You don’t read stories about me on the Internet

September 7, 2015

In the summer of 2004, I accepted a position working the graveyard shift at a small fishing resort on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. The job was pretty straightforward: bag ice when customers weren’t around, make sure the shelves were stocked. I even took a few shifts as a server and dishwasher to mix things up a bit. Unfortunately, this led to one of the most disgusting tasks I’ve ever had to do, in all my travels: thoroughly empty and clean a grease trap. To those who feel like they might want in on the experience, I suggest otherwise. Not only does that smell still haunt my dreams, but I was absolutely convinced I couldn’t sink any lower.

Travel isn’t always sunshine and lollipops. You’ve probably been reading the story of the South African couple who now scrub toilets and do other kinds of manual labor to support their adventures. It surprised me just how much that story surprised others; everyone has had to work menial jobs to get by, and not all travelers can make do with advertisers from a blog entry once a week.

On the road, I tend to accept this more readily. In the US, it’s a different story. I’m starting to slowly figure things out. I never really thought of building up my savings beyond what I needed for a plane ticket or a long trip, but this time in Seattle has been teaching me… albeit, with depressing results.

The truth is, I don’t know how anyone in America can get ahead with the way wages are now. I’m paid more than minimum wage and have the “benefit” of being single, lacking medical issues, and being childless, and even I struggle here. My spending may be slightly out of control when it comes to food and I’m sure I could survive in a shared living situation rather than paying for a studio, but I still can’t understand how anyone moves beyond getting by day-to-day into financial comfort: owning a house outright, preparing for retirement, not worrying about dining out.

“Defeat” by katie weilbacher

I accept the fact that work is necessary to live in relative comfort. I’m even growing to the idea of not entirely enjoying work. The truth is, I don’t believe any one person is too good to work any job, because EVERYONE is too good for most jobs. I shouldn’t be working my current job. My employees shouldn’t be doing theirs. That barista at Starbucks. That greeter at Walmart. It’s not even limited to low-paying jobs: plenty of people in finance are dying on the inside. The difference is, they can actually do more than survive even if they despise their work. Those earning minimum wage fall further into the red and still have to deal with some of the worst of humanity.

To add insult to injury, I’m furthering this system along by being in charge of a team, hired as part-time workers paid minimum wage in what is typically NOT a minimum wage job. It’s no one’s fault, really: I don’t have the authority to hire people full time or give them raises; my boss is only doing things to cut costs and ensure his department stays in the black; the president is answering to investors.

Before I was in a relationship, I wouldn’t have described myself as ambitious, but at least somewhat driven; the goal wasn’t to earn millions of dollars, but to make my mark on the world in whatever fashion was available.

Now, I’m not so sure I even want that.

With the right person, I think I’m just content to live an ordinary life. Go to a menial job with menial pay, come back to a small apartment with a small wardrobe and minimum furnishings to find a friendly face smiling back at me, fresh from her menial job with menial pay. I can’t say I’ll always feel this way, but at the moment, I think she would be enough.

You don’t read stories about that on the Internet. It’s all about people who build businesses up from nothing and then find true love, or couples like the aforementioned ones from South Africa who abandon their comfortable lives to find something more. Nowhere out there do we see happiness represented anymore by someone walking to the store to pick up a cheap bottle of wine and come home to find someone with whom to snuggle up over Netflix.

It’s true, this plan only works if both of you feel the same way, and lack a certain ambition. But it’s not ambition for work, influence, or money that I feel is driving me anymore. It’s just being happy with one other person. The one for you.

One Response to You don’t read stories about me on the Internet

  1. Katie on September 7, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Turner, this post reminded me of a piece I read recently:

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