in the small town where everyone else is in everyone’s business.
I aspire to be more than I am. I aspire to be more than this town offers. And, most of the people here don’t have similar aspirations, something which I just can’t understand.
To wash lettuce and make sure that there are enough apples on the shelf, that is a job that is not beneath me. But to make a career of it; to dedicate my life to it, that is beneath me. I have hopes and aspirations that are bigger than Entwistle, Drayton Valley, and yes, even Seba Beach combined. I will not rest; I cannot rest until my hopes and aspirations are fulfilled. To stay here, and to make a career out of whatever I can find is a walking death. It may be fine for some people, but for me, it’s soul-crushing. There’s so much to see, so much to do. It’s not the job that’s below me, sis. It’s the career.