Working Retail Plus Teaching… and other Random Thoughts

So I just finished reading tons of posts on Ludo Stories: Tales of Triumph and Tragedy after Law School. Then I penned a long letter to Ludo, which I traditionally never do, because his blog has been a big source of inspiration to me, and I like telling people that they have a positive impact on my life. After I hit send on the letter with at least three postscripts (!!), I thought of yet another thing that I wanted to tell him. And I realized that while I could send him yet another comment, it was probably worth actually updating my blog instead. This post is for Ludo and for all my loyal readers who have not abandoned me after two months of silence. Thank you.


As you may recall, I am now a part-time instructor. I teach history at a local university, and I love it! It has been extremely time-consuming and also emotionally fulfilling, so I haven’t had the need or the time to devote to this blog. Anyhow, as I was writing this evening, it suddenly dawned on me why I was so invested in my lecture content today. Allow me to invite you into my classroom:

…the Gilded Age, which spans roughly from 1870 to 1890. This time period is known for its corruption in business and politics, which resulted, among other things, in a very stark wealth inequality. As intellectuals tend to do, many intellectuals debated this social dilemma at the time and came up with several theories about the present social stratification: (1) “Survival of the fittest”. Deserving people are rich. Undeserving people are poor. To help the poor is to fight nature. (2) The rich have a responsibility to help the poor but only in the way that they see fit. This often means providing resources to the poor from a distance. (3) Good people should improve society by launching campaigns to remove vices like drinking to excess and illiteracy in order to providing the opportunity for deserving people to have a chance to rise above their circumstances.

Back to the soapbox: So the thing is that I firmly believe that not working hard and not being educated and not following the rules sets you up for failure (or at least trouble), but I don’t believe that the inverse is true. I see at my retail job good people who are stuck for working minimum wage because they have a criminal record or they don’t have a high school diploma and they feel stuck where they are. And I want (most) of these people to have the opportunity to do better because they’re good people who are my friends (at least at work.) But the rough part for me is that I work very hard, I’m very well educated, and I followed most of the rules. And it’s hard to figure out how I got to the place that I am.

One customer told me the other day that I was lying when I said that I had a degree from the neighboring university because anyone who did would not be working a job like I was. And I was floored. I just laughed at him and said, Good one! because I didn’t know what else to say. But it’s hard sometimes. Because the reality hurts. It really does. And I feel like the lion is roaring and winning all over again. Why can’t I have a job that I can be proud of and post on FB, etc?

There is a reason why I choose this particular point to emphasize to my students. It’s definitely only a part of the Gilded Age, but I think it’s important to understand the assumptions that society makes about certain outcomes and how ingrained they are in our perceptions of the world. These assumptions are not new, but looking at them from a distance can sometimes be a light-bulb moment. As hilarious as Social Darwinism sounds today, an awful lot of the time I find myself sliding into that presumption. And I want my students to pause and think about it. Because life doesn’t always turn out the way you think. And you might wind up on the receiving end of these presumptions.

The thing that I have to remind myself is that I know exactly why I’m working the retail job and I know what’s in it for me. I need to be there because I need the cash but also the somewhat flexible hours. I need the human interaction to keep me from going crazy. I need the opportunity to constantly practice interacting with people and working with panic attacks and facing tough situations with other people. This particular job is a safe space for me to do that and provides a means for me to talk through situations with management so that I can actually improve and become a better person. I’m lucky to have the manager I do who understands this. But every time someone gets promoted over me or a guest tells me that I’m not smart enough or I’m better than this or whatever, I try to remind myself that it makes sense for me right now in this particular moment. And that’s all that matters. But that personal confidence has taken a long time to come to, and it sure would be nice if more people were on board with a broader view of life and the curveballs it throws us. In the mean time, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. Thanks Ludo!

Abigail

P.S. A followup on my last post: I wound up with over 80% participation in Operation Gratitude!! I mailed a huge box of over 100 letters and felt very accomplished. Definitely a highlight of that semester. (I tried to write at least one letter every day of the challenge and penned at least 20. If you haven’t figured it out already, I like writing letters!)

Operation Gratitude

Working three jobs has been exhausting but also illuminating. This blog has been silent because my life has been full!!


At my retail job, we’ve been writing cards to anonymous members of the armed services as part of our contribution to Operation Gratitude. I’ve been racking my brain for a good extra credit project to give my students, not only so they can earn a few more points to their final grade but also so that they can learn to be productive members of society. That’s when I realized that Operation Gratitude was the perfect fit!!!

My pitch to the students:

Boost your grade, build community, be part of America, and do a good deed: all at the same time!!

I’ve asked my students to turn in a handwritten card thanking an anonymous member of the armed services for their service & to wish them well this holiday season. If they do so, they earn 0.5 points added to their final grade. If they can get >95% of the class to participate, there’s an additional 1.0 point bonus.

It’s been exciting to watch them take on the challenge of collective action. I’ve been really impressed and encouraged by my students’ responses. Some of them are one sentence thank-you-for-letting-me-get-extra-credit-in-this-class but most of them are heartfelt letters of gratitude and admiration. A lot of my students pour their hearts out into these letters, and I can see that they’ve taken to heart the cost of the freedom and liberty we enjoy and the degree to which we are all part of a community. These men and women need our support and encouragement as much as we need their work overseas. It’s always exciting to see people applying what they learn in class to real life situations.

I’m a big believer that if you have high expectations, your students will rise to the challenge. My favorite comment by Amy Sherman-Palladino about her series Gilmore Girls was that it was so successful because she crammed so many pop references into each episode and so much dialogue into each scene. There’s no way that you can catch everything on the first watch, but you’re so intrigued by each episode that you want to watch again. She has commented that people often assume that people who watch TV are stupid and that TV shows need to be dumbed down for people to appreciate them. Instead, she challenges her viewers to have a higher standard. And it works. That’s why we love her shows.

So far, about 1/3 of my class has participated in the challenge. They have a week left, so there’s still a lot of time for them to get their act together. We’ll see how things progress.

I’ve challenged myself to also write at least one card a day for every day of the drive. I’ve written 9 cards so far (with one week to go). It’s getting more challenging to find something different to say each time, but it’s a good challenge, one that’s appropriately achievable for me.

I’m excited that I’m feeling well enough these days to do things for other people. I’m also really excited that I’ve been able to rally my students together to do something for others and to show them that it doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone else’s life.

That’s all for now,

Abigail

They Keep Saying, We’re Going to Miss You

My coworkers at my new job are warming up to the fact that beginning tomorrow I’m on leave for three weeks while I travel to the Clinic of St. Jude. Everyone says the same thing. I’m going to miss you so much. I’m counting down the days until you get back. We love having you here, and we can’t wait until you get back.

It’s so uncharacteristically different from the ravenous lion. It warms my heart. It’s nice to feel loved and needed and part of a team. I love it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!
Abigail

Disney Princess Personality

I keep thinking that I’d love to be Ariel (minus the skimpy clothing), but I saw this Disney princess personality test this morning, and I took it. I was surprised by the result, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. What do you think?

Abigail

Enjoying the Holidays?

Dear Readers,

I hope that you are enjoying the spirit of the holidays and all the festivities that go with them. Or at least that you aren’t buried under too big a mountain of self-pity.

Alas, I have been negligent with regard to this blog. However, I am happy to report two things:
1) I am planning on visiting a medical clinic early next year for a round of diagnostic consultations. Hopefully that will clarify some things regarding my long-term care.
2) I have been working a lot, which means that I now have money for room and board and whatever else I need when I’m at the clinic. I think it’s also time for new glasses since the finish on the ones I have has started shriveling up. (Plus they’re 3.5 years old.) It’s nice not to be spending savings for once.

Besides that, I’m on a different muscle relaxant now. I’m bruising much more easily, which makes me very nervous to wear anything other than long sleeves and long pants.

I’ve made it through almost the whole month of December with only 7 doctors/medical practitioners visits, including three sessions of psychotherapy. That’s actually a slow month for me. I did have quite a few sessions with Ken the pharmacist talking about the bruising and what to do about it. I need to go back and see my primary care doctor about it, but I’ve been lazy/busy with other things and it doesn’t seem life-threatening. (It’s weird when you start weighing your health like that.)

I saw an ex-best friend at work the other day. I got dumped by three people in college, three years in a row. It was pretty awful, but fortunately it only lasted for three years. Anyhow, I was pretty mad to see the ex-best friend after all that had happened. But, you know, he’s really the one who pushed me to get psychological help and was there for me when I first started taking anti-depressants. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He forced me to believe in myself in a way that no one else had before. And I’m grateful. I’ve always wondered how I might be able to tell him that. So after he left and I was done being mad about the whole encounter, I realized that that might have been sufficient for him to know that I was doing okay and that I was doing better (at least from that perspective.) And that made the whole thing okay. Or at least okay-ish.

That’s all the news for now. Or at least, all that I can think of.

Peace until next time,
Abigail

Woefully Behind but…

I know that I’m woefully behind in posting this month’s PFAM blog roundup and just updates in general, but I have an honest-to-goodness excuse.

I interviewed for, got offered, trained, and started a cashiering job all in the past week.

I’ve already worked four days, and they have me on the schedule working 40 hour weeks. Since I already have two part-time jobs that want me to work more hours than usual, this has been kind of ridiculous. Mostly I go to work and then I go home & figure out what I need for work the next day and then I go to sleep. But it should be less crazy next week once midterms are over and no one wants to hire a tutor!!

Other exciting news is that I signed up for my first virtual quilting bee!!! I had forgotten that I had applied for that, but it should be exciting. I’m looking forward to it (and hoping that I find the time & energy to come up with an idea for my month, which is February!!)

More news soon. For now, it’s time to sleep.

Abigail

Introducing… the Octopus

I took another personality test today. And apparently, I’m the equivalent of an octopus (INTJ). And you know what? I like it. Mostly because I saw this cake floating around on facebook. And I feel like I’m always working on 6-8 things at once. (Having 8 arms definitely helps with that.)

The authoritative test has this to say about octopi:

INTJs are independent types, wildly intelligent and creative — but rather un-interested in what anyone else is doing. They are often considered the most independent of all the personality types, and they work best when given freedom. They are acutely aware of their own intelligence, as well as what they don’t know, and their passion often lies in conceptualizing ideas and processing complex theories.

While I’d like to think that I do spend time thinking about other people and listening to their stories, it might explain why I make a terrible tutor. And it also goes along with the fact that I am very aware of what I know and what I don’t know, what I’m doing and what I’m not doing. And I like to conceptualize and process complex theories, even just for fun.

Another day in the life,

Abigail the octopus

P.S. I just remembered the EDS is sometimes shown as an octopus disease because octopi don’t really have bones. So that fits as well!!

Working, Thinking, Being

I’ve been working a little bit as an independent contractor. And it’s been keeping me busy. All of a sudden I’ve had to deal with several bosses all at once. Also, I’ve had to deal with some ghosts of graduate school. It’s been kind of rough and pretty tiring.

I’m trying to remember to just be. And not to let anything get in the way of who I am. But it can be tough.

I suppose we never finish growing up.

Abigail