Aspiring Adult: The summer job
Hannah Wendland reflects on the hardships of a summer retail job
I recently experienced heartbreak in its most devastating form. I was forced to part with a long-term love of my mine: my treasured summer holiday. For the first time, the months of June, July and August didn’t melt into one hazy sun-soaked Saturday, but rather transformed into three seemingly eternal months of work and responsibility; both of which I’ve skillfully succeeded in avoiding in previous years.
Whether you were serving food, stacking shelves, cleaning, operating a cash register or selling clothes, most of us have experienced the lows (and, if you are lucky, some highs) of the summer job. My personal experience this year was in the field of shirt folding, sweeping floors and customer coddling. Otherwise recognized as the retail industry. And so, equipped with a nametag, and my seven octaves higher than normal customer service voice, I waved a gloomy goodbye to a summer of naps and day drinking, and trudged towards a summer of adulting.
The words: “fire me, I dare you”, which I whispered furiously to myself several times a day
Of course, I’d fantasized about an internship in some cool tech startup where mid-morning mimosas are a company rule, and there are slides where there should be stairs, but, with no degree as of yet, “four years of babysitting” and “desperate for money” filling my CV, my prospects for snagging a trendy job were looking rather thin. Nevertheless, I was hopeful.
Initially, the entry into working life sounds like quite an exciting prospect. Full-on “adult who has their life on track” sort of stuff. However, I quickly realized that the realities of working a full-time job are remarkable in their ability to obliterate any hopeful crumb of optimism. Whether it was the hours I spent sorting through tangled webs of approximately 800 clothes hangers, or the frank horror of having to interact with not-always-polite customers, I found myself questioning whether I would ever feel happy again. My sole source of comfort were the few flashes of sweet escape I managed to steal, when I would “go check in the back room” for a customer. Which is just retail industry code for: I have already forgotten who you are and what you asked for, I really don’t care, and I am leaving only to take a five-minute cry break.
Admittedly, on my first day on the job, I was determined to be a star employee. Proactive, positive and ready for any task that was thrown my way. That last one was crucial, as clothes were quite literally thrown at me by some customers. The overarching tone of my last days at work, however, could be better described by the words: “fire me, I dare you”, which I whispered furiously to myself several times a day.
I’ve officially dipped my toes into the waters of adulting
Nevertheless, this experience has provided me with key skills and abilities, relating to time management, efficiency, customer service and the importance of working collaboratively in a team. Or, at least that’s how I’m going to spin this for all my 11 LinkedIn connections.
The first summer job is a rite of passage we must all go through. I leave this experience with a newfound appreciation for retail workers, a bit of extra cash in my pocket and lifelong blisters on the soles of my feet (not to mention the scars on my soul). I’ve also officially dipped my toes into the waters of adulting. Thankfully, with graduation still a while away, I don’t have to fully commit to being a grown up just yet. And while my broken heart may mend, I still hope to one day be reunited with my dear summer holiday.