The difference between wage and worth
I remember how he broke my heart.
He took me aside behind closed doors to deliver a monologue that was riddled with the kind of clichés that nobody hopes to hear: “You’re a bright girl,” he said, “but it’s not me; it’s you. “
Tears sprang to my eyes, but I fought hard to hold them back. He extended a tissue to me out of pity, and I took it to force the minute droplets back. I could never allow the men that scorn me see me cry.
But when I lost my first full-time job after that meeting with the boss of my former employer, I saw how I was confusing making money with having happiness in my life. Losing my job hurt. But it was not my heart that was breaking; instead, my pride and psyche was falling to pieces. In the process of grieving, though, I felt each subsequent stage of the healing process that many go through when recovering from a broken heart: shock, denial, bargaining, anger and acceptance.
Fumbling for a way to describe my feelings, I went on to equate the ache of losing my position with the pain that forms when a relationship fails. It seems foolish — and slightly perverse, perhaps — but after hearing others gush about how much they love their jobs, I thought I was in the right for associating love with labor.
Three months before receiving my final paycheck, I was coveting a supervisory position at a department store that was on the verge of opening its doors to the community where I live. I let my ambition get the best of me when submitting my application, and despite lacking experience in the retail industry, I took a position that was wrong for me. Some select significant others that are wrong for them with the hope of making the relationship work — such desire becomes too strong to deny. And I was very much ignoring the inevitable while the thrill of this this venture was very much alive.
Having a steady income gave me the security I was after, but making money did not make me happier — working over forty hours a week on my feet and then receiving criticism for my effort was exhausting; dealing with customers that took pleasure in taking their frustrations out on me was making me lose faith in humanity. Playing into workplace politics was daunting; while I feel comfortable in most social situations, it was difficult for me to resort to the same manipulative tactics that were common means for others justifying the ends. I was losing my identity in this relationship with my work. But I knew it was trouble when I walked in to a mass hire event.
Some face as much pressure in finding a significant other as we do in obtaining a job that pays well. For some, first jobs are as forgettable as first loves. In an interview with Cosmo, Lady Gaga dispenses acrimony in the guise of advice: she said, “Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” However, her latest single, “Applause,” would attest otherwise: she thrives on validation, but she loves what she does as a performer. It makes sense; the choice was hers.
Peers and professors will encourage students to pursue occupations that they love, but often, loving a regular 9 to 5 is not enough. In order to find fulfillment, one must find a place of employ where the love remains reciprocal throughout the relationship. It might seem impossible to expect more than a paycheck from a job or a significant that continues to disappoint, but worthwhile jobs will love its employees back.
We accept the love we think we deserve; we apply for the jobs that we think we might get. But remember this: Your wages do not determine your worth; your title does not define who you are.
Now, Dear Reader, if you ever find yourself mourning the loss of employment, you know where this is going: get out there, and work like your heart has never been broken.