back again for some indie-ink writing challenge love. to join the fun, register here, and follow them @II_Challenge. this week, i was challenged by Kelly, who blogs here . and i challenged Stefan with “the top 5 scenarios that make you uncomfortable.”
my prompt was “Terms and Conditions May Apply”
…to a full-time job.
If you’re an average American, you grew up in a household where mom and dad (or stepmom and dad, or just mom, or grandparents, or legal guardians, or dad and dad, or any other non-traditional parental unit) dropped you off at school at 7:30am on their way to work and then came home shortly after 5:00pm. You got used to them coming home, feeding you, tutoring you, bathing you, fighting with you about bedtime – and then winning said fight – and then tucking you in. Arguably, the worst part of your day was between the hours of 8 and 5. Not only were you forced to be separated from your parents (who are still the coolest people on the planet), you have to spend the day exercising your brain in ways that sometimes make no sense at all. You’re spending eight hours getting bullied or learning fractions or being taught how to put spaces in between your words when you write. You spend 18 years in this manner; somewhere along the way it translates that all of this is adding up to someday when you will have a full-time job – a career into which you have already invested a lot of time, passion, and energy. You then spend four, six, eight, or more years studying at the undergraduate and/or graduate level, and you get a little more excited as you can taste this “someday” a little bit more distinctly. Promises of huge paychecks and purposeful work is the undertone of your 200-person lectures, and the commencement stage is like fire under your bare feet as you leap like a gazelle off into “someday.” You can’t wait to finally spend those crucial eight hours a day completing award-winning tasks and smiling like Buddy the Elf.
And then you get offered a full-time job from the first place you sent your resume that pays six figures and you live happily ever after, making money saving lives and taking names.
Oh wait. That didn’t happen to you? Yeah, me neither.
There are some terms and conditions to having a full-time job:
You might hate it.
Let’s be honest – you very well might currently think that the worst part of your day is still between the hours of 8 and 5. Sometimes, entry-level jobs are just another medium used to show you something you don’t like at all. After spending your college years scheduling your classes no earlier than noon and never ever never scheduling more than two classes back-to-back (more than 4 hours of sitting? #rookiemistake) it comes as quite a shock when someone requires you to be showered, fed, and energetic at the sharp hour of 8:00am. Not only that, they then require you to spend roughly eight straight hours sitting down in front of a computer. Albeit a paid requirement, it still sucks as you watch your ass slowly take on the shape of your office chair. It’s exhausting doing mundane work like that, and it’s impossible to do it once you lose passion for the work you’re doing. What started out as the perfect post-grad opportunity has now diminished your will to live. You begin to hate the sound of your alarm at 6:30am, and 2:30pm comes with a cement wall of exhaustion, bringing with it a headache and an inability to remember what it’s like to ever not be sitting in this office chair, in front of this computer. Drinks after 5:00 with your fellow 20-something coworkers who are also having quarter-life crises becomes therapy. You come straight home and watch reruns of Let’s Make a Deal and TLC specials until you crash into your bed. You really might hate having a full-time job because it is nothing like the dream that you were promised.
You might change your bedtime.
There were days when I thought going to bed before 2:00am was a sign of weakness. When you’re in college, your peak hours are between 10:00pm and dawn. This is when life happens – the studies, the parties, the getting-into-trouble-moments, the Define The Relationship talks – everything except sleeping. You learn how to function off four hours of sleep by overloading on caffeine and processed sugar.
Once you get a job that requires your attention shortly after sunrise, you change your sleeping habits. You slowly start to get tired earlier and earlier into the evening. The day you feel sleepy at 8:00pm, you start to lose your mind. After months of working in a full-time job, you might not even be able to recognize midnight if you saw it walking down the street.
You might form habits that will stick with you forever.
You will go from being able to splurge on $5 lattes every day on your way to class to being forced to make coffee in your crappy apartment that looks nothing like the already-furnished on-campus cottage you used to live in. You discover that maybe a spoonful of sugar and a drop of milk may not be the preferred flavor in your coffee, but it sure tastes a lot better than the over-priced creamer feels coming out of your bank statement every two weeks.
You will learn how to budget: When you work in a bar, you treat cash like Monopoly money because it’s just always in your wallet. When you want to go on vacation, you work doubles for a week and then you take five straight days off. When you get your paycheck, it gets spent like this: rent, beer, fast food, Starbucks, that new pair of shoes, beer, Red Bull energy drinks, fast food, happy hour, and DVDs from the $5 bin at Wal Mart. When you have a full-time job that pays a set salary, you learn that you get paid at the beginning of the month and that’s it (For you lucky kids out there, you might get paid again on the 15th, in which case I stick my tongue out at you. #privileged). Once the reality of this pay-period kicks in, you spend your money like this: rent, student loans, car payments, and boxes and boxes of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese. You then set money aside that you cannot spend immediately, and use it towards gas for your car, groceries, and savings. If you run out of this money, you don’t get to buy energy drinks or ukuleles off of eBay just for the hell of it. You have some money, you spend it, and then you don’t have that money again until the 1st of the next month, which always takes forever to get here. You learn to wait for the 1st, to spend/save wisely, to cook chicken and eat it throughout the week instead of living your life through drive-thru windows.
You will learn how to cherish your weekends. It doesn’t make sense that Saturday is so far from Monday, but then Monday comes way too quickly after Friday. Sunday afternoons begin to leave a bitter aftertaste as they quickly go by. On a Tuesday, 5:00 never arrives; on a Sunday, it comes and goes like a Lindsay Lohan tabloid.
You might start to feel really old.
The ache in your bones on a Friday afternoon feels different every week, and the fact that you know about things like life insurance plans and which gas stations have better prices, begin to make you feel like a 50 year old trapped in a 24 year old’s body. I am told that this passes; that after a few years in the rut of wake up, work, watch Netflix, go to sleep, I will begin to feel a little more inspired and a lot less disappointed.
If you can deal with all of these things, then you also realize that having a full-time job isn’t horrible. It’s actually kind of fun. Yes, we all miss the days when we could make last minute decisions to go to a midnight showing of High School Musical 3. But there is an end to every chapter in order to make way for a new one. The terms and conditions aren’t so bad after all.