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So I Lost a Job, let me tell you that story.

Field Notes In/On Transition

So I Lost a Job, let me tell you that story.

In my last blog, I told you how I got this great new job at a cafe in a nearby hip neighbourhood. Well, that lasted five shifts before I was let go.

What? I know right, seems improbable. I have always been a bit of a complainer when it comes to the retail ‘no break, we pay you instead’ culture. It’s inherently classist, putting as usual the onus for the most physical and emotional labour on to the shoulders of those making the least money. People who serve folks all day. Every one of you deserves a break, paid or not. There was a few years ago, in the labour code, an exemption re being due breaks on a four hour shift, you got 15 minutes, more than six, an unpaid half hour lunch. The hours for that have increased, now 5 hours or more before you are due a break. Most employers at small businesses choose to pay the worker for that 15 minutes, or sometimes that half hour unpaid lunch, so you can always be available for customers while at work. Because ‘it is legal,’ this is the justification for this practice, whatever the employees’ concerns might be, are irrelevant. 

Low wage earners are shamed for taking a couple of minutes off their feet, as if somehow that hour and a half long lunch rush shouldn’t have sapped your physical strength, or maybe taken part of your soul. There is a special place in hell for people who order double half-caf double whip vanilla mocha whatevers, I would say if I believed in hell. 

How it went down for me was like so, I worked 3 four hour shifts, during which I learned how to do the cash, which was maybe the easiest POS system I ever used. As well, parts of those shifts I learned the basics of being a barista; the steamed milk was the thing I was most intimidated by, thinking I’d get it wrong all the time, but in fact, I got pretty good at it in no time. My 4th shift was a longer ‘closing’ shift, where you started to do/learn all the cleaning jobs, and food safe things about putting food away, and so on. Pretty straight forward, but also a fair amount of physical labour actually, such as the weirdly small green bin for compost that a tall person couldn’t really pull without almost throwing out your back. Had it been a few pounds lighter, I would have carried it out back.

My feet were killing me towards the end of my fourth shift in five days, the 5 hour closing shift, let alone the hour and something that it took us (me and a young gal who I recalled as a young kid bringing back movies to the video store, like 8-10 years ago, who was now really great at the barista training) to do all the end of day cleaning, cash, and so on. I made a promise to myself to go buy some running shoes the next day, which was the same morning that I had an appointment with WorkBC, who I’m mandated to try to help me get more work, than this 3 day a week job. The person was home sick, who I was supposed to see, and they couldn’t get me in before my work started, I was so excited to be able to tell workBC that I was getting myself off welfare with this job, which when I started my 3 day a week regular shifts, would net me a couple hundred a month more than I get total from wellie, thus letting them cut me off, and being able to not miss any cheques, a nice smooth transition back into the work force, it’s what we all want. Nobody thinks welfare is a great deal, because it isn’t. You are very lucky if the entire $610 for a single person, can even pay rent in Vancouver. No one is getting a ‘free ride’. No one. You are also shamed constantly by the system, society at large who has zero idea how it works. And of course, by yourself, I feel a lot of shame applying for welfare. And yes I know ‘I shouldn’t’ be ashamed, but facts do not ‘cure’ your emotions. 

But back to the job, I was excited to be learning more of closing, and getting a key, on my last training shift, with one of the owners, who I knew likely had the closing down pretty cold, and I would learn some great tips, and maybe be able to bring up the idea of: maybe as soon as I close, on my own, taking 10-15 minutes, after I close the door, blinds, and sitting, gathering my wits, and help my throbbing feet which were really hurting after being on them much of the day, as I mostly walked to and from work, which is a good 40-45 minute walk each way. Maybe this contributed, but even so, with my new purple sneakers, that indeed are really comfy, my feet still hurt so much, that while closing, I broke down more than once, into tears from the pain, and then from the shame, of feeling like maybe my body wouldn’t let me do this easy job, surrounded by nice people.

You can’t really hide your feelings, when the tears come, and I didn’t feel the boss had much confidence in me, as we closed. I hoped though, that I would be able to get a chance to prove that my body could eventually harden itself to being on my feet again, all day, after not working for the last 18 months or so, at least not anywhere standing all day, that is. The other boss, was who you texted as you left, so they could pay you right until you left. I really liked this no deadline to closing aspect of how they do things. I am not good with being deadlined. Of course he asked me how I felt about things, I don’t know if he had been in contact with the other owner, his partner, and knew maybe that I had a hard time at the end. 

But I was of course as I often am in these situations, ‘too honest’. I txted back that I was kind of a mess actually, (I was sitting on the window sill my feet throbbing in more pain than I have ever endured, including gall stones, migraines, and electrolysis...) and asked again about the break thing. Yeah, the labour code says this so it’s ok. Then I kind of back tracked and tried in further communications to be more positive. “After all,” I said, when I was asked to call the boss (always a sign of termination) and chat, “I did just work 5 days out of seven with one day here, and the other there. When I start regular shifts, I would have had three days off after working 3 in 4. I could have strengthened and recovered,” I felt. I still feel I might have been able to do it.

Maybe not, though: my feet were a mess for a few days afterwards actually, maybe healing slowly because I also didn’t sleep well the next few days either. I hadn’t planned to work there forever, this was to have been the perfect job for me to do my trip this summer, easy to leave, especially since the gal I was ‘replacing’ is coming back to town around the time I wanted to do my trip. Three days off in a row also would have given me time to get back on track with my creative projects. But in the end, they made up their minds before the phone call obviously. And there isn’t much sadder than begging someone to keep a job they obviously don’t think you can do. So I said thank you, let my heart continue the long shatter it has been in the last couple of years.

The best part of the whole being let go when I did, was that my ride to choir sectionals picked me up within minutes of hearing "we don't think it's going to work out." I didn't have time to wallow, or even break down and cry, then, I instead went to choir rehearsal and sang, and bonded with my part 3 'babe Friends' (inside joke, the Babe Friends) and the whole thing, while still pretty rough for a few days, was made so much better just by having that rehearsal just then. Once again, choir is there for me, even when they don't know they are. I also scored some nice jewelry, one choir member was downsizing.

They had my ROE ready the next day, and asked me to get their key back, in exchange. They got the payroll to release what I made those five days on Wednesday rather than the usual Friday. This made zero difference to me, getting the money slightly earlier, but it was meant to, I guess. Shrug. I waited a couple of days before I walked the key back. The owner I worked with and the gal I was to replace were there, both all “HI JOSIE!!!” “How are you?” I do not recall smiling, I handed the key over, said, “I’m fine,” and asked if I could please have my ROE. Then I turned and walked out, both seemed a bit crestfallen that I wasn’t cheerful in return. I just did not have it in me, to do anything other than a monotone, speaking as little as possible.

I cried most of the walk home, stopping to have a beer on the way, at my favourite bar. I cried quite a bit in the few days after all of this. I am still finding myself in tears, angry not at my brief employers, but at myself, for not being able to do the first job (out of dozens of applications) that even gave me a chance in a year. I cried for my body which failed me. I called myself a failure on facebook. A lot of people tried to contradict me on that, but you know, it’s not the solace I need. I have failed at a great many of my endeavours in the last couple of years. I still haven’t finished my final edits to send the publisher, who hopefully will still be interested. 

The only time I have had the energy to put in a full day, every day for an extended period on my art, my real ‘work,’ was when I was living off my savings, or the money I earned through crowdfunding, so basically last June until December. That brief period is the only time in my entire life that I felt like I was doing work everyday that was for me and my own passions, not manufacturing someone else’s dream. I raised money, I crafted, I wrote over 400,000 words of my memoir, and so much more, raising the money to finish the writing, all of it: paying my way with something from me, not someone else’s product, but the sweat from my brain made manifest in words and images. I’ve had lots of jobs that I really enjoyed, even at times loved doing, but all of them eventually burned me out, made me angry at myself that I was still there doing what had every time been a stop gap job, a job I could get, while I worked on my art, and created a life for myself.

Most of my working life though, I was my ‘old self’ presenting, pretending to be a man. Some folks even bought that that is who I was. I never did, and thus have had real gaps in being productive in my creative work. I’ve always had jobs, where I have at least a bit of time everyday to improve my art, explore who I am. But I had such shame around every aspect of my identity, I was ashamed of myself as a man, more so as a woman. And so much shame around every aspect of my sexuality, often myself conflating sexuality and gender. 

I have never felt prepared for anything that wasn’t a poetry reading, if I’m honest. 

Maybe I have done well at some jobs, some projects, but it was exactly a ‘fake it til you make it’ kind of thing, but beyond making it. I had zero confidence in myself trying to be any kind of man, let alone the woman I knew deep down that I was/am. 

Which in turn led to zero confidence in any of my creative projects, at least most of the time. I feel like, just how occasionally in my life as an artist I have burst forth with art, or writing that at least a few people took note of, from my early days acting in forgotten short films, to my poetry readings, my books, my comic book that I drew, all these times I felt I broke through that invisible wall of closeted transness that divided me from everyone else, are kind of parallel to my various ‘coming out as trans moments I had before retreating into the closet however many times, in the 90’s. I wasn’t ready then. I stayed in every one of those ’stop gap’ jobs over the years, longer than iI wanted to, or in hindsight should have. Knowing something is good, interesting is far different from thinking it’s good enough to be published, or bought.

Taking the long way to get where I am going as usual, now more than a week later, I am still in a bit of a grump over not really the job, or how it went down, but frustrated more that, I have so little bounce back energy for this particular set back. I feel like I had the wind knocked out of me, and it’s not come back very strong. It has led to a lot of inertia as far as my daily routine goes. I’ve never ever felt ‘creatively blocked’, or writer’s block, what ever you want to call it. I simply write, draw, create more work sometimes than I do other times. I definitely lack discipline, but I kind of shrug as I write that. I’ve never needed to set schedules and so on, I just do it. where it ends though usually for me, is once I have written something (many drafts of something is inferred, I hope) I have never had much confidence in submitting my writing anywhere, I liked it, but never had confidence in any of it to get published, so I took the self publishing route, but again, never submitted any of my books for review, or made much effort beyond social media to see said books. 

No confidence. 

I had planned to self-publish my memoir too, but am taking time for extra polish on some sample chapters for an interested publisher. To even agree to submit is a big deal to me. Weirdly the things I have actually had no problem submitting were probably some of my worst efforts, my 3 day novel contest submissions. I did that contest 4 times, and submitted 3 of them. I recently went mining for ideas, and wow, yeah rough to say the least.

Again sidetracked into talking about myself, by myself. Narcissist much Josie? I have empathy for why my old self was too scared to submit poems, or ever finish a frigging story or novel, because I know why, he was not me, he was not myself. I am. I wasn’t ready to transition until I did. It was not fate or destiny, neither of which are concepts I buy into. The universe has no judgement, the universe is chaos, messy, we pluck good and bad things from the earth, from the ether, and we create stuff, and have ideas, often in the reverse order, but not always. If I believe in anything it’s synchronicity. Things don’t happen for a reason, you give reason to them as they happen. Sometimes things have a serendipity to them, but it ain’t destiny, it’s just good timing, or bad timing, probably more often the latter. 

These are the kinds of things my job loss has me thinking. What really is important to me? Do I even want a job. Well, my heart and more often my mind are telling me no, figure out how to build on what I was doing last autumn, and create some income streams to push wellie away, but not so much that it keeps me from my real goals of getting my memoir published, and my video blogs happening. I still want to do my Trans Canada trip, but am going to have to get more serious in figuring out how. A job, at least for the summer, might be all that it takes. If by some chance I’m able to do more creative than not ‘work’ would give me the boost that I really need. I am tired of these things that look like they are going to be perfect for me, but turn out to not want me as much as they thought they might.  I feel bad that I have so little humility left when it comes to doing ’survival work’. Maybe I am feeling entitled to something that suits me, rather than being someone I’m not to suit the gig. I feel unemployable and undatable. Yet I am not completely despondent, I am not even that depressed, I would just like a break to turn out in my favour, someday. 

I haven’t done much creative work in the last few weeks, writing this is the first writing I’ve done in days. Feels good. Maybe I can get back at the real work now. I hope so, because I do have more confidence in that than I used to. I don’t have confidence in doing ‘other jobs’, but I have faked that, and much more, for most of my life, and likely will again, hopefully sooner than later though.

I was on Tv last night though, from a background day I did in January. On 'Supernatural." you can see me in this screen grab in the very first wrestling scene.


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