Late last Tuesday night, I scrolled through the endless job listings on Indeed, searching for something that spoke to my soul. It filled me with the same dread as reading the latest climate report. I’m not sure if it’s because there are too many options or not enough meaningful ones. As a jaded millennial I’ve found myself questioning the value of renting my time to a company that does not impact the world in a positive way. At the top of page seven or eight there was a notification from a local dog daycare that showed interest in me. In me, can you believe it? I looked over at Bubba, whose big brown eyes sleepily invited me to come to bed for the night. I love dogs. So I confirmed my interest, closed the window, and went to bed.
The next morning, after my daily existential crisis and dog walk, I answered a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize, assuming it’d be another call from the “IRS” or extended warranty specialists. Instead, it was the female owner of the daycare reaching out for an interview. With little thought, I agreed to show up that day, application in hand, ready to sell myself in a way I hadn’t had the opportunity to before. As someone who hasn’t had to interview for a position since 2009, the idea both terrified and excited me. You can do it, Alexa, I said to myself, over and over.
I pulled in the driveway and heard the familiar sound of dogs barking in a yard. In my mind’s eye I saw Bubba and his cousins bounding through the grass, chasing balls and taking dumps. It was comforting and familiar. There was a bronze statue of a genderless dog at the front door. I walked in and there were three or four women who looked around my age at the front desk. I introduced myself and explained I was there for an interview. They seemed nice enough. A gray-in-the-face golden retriever moseyed over and sat with me while I waited for the owner to finish up a phone call, his soft fur in my fingers the most effective stress relief I could have asked for.
The interview was informal and consisted mostly of the owner selling her business to me. She has a kind face, her small frame inviting rather than intimidating. I was excited to be there, interviewing for a position for a local, woman-owned business. It’s a change of pace from a multibillion dollar corporation owned by people I have never met.
The second part of the interview lasted approximately an hour and a half, and I was thrown into a play area with a bunch of large dogs, who greeted me like we’ve been friends forever. It was a dream. I threw balls, scratched heads, walked around and did my best to be outgoing, asking the other people there what they liked about their job, what the hardest part was, and so on.
I was sold by a retiree who works two days a week just to get out of his house. That was my first mistake. There’s something different about working when you don’t have to that really colors the experience for a person. I’ve also noticed there’s a certain age where people give up on the desire to impress and be liked by everyone. I’m not quite there yet, nowhere near it actually, but I look forward to it when the time comes.
Covered in slobber, exhilarated by the experience of being surrounded by a pack of non-judgmental furry friends, the owner took me back into the office and offered me the job, which I accepted immediately. Despite putting on my application that I was unable to start right away, she put me on for the next day. This tells me she didn’t read my application at all. That was my second mistake. Did I say anything? Of course I didn’t. I am the Insufferable People Pleaser. I scrambled that evening to prepare myself and showed up early the next day, ready to play, pick up poop, and learn the names of all my new canine and human friends.
For the most part, everyone was friendly. I asked questions when I had them, but began on the second day to get different answers to the same questions depending on who I asked. Some people were more willing to answer than others. Despite feeling somewhat unwelcomed by a couple of the employees, I sent a message in the group chat saying otherwise, thanking them for a great first day.
It seemed like the right thing to do. I received a reply saying I did a great job, which eased the omnipresent feelings of self-doubt and fears of failure.
I felt like I was getting the hang of things, eager to learn how to be the best dog handler I could be, but felt transported back to high school yesterday. As I made my rounds to say good morning to everyone, something I always thought was important, a couple of people were so unbelievably standoffish that you would have thought I was asking them for their social security number. I shrugged it off. I’m the new chick.
There was a message in the group chat this morning about tallying hours, and when I went to read it I noticed the compliment about me doing a great job had been deleted by the person who wrote it. I admired the passive aggression but was gutted it was directed at me.
I am doing a bad job. I don’t know how I’m doing a bad job, just that I am.
The schedule seemingly changes every other day, a barrage of notifications via text, app, and email coming in rapid fire. I notice I’m scheduled for twelve hours with a two hour break a week from now and I’m wondering if I can dedicate an entire day to feeling like a piece of shit. I accidentally left my drink on a window ledge yesterday and caught myself hoping it was a fireable offense.
There is no health coverage offered anywhere down the line, something I learned from one of the only employees I’ve had an actual conversation with up until this point, a week later. Unfortunately, the wage and hours would not be enough for me to purchase insurance privately. Her last day is today, and she’s leaving for those reasons.
I ended up in tears yesterday after witnessing something I thought was borderline abusive, though my sensitive nature might be looking too deeply into things. I don’t find myself comfortable performing “corrections” on the dogs, which is obviously an important part of the job to mitigate possible dog fights or injuries. While it might be necessary, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t stomach it and will never be able to seek a profession as a dog trainer.
It seems, unfortunately, that I am not cut out for this. That it will not pay the bills. That it will not provide me with the time I need to seek out a secondary income so that I can pay the bills. It seems that I am not needed, not wanted, and not welcomed.
I know I have to leave so that I can pursue a job that is a better fit, but I am filled with a sense of obligation to people I hardly know and who hardly tolerate me to stay so that I don’t leave them shorthanded or disappointed. I have felt the same way for the past decade working for company name.
I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
Once again, I feel like a loser, a disappointment, and a failure. I want so desperately to find meaningful work that pays the bills, and I feel lost as fuck and terrified I never will.