Good thing, too, since I am making a very small fraction of what I used to earn. I’ve been at my part-time job for four months now, and I have decided that I am enjoying it. Recently, my boss asked me, in a teasing way, “Isn’t this more fun than your old job?” I answered truthfully that they were both very fun, but very different.

The first couple of months were rough; I did not work many hours, and it seemed to me that I was forgetting everything I was being taught between shifts. I was shocked to realize I was finding my “little job” to be so stressful.  I’d been a criminal defense investigator, for crying out loud- going to the projects of San Francisco alone after dark, serving subpoenas on hostile witnesses- I was dealing with people at the worst times of their lives- how in the world was working a few hours a week in retail making me anxious?

I worked in retail off and on during my twenties, and felt I could easily manage it again. I had worked through my questions of whether I could be comfortable in such a controlled environment after the autonomy and responsibility I’d had during the last 25 years of my working life. I realized that I am not defined by my job title or my paycheck, and carefully considered where I might enjoy working. I applied at only two stores: a clothing store and a home furnishing store. My logic was that there was no point working anywhere I would not want to use my discount. This way I could either refurbish my wardrobe or refurnish my house, however slowly.

I did not hear from the clothing store (too bad for you, J.Crew!) I re-entered the time clock world in January. After adjusting to the changes in retail technology (computerized registers and inventory control, walkie-talkies and headsets) and generally getting the hang of things, I am having fun. I realized that a large part of my stress had less to do with the job, and much more to do with not feeling competent at what I was doing. I knew that feeling would pass with time, and it has. I remembered that even a menial task is more fun when attacked with enthusiasm, and made a conscious decision to give what I do my best effort, even if it is polishing shelves of glassware or restocking candles.

I spend about twenty hours a week in a beautiful environment, dealing with people who are about 98% pleasant. Every day is different, and I learn something. I help people improve their living environments. I have a reason to get dressed and somewhere to go. I move around a lot- back and forth across the sales floor, up and down ladders. After decades of working in fields where effort does not always produce observable progress, I am appreciative of something as straightforward as a sales per hour goal. And, to paraphrase Sally Field at the Oscars: “They like me, they really like me!”  In stark contrast to my previous job, the only way I take my work home with me now is in the form of pretty new bedding or  a comfy new sofa.

I know long-term I will want to earn more, and to be more challenged. Whether I find a way to do that within or outside of my present employment remains to be seen. For now, I am quite happy.

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