Series: Perspectives on Work, Worth and Faith (Article 12 of 13)
Nakita has been a fresh, humble and unedited voice in my life over these last 10 years. I still remember the day Nakita and I sat on the tennis court, hiding from the hot sun and in deep ]conversation during our pre-camp counsellor training week. This was close to 10 years ago. We saw each other at church occasionally, but working together is what grew our friendship.
CHRIS-ANN: What comes to mind when you hear the word work?
NAKITA: A job comes to mind. Effort comes to mind. Exhaustion comes to mind. These come to mind because of the type of work I do. Working retail is taxing on your body and your mind. You’re on your feet for many hours. You are constantly dealing with customers’ needs or complaints.
I would even say duty comes to mind as well. As a black woman (in my experience), when you get to a certain age, you’re expected to work in your household. So maybe expectations is another word that would come to mind as well. I’m expected to provide for my needs and for the needs of my family to a certain extent.
Around 4 years ago, when it was just my mother and I, she got laid off from her job. There was a duty for me to step up and be the sole provider in my household. I worked two jobs and my mom went back to school. Now she’s in the medical field in a position she enjoys and feels appreciated. I still very strongly link this experience to work even though I’m no longer in that space.
CHRIS-ANN: What kind of work do you do?
NAKITA: I’m a full-time Assistant Manager at a plus size womens’ clothing store. My job does entail meeting sales goals, but as a manager I mentor and encourage my team, train them and coach them in the moment on behaviours. Our store is considered specialty retail since plus size clothing stores are not very common. A company-wide mandate is that our customers feel confident, cared for and comfortable. We really believe in the experience of our customers. It’s about more than them buying clothing.
I think people take it for granted when they haven’t had to struggle in any way to find something that’s affordable and caters to their needs.Tweet
It’s often about how they view themselves. As a plus size person, it’s often not easy to find clothing that makes you look good, feel good or fits you. As a plus size person myself, I understand the struggle to find clothes or to go into a store and only be given a rack or a corner. The store I work in, everything can fit someone from a size 10 up until size 30.
I think people take it for granted when they haven’t had to struggle in any way to find something that’s affordable and caters to their needs.
CHRIS-ANN: You mentioned that the job is taxing on your mind as well. What are some of the challenges you face?
NAKITA: As a manager, I’m constantly dealing with customer issues, making those situations right and sometimes being disrespected while trying to accommodate someone. I’ve also had to deal with people disrespecting my team. I have never been more disrespected than in the job that I have right now. People make it very clear that they think your job is beneath them and they treat you accordingly. It’s similar with food service workers, you talk to them a certain way even though you’re relying on them for their service.
One of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had was a particular day I was cleaning up a clearance section. There was a shopper in the clearance section, making it a mess and throwing things on the floor. I asked her if she could just put the things she was trying on a hanger instead. She said to me, “well if I do that, you wouldn’t have anything to do.” It took every bit of the Holy Spirit in me to just walk away. I took a deep breath and walked away. As an adult to an adult, you should be cleaning up after yourself. To say that showed that she really thought I was beneath her.
CHRIS-ANN: To shift a bit, I remember you telling me years ago at camp that you purposely chose not to go to post-secondary. Tell me more about that decision.
NAKITA: When I initially made that decision, some of it was rooted in rebellion against my parents but some of it was also rooted in my beliefs about my own long term vision of what success means. In high school, I was professionally diagnosed with insomnia and sleep apnea, so I’ve had lots of time to reflect.
I come from a big family with lots of opinions. I found that peoples’ opinions about what young people should be doing were always so limiting. Working at camp, meeting different people with different skills and gifts made me think there is no way we are all called to have the exact same journey. Shout out to my parents for sure. Even though we argued about what I should do, they never once thought I was dummy or incapable; they knew I was making a choice not to do something. They didn’t understand it, they didn’t respect it but they had to live with it.
I was convinced that I didn’t have to measure myself by someone else’s standard. In my life, God has made clear time and time again that what we may deem as unconventional is really just a means of his grace in disguise at times. It’s just another way.
The older you get, the more you realize that there are people at all different ages in the same life stages. Age becomes less of a milestone of when you should accomplish things. You can shine, I can shine and that’s okay.Tweet
When I see my friends who pursued post-secondary, I don’t see myself in competition with them. I don’t see myself as missing anything, though I missed out on the debt, praise the Lord. I don’t see myself lacking something. It could be stifling and dangerous to do what everyone else is doing because they’re your age or in your circle. This doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind about post-secondary at any point. The older you get, the more you realize that there are people at all different ages in the same life stages. Age becomes less of a milestone of when you should accomplish things. You can shine, I can shine and that’s okay.
Even the position I’m working in, is a testament of who you know and how you work. The requirements for my position require a degree and I don’t have one. I didn’t think I was going to get this position. I went into the interview really scared of not having a degree when they asked for one. Instead of focusing on the fear, I went in being myself and spoke to my quality of work. You need to trust God that you’re equipped for whatever is before you. If this is where you’re supposed to be at this moment, a degree is not going to stand in the way.
Our call as a christian is more important than our job title and pay cheque. Our call is to represent Christ. It’s easy for knowledge to give us a false sense of identity or importance. Your mansion in heaven isn’t going to be any bigger because you got a doctorate. How do you love?
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