Holidays in retail are challenging. Many people fail to understand the concept of a job where weekends are just more workdays and holidays are sales days. Early in my career I enjoyed the holiday season, the excitement of helping customers find the perfect gift, hearing their stories of why they were looking for a particular item, and later hearing how happy the recipient was with their gift. Some of my favorite times were designing holiday cards, calendars, and other photo gifts because of the personal element.
This week includes my first Thanksgiving where I’m not worrying about Black Friday or even worse working on Thanksgiving, which I would have been forced to do this year. Driving by a store today and wanted to visit a store manager I know but he was coming in late in the afternoon so he could stay until 11 pm or 12 am to set up for the Thanksgiving day sale. Talking with him at that moment I was thankful this was not on my list of worries this week. My Thanksgivings in recent years either involve making my own dinner because I don’t have time to drive home or driving to my parent’s house for the day then rushing back for work. Last year driving home Thanksgiving night in a snow storm because I had to be back for work at 6 am was awesome, nothing like a 3 hour drive turned into almost a 5 hour drive.
I’m going to pull out my soapbox for just one paragraph. In my 15 years of retail I’ve seen the evolution of Black Friday from 7am to 4 am or 5 am to midnight to the most recent turn of events opening on Thanksgiving day because an entire weekend of shopping, technically a 4 day weekend of shopping if you include Cyber Monday, is not enough. I remember thinking it was crazy when stores were opening at midnight not realizing the direction we were headed. I learned to accept that for some families Black Friday was their tradition and to each their own but Thanksgiving day is for family. I cannot imagine eating Thanksgiving dinner then heading out to go shopping. Some of my best memories are the times after dinner playing board games, watching a movie, or just sitting around talking.
I think working in retail for so many years makes me appreciate the holidays with my family. I’ve worked countless days after Christmas, Christmas eves, Easters, 4th of July’s, Black Fridays, etc. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the time with my family although not looking forward to answering the same questions I’ve been answering for weeks. Why did the store close? Why didn’t you transfer? What are you going to do now? Are you transferring? Are you going to move? What do you want to do with your life?
I almost want to just have a press conference style Q & A before dinner to answer everyone’s questions all at once. Dinner is at my aunt’s house so I might have to see if she can set that up. Okay that might be taking things too far. Even though I will be annoyed by these questions and they will serve as constant reminders of my status I also know my family is an amazing support system. My hope is that home will be the perfect place to find the reassurance that I’m doing the right thing and also to hopefully find some relaxation.
Thanks to a few episodes of Jerry Springer in the 90’s I have a genuine fear of reaching a level of inactivity and unhealthy eating that someone has to cut me out of my house; although I know my friends and family would stage a serious intervention before that would happen. Also, I’m trying to keep up routines and maintain an active to-do list to avoid becoming completely sedentary, as well as avoid becoming a daytime talk show cautionary tale.
Part of this transition period is not just about making short-term changes to get me through the next month or two but making long-term changes to my lifestyle.
I’m forcing myself into becoming more of a morning person because I find a sense of accomplishment in completing all my tasks before noon. I kind of hating get up early in the morning and even if I’m awake would rather lay in bed playing on my phone or even worse killing brain cells watching Kardashian reruns. I don’t allow myself to sleep in everyday and try to wake up and get out of bed by 8am, which means I also can’t stay up all night. The TV is not turned on until after 10 am or later and I try to fill up downtime with books or writing instead of cell phone or TV.
I’m also taking steps to clear out my apartment of needless clutter so when I’m ready to move or if I need to move I won’t be scrambling to throw 3 years worth of stuff into my car. This is no easy feat because I am a bit of a pack rat but I can save rambling about how we develop odd attachments to random objects for another post.
On a side note I am concerned that my focus on not letting myself go and changing my lifestyle is not allowing me to relax, which is part of the reason for taking this down time. I’m so afraid my new comfort zone will become sitting on the couch, collecting unemployment, watching Netflix, and waiting for opportunities to fall into my lap that I’m still very tightly wound most of the time. I’m looking into some new ideas to help me relax while staying active including meditation, taking walks, dug out my camera to start taking pictures again (found the pic above taken earlier in the month), cleaning out my space, making homemade Christmas gifts, and reading.
I’m trying to find a balance between relaxing and maintaining momentum. It’s been about a week and a half since the store closed so I’m still struggling with accepting it, drove by the empty store the other day and cried. Jobs become part of our identity, a way people know us, so when you lose that part and don’t have another job to fill the void you can feel a bit lost. Deep down I know I’m making the right choice and truly believe everything will work out for the better but at this moment I’m anxious, sad, and a little scared.
I made the conscious decision to not begin serious job hunting until after the holidays but with that comes some fear and a bit of anxiety about falling into the dark pit of unemployment. Last night I was on a job site updating my profile when I was faced with the task of writing a headline summary for the profile, which sounds easy enough right? Describing who I am and what I’m looking for in a few sentences seems easy enough until I remember my current employment status. A quick search found most people recommend not mentioning that you’re unemployed but not lying just not outright saying that you’re unemployed.
The word unemployed carries so many negative connotations I am beginning understand how people allow themselves to fall into pitfalls and lose momentum to move on to the next chapter of their life. Losing sight of goals and allowing complacency to seep into life are steps toward giving up but I’ve still got my eye on the prize. As mentioned in a previous post the end of my employment was like the end of bad relationship so taking time off to “recharge my battery” is not a ridiculous notion.
Some of the customers I spoke to before the store closed were all doom and gloom when I explained how I did not have a job lined up immediately, telling me tales of how their son, daughter, brother, cousin, sister, uncle, etc. was laid off and could never find a job despite their mile long list of qualifications. Some days these stories affected me but most days I just had to remind myself that I’m making the best decision for me and that’s all that matters. Perhaps I’m overconfident but I’m not scared of never finding a job. I am scared of not finding a job in the field I want to go into or a job with even similar pay to what I was making but I believe in myself enough to know jobs exist and I’m qualified for them.
I am again perhaps overly optimistic in hoping my next place of unemployment would understand that I might need some down time after leaving a job I worked at for 12 years especially when the decision to leave was not mine. Part of me wanted to lay out my soul in the summary proclaiming poetically about my transitional period working my way out of retail into a field better related to my degree; however, in the end I left my summary blank still awaiting inspiration to help me find the perfect words that will intrigue a recruiter instead of scaring them off with the dreaded “u” word.