“Quick question for ya’”—a once simple saying is now a trigger for PTSD.  I clutched the tablet and pulled it close to my chest. My smile hurt almost as much as my bleeding, blistered feet. “Who do you have for cable and internet?” I forced through my painful smile.

The woman kissed her teeth at me. “Fuck off,” she cursed as her five-year-old son flipped his middle finger at me. 

Pressing my lips together, trying to hold on to the little sanity I have left, I looked to my manager. She gave me a nod of encouragement and clearly no sympathy to offer. My smile grew bigger and more desperate as I looked to the other man walking down the aisle towards me. “Hey, quick question for ya! Who do you have for cable and internet?”

“Get a real job, dumbass,” he hissed.

That hit harder than the middle finger from the toddler. 

Get a real job. 

When I applied for the “account manager” position for this company, I didn’t really have a choice. It was the only place that would hire me. I wish there was a more colorful reason as to why I couldn’t get a job, but there isn’t. I spent the past three years applying for content writing jobs and spent hours on my laptop trying to find an entry-level marketing position. And for three years all I heard was no. Why you may ask? Because I went to college, earned my degree, published a novel and gained about two years of experience through various internships. 

Confused? Exactly! 

I was through and through your average post-grad millennial unable to join the ranks of average working-class citizens. As my friends were landing their dream jobs, earning promotions and making well over minimum wage, I was working at a diner. As I stared at some toothless trucker in the face while he asked me if I majored in waitressing in college, most of the people my age were doing what was expected after getting a degree—work that didn’t involve asking a customer if they wanted fries or onion rings with their burger. 

For over two years I worked at a truck stop diner. It wasn’t bad money, but not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Some people are utterly content with serving for the rest of their lives—it’s good money and flexible hours—but that’s not what I wanted. My dream was to be a writer and that wasn’t happening while pouring free refills of coffee in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Through hard work, perseverance and an embarrassing amount of tears, I moved to Philadelphia to become a writer. And that’s how I ended up selling Verizon internet and cable in the middle of Walmart; so shoppers could cuss me out and yell at me to get a real job. 

While the company I worked for promised me over $35,000 a year at the entry-level position as an “account manager”, I was barely pulling in $200 a week in commission. But they were the only ones to tell me yes—although the minimum requirement for this job seemed to be having a pulse. 

As I stood in the aisle in front of a display of Pampers, I could feel the threatening tears burning behind my eyes. My manager could see me about to break and approached me quickly. “Don’t worry,” she urged. “I was just like you only a year ago and look at me now!”

I looked around…did she know where she was? Did she realize we were both in the same place begging people to switch over their cable and internet provider? “I have to pee,” I said and went to move to the bathroom to call my mom for our daily pep talk.  

She moved in front of me. “You peed three hours ago and you still haven’t made a sale.”

This was my life for the first three months of living in Philadelphia. Standing in various Walmarts for eight hours a day and getting to use the bathroom only if I made a sale, going home in tears with enough urine in my bladder to drown a toddler, and going through countless postings to apply for a real job.

It’s so simple to yell at someone and tell them to get a real job. 

What the hell even is a real job? My guess is one that provides healthcare benefits, a 401K plan and can keep you afloat without asking for money from your parents. But to be honest, who even has that? After taking a closer look at my friends who got their dream job, some of them still lived at home with their parents because they couldn’t support themselves on their salary. The others found that their dream job actually kind of sucked and had to rethink their entire major that they attended college and/or grad school for. Even when we have a real job, there’s still so much left to be desired.

Many of the people I worked with while standing in Walmart selling Verizon internet and cable consider it to be a real job and they loved it. Before hitting the aisles, every morning we would meet in the office, dressed in business attire, go over strategy, and play team-building games such as charades, Pictionary, or Wheel of Fortune. No bull sh*t, if you weren’t good at these games, they considered this reflective of your sales abilities.

After about three months in the prestigious *cough* position as “account manager”, as everyone gathered to play another vigorous game of Pictionary, I was called into my boss’s office with two of the managers.

I sat down across from my boss, a man with a cringe-worthy passion for sales and a plate with loaded tater tots. His desk always seemed obnoxiously big to me. To my right, the top-earning managers stood with their arms crossed over their chest. I had a feeling of what was coming next.

“Renee, your sales have not improved and you look miserable when you are here.” Fair and accurate. “Please sign here and here to finalize your termination.”

I wasn’t really sure exactly why, but as I signed my name I began to cry. Sure, the job was an absolute joke and my own version of purgatory, but it was the only money I had coming in. Now what? To my surprise, however, I was able to find a serving job in the city within hours and about a month later I secured a part-time writing job. 

I was pretty contempt with this lifestyle and it made Philadelphia much easier to swallow. I finally had a writing job to improve my skills and even learn social media marketing. My serving job brought in extra cash and helped me make some amazing friends. For a year, this was a good life and I was contempt, but I’m starting to feel stuck again. 

Although serving keeps food on the table, it also has me feeling miserable. I could bend over backward for customers and give them the best service possible, but they’ll still call me a bitch and leave me a $5 tip on a $50 tab. (For those you that don’t see the issue here, please invest in a tip calculator and come to terms that you’re supposed to tip at least 20%). Serving is not where I want to be for the rest of my life. 

Sufficed it to say, it’s time to make new moves in my career. Unfortunately, finding a writing job still isn’t much easier three years later. But it is my goal to find a new one before I turn 27 and this is one of the most important goals for me. Thanks to my part-time writing job, I’ve racked up more experience and have a much better chance. The most important thing to remember is to not give up, as cliche as that may sound.

Just a little over a year ago, I had a toddler flipping me off and had to ask permission to pee. As I remember the strives I have made since then, it makes it a bit easier to see a brighter future and to know I’m that much closer to furthering my writing career.