The Real American Hustle

As published on Thought Catalog on May 22, 2014.


I’ve been wanting to write about this for about 3 months but haven’t been (st)able to actually put pen to paper – or in this case – thoughts to type.  It wasn’t until someone that I barely know asked me if I liked my job – and I could answer honestly.

In every defining moment, I believe that there is hope.

When you graduate college – you are hopeful to start a career and do things that you are passionate about.

When you start a new relationship – you are hopeful that it could last forever, that this could be it.

When you move to a new place – you are hopeful in the expectations of meeting new people and making new friends.

When you start your first job – you are hopeful that it will be fulfilling of your time and worth.

Not everything works out as planned.

Starting my first ‘real’ job after bartending for months after graduating college was a feeling I can’t really explain.  I loved making drinks and meeting people, but it was time for me to move on.  I know plenty of 30-year-old bartenders and most of them have awesome lives.  But I knew that wasn’t for me.

Suddenly, I was working in an office with real people, real responsibility and real paychecks.

It’s a harsh reality though.  Maybe my experience isn’t out of the norm.  Maybe this is what all corporate America is like.  Maybe what I’ve been through isn’t that bad, comparatively.  But I don’t think that is the case.

This job wasn’t like any other.  Of course, at the time, I had nothing else to compare it to.  But I knew that it was different.  Think of Devil Wears Prada – but in a financial setting without all the clothes and accessories.  And with a boss more terrifying that any role Meryl Streep has ever played.  My job was simply to please and accommodate him in any way possible.  (Get your minds out of the gutters.  Not in THAT way. Gross.)

The thing is – I was good at my job.  But never good enough.  For the majority of my time there, I worked harder and harder in order to impress my boss.  I would go out of my way to be over prepared for anything that he may want or need in advance.  The problem was – he didn’t notice.  But if something went wrong – you better believe that he let me know.

It would take me forever to explain the complexities of this company and position.  And it’s not something that is worth delving into.  But I will say that although there were trying days – what kept me positive were the perks.  It’s always the perks.

  • Gym membership to one of the most exclusive clubs in Denver
  • Corporate credit card to use at Starbucks and whenever I went out with my co-workers
  • Views of downtown from my office
  • Occasional courtside Nuggets tickets.
  • Free covered parking downtown
  • Lunch that was cooked daily by a private chef

I was living in a bubble.  A bubble that, no doubt, was waiting to be popped.

When was it exactly that I knew this job wasn’t for me? I would say about 10 months too late. What was the tipping point? I don’t’ think I can pin point one thing – but here are a few of the events that occurred that made me realize that it was a world that I wanted out of.  Forever.

My boss apologized to my friend at the Christmas party for the way that he treated me.

I was unable to go home for Christmas due to work so, instead, compromised by flying home afterwards to see my friends on NYE and my family on New Year’s Day.  The day before I left – I was told that I needed to cut my already short trip even shorter due to the fact that I ‘needed’ to be back in the office so that I didn’t end up on my bosses radar.  I wasn’t able to see my family at all – and couldn’t even remember the last time that I had seen my dad.  This killed me.  I think it was the only time that my roommate had seen me cry.  And this was only the beginning.

It would be 6 in the morning and on my way to work I would be crying on the phone to my mom.

Old friends who I would see once or twice a year would verbally express their worries about my job.

This is the hardest and most embarrassing to admit.  But, when our bonuses came – a coworker, who started after me and was in the position below me, got more than I did.  I knew that I should have never looked but, hey, self-control is overrated.  This drove me crazy.  Because, like I said – I was good at my job.  But more than that, a girl who worked there a year longer got a whole $6k more than I did.  And told me she was, ‘disappointed.’  Completely confused by this – I went to my cousins for advice and they told me to speak up.  But I didn’t.  What would I say? I didn’t want to seem ungrateful because, well, I wasn’t. And who would I say it to? There was no HR department.  And you don’t talk to ‘the boss’ ever. EVER. So I kept it inside.  That is, until one day, my boss made a snide comment and I lost it.  I tried to leave the building unnoticed – but a coworker saw that I was visibly upset.  When I came back, the VP asked to speak with me.

Imagine this: Me, hysterically crying about how I felt unappreciated while sitting across from an authority figure who was scrolling through her emails.

Looking back at it – I have to laugh. Otherwise it’s just sad.

It wasn’t until my dad called me that I knew it was rock bottom.  He asked, “Is it really that bad?” And that was a fair question.  Not that I am overly dramatic – but I do have a tendency to overreact at times. When I answered – that yes, it was that bad, without a moment of hesitation –  I knew that I had to make a change.

I was no longer myself.  I was consumed by a place that was controlled by money. I was in a toxic environment that thrived off of bringing people down.  It’s a crazy feeling to be controlled like a puppet by money and perks. It’s like I was looking down upon a life that wasn’t mine.  It wasn’t me. But I was in too deep to see it.

After finally finding my balls and leaving that place, I packed my bags for a much needed vacation to visit a friend in Spain where, finally, I started to feel like myself again for the first time in a year.

alex and jordan

To all my friends and family who supported me through hell week – or, more like, hell year – you know that I appreciate it more than anything.  Thanks for keeping the laughs and the vodka flowing.

Looking back, I did learn a lot:

You do not owe your first job anything.  Sure, maybe they hired you – but you are not irreplaceable.  They know that, and you should too.  Don’t think that you have to stay at a place you’re unhappy at because of loyalty.  Because as soon as they are unhappy with you – they will have no problem cutting those ties. You shouldn’t either.

Stand up for yourself.  If something feels wrong, out of place, or unjust – speak up.  For as outgoing and forward as I am – I have a really difficult time doing this.  I would rather avoid the confrontation then stand up for myself and get the chance to create change.  For God’s sake – I broke out in hives when I put my two weeks in!!

Crying on the phone with my mom one of those early mornings – I sobbed, “I feel like I’ve wasted an entire year of my life!” And, in that way that only moms can, she said, “Honey, of course you didn’t.  Think of everything that you are taking away from this experience.  You know what you don’t want to do, how you don’t want to treat people and most importantly – you’ve recognized your value as a person, as a human being, and that is not a waste.”

I am now in a job that I absolutely love – surrounded by smart and enthusiastic people who appreciate the work that I do.  As Warren Buffett would say, “I tap dance to work every day” because I really do enjoy it that much.

Money doesn’t buy happiness.
Yesterday, my bank account had $2.67 in it.  And I couldn’t be fucking happier.

– J

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s