It’s been four years since I left the retail industry, which in turn was a return to high school except I was literally one of the oldest in the group that I worked with. Thou I needed a job, I am aware that taking this position would provide me with an ample amount of physical and mental headaches; the work was hard and the people I dealt with as co-workers could sometimes be hard-headed. Speaking on the latter, I was not the most extroverted as my co-workers were; often times when things weren’t right, I stayed silent and assumed that if I stuck it out something better would come along and I wouldn’t need to stay here.
Knowing that I was never going to be there for long, I don’t think it made sense for me to attempt any sort of long standing friendships. I am awkward, absent-minded and passive which doesn’t mesh well with the live-in-the-now-in-your-face personalities that dominated the shift I worked in. If a threat was presented against my life (which it was), I didn’t get much support from anyone as I was made to feel like the best reaction to people treating me in a threatening matter was to threaten people back.
As a large individual, that was never going to end well for me and I would have been let go.
If I didn’t have the family dynamics that I did around the time I joined the retail industry, I would have left when the first question I was asked at my first retail job was whether I was aware of the film The-40-Year-Old Virgin. I understand that was meant as a joke, but that generally doesn’t strike me as a good way to greet someone on their first day.
Had I quit that day, my mother would have essentially gave me a practical reason to stay: it’s either this, or poverty. Given that there wasn’t a bone being thrown my way for the career I wanted, I had to accept those jokes to keep getting a paycheck. This kind of thinking damages the mind after awhile; you begin to believe that disrespect is the norm, that kindness is weakness and hard work is for suckers who don’t know any better.
Going back to the 40 year old virgin joke, I had to consider what my reality would have been like had I chosen to be more sexually experienced the way others in my retail years did; I would have had kids that I could care for, women that I didn’t really care for and diseases that a penicillin shot wouldn’t erase that would eventually kill me and leave the women in my life heartbroken and the children I made without a father. This isn’t something that my parents scared into me; I lost an uncle to AIDS in the mid-80s and witnessed a few of my relatives’ struggle with being parents to kids they didn’t necessarily want and who didn’t send love back because of them being neglected.
Because I didn’t have enough sense of who I was, giving almost all of myself to the concerns of others, it was easy for me to take people with lifestyles that out of control as celebrities. Despite whatever they did that wouldn’t agree with the regular society at large, they were still respected because they didn’t seem as afraid of life as people who associated with me felt I did. In their eyes, I should have left my parents to fend for themselves and treat people like buses.
Given how I sometimes feel like I wasted my life, there is a part of me that wonders why I stayed around. I could have told my parents to go get help from the state to deal with their individual illnesses and stresses. I could have pushed more for them to “get more friends” so they didn’t to rely on me. Then, I think about what I witness in my retail years.
I witnessed “friends”, many of which who worked at the retail jobs I worked at, seemingly end friendships within seconds over seemingly insipid situations. I witnessed “friends” turn each other over to managers to gain an upper hand and favoritism. I witnessed “friends” spend their time declaring their love, but seemingly whispering their secret hatred for each other.
This is how the “celebrities” I admired there lived and interacted with others. This is who I admired and wanted to be. Anything I was seemed phony and programmed by the middle-class upbringing, according to them, my parents created because they wanted to shield me from the real world. Lying awake at night these days, I have pondered this idea that my entire life was a lie.
However, if I was living a lie in my protected surroundings, the “celebrities” I admired at my retail jobs were equally living out lies. As much as the truths I grew up from my surroundings molded how I acted, the truths they inhabited from their surroundings shaped my co-workers. There is, if you want to go down the rabbit hole, no universal way of coming into your own.