On returning to your high school job at 26By
When I started this blog, I promised myself I had a few simple ground rules for myself. I’d never let it become a daily log of what I’m doing. I always wanted to write with a purpose, and if I didn’t have a purpose to an entry, I wouldn’t write one. I would never apologize for not writing for long stretches of times. If inspiration didn’t strike, so be it. This blog would be a place to reflect my thoughts on traveling the world, not just a place for undigested accounts of my life.
I never accounted for what would happen if I found myself unable to digest what was going on in my life.
Since mid-December, in what must be the most whiplash-inducing job transition of my life, I returned to my high school job at Panera Bread. My old boss was incredibly generous to take me in and put me on the schedule the day I asked for it, and before I knew it I was taking orders over my headset for the recently installed drive-thru.
Six weeks later, I’m working the same job, living with my parents and going a little stir-crazy. This is what I wanted. Last March, when I returned home to Minnesota for a few weeks, I didn’t have the best time. I spread myself too thin, tried to see too many friends and ended up running like a madman all over the state in an attempt to see everyone I’d ever made acquaintance with. Not this time, I decided. I would return for Thanksgiving and Christmas, giving myself a four or five weeks to establish a routine and recharge my batteries before the next phase of my travel.
That four or five weeks stretched to ten weeks when I fell into an incredibly good deal on a plane ticket to Australia that didn’t leave until January 25. Add that to the fact that I haven’t been working since October 6, and I’ve begun to feel increasingly listless about what I’m doing with my days.
That’s okay though, I told myself. I’ll live like a monk. I’ll start working out, I thought. I’ll read more. I’ll work a lot and save a lot of money for Australia. All habitual travelers have phases where they need to raise some capital to support their travels. So I worked. I put notes all over my manager’s office saying I was free to pick up work at a moment’s notice and took every shift I could. I didn’t get completely full-time hours, but after two weeks I’d managed to work 70 hours. Real work, too. None of this “Sit on a bus and talk to people about travel and history and get paid for it” work, but “Here’s a mop” work. So when my first payday came, I was excited to finally get some real income for the first time since October. I collected my paycheck, opened the envelope and — not even $400?! Working for minimum wage in America can be a bitch.
But hey, the alternative is not making any money, so I’ll take what I can get. Besides, I’m in no condition to complain. My job might only pay enough for me to pay my monthly loans and paltry living expenses, but many of the people I work with are single mothers who have been working there for years.
Suddenly, I become shy about my travel experience. I’ve made no illusion about my plans to travel abroad, and as the date gets nearer and nearer for my Australian departure I can’t help but count down (five days to go!). But I’m working with people who, quite frankly, must struggle to make ends meet on their wages. If not for living rent-free with my parents, I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet for myself. I can’t fathom how these single moms I work with are doing it. Talking too much about my plans to travel the world seems somehow in bad taste.
Or does it?
Meanwhile, I’m faced with seeing people I know everyday. One of my mom’s old coworkers, a girl I went to high school with, a friend from my old church group — each time I see them I feel the need to awkwardly shoehorn in an explanation of why I’m working there, something that goes roughly like this; “HiSoGoodToSeeYou I’mOnlyWorkingHereTemporarily I’mGoingToAustralia IDidn’tSettleForWorkingMyHighSchoolJob PleaseDon’tJudgeMe.”
Does that make me arrogant, to need to make excuses for where I’m working and how I ended up here, as I stand beside people who have been doing it for years?
I don’t know anymore. Maybe the purpose of my time spent at home will become clearer with some distance, but for now, I’ve just been churning these ideas around in my head, unable to make sense of how ten weeks in my hometown working in my high school job have added to my portfolio of experiences.