Can I Quit my Retail Job? Trying to Move Into a Career

Graduate Student, Elizabeth Smith“Should’ve gone to college so you could get a real job,” chortled the old man. I sighed, still after eight years working at a grocery store, unable to believe the things people say. I hear this comment all the time. If I count back change, “What’s a smart girl like you doing working here? Should’ve gone to college.” If a customer overhears another associate complaining and I commiserate, “Well, you should’ve gone to college.” Sometimes I clarify that I am a graduate student using my retail job to pay my expenses, but lately, I’ve just ignored the comments or muttered a, “Yeah, guess so,” in response.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, the grocery store isn’t really that bad. I ruminate on the words of Allen Ginsberg and imagine that I too see Walt Whitman “poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.” I read the labels and play with the cunning language of the advertisers. Spying a woman crying in the peas, I begin a grandiose novel in my mind. I frequently help old people to their cars, ignoring human frailty and mortality.

Still, despite these distractions, I’m ready to leave this liminal space. It’s frustrating. Between my four jobs, I’m stuck working here, tutoring there, studying, and teaching on the side, and I feel pulled in too many directions. Thank goodness Plymouth offers online courses and the Saturday six-hour marathon class (I’m not being sarcastic—I’d rather sit in a lecture than bag avocados and Cheetos any day). This flexibility enables me work at my side jobs and toward my degree simultaneously.

This flexibility is the entire reason that I came to PSU for my graduate work. As an English Teaching major at UNH, my goal of teaching and earning my MEd could only be accomplished with a year-long internship while I took night courses. Additionally, I would have to pay for an apartment or drive over two hours daily to get to a school in the program. The program is awesome, but I could pay not for it without having to take out more student loans to pay back on my hopeful teacher salary, or put my goal off for another year in order to save. At PSU, I earned a year of teaching experience by taking a position teaching composition and now, I’m going into my internship to finish my certification and my MEd will be done in May! So, while I complain about my retail job, it’s been an asset to maintain it. It, as well as PSU’s flexibility, has made it possible for me to complete my degree sooner. After finishing my degree, I plan on teaching full-time. This should satisfy me as well as the countless customers who have suggested that I get a “real job.” Because, after all, the customer is always right.


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