Had a lovely time in Montreal with Noemi and her mom this weekend, an opportunity that presented itself quite randomly.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a Voicemail Noemi left while I was working. “My mom is offering to fly us to Montreal to visit her the weekend of October 6th,” she’d said.

“That’s totally awesome,” I said when I called her back during my lunch break, while eating chili cheese burritos. “I’m supposed to work at the store that weekend, but if I can’t get the time off I’ll just quit.”

That didn’t turn out to be an issue, as I ended up quitting a week later after being totally degraded by my manager. She pulled me into the back room and recited a long list of everything I was doing wrong, which was strange because I only worked with her for three hours of the three weeks I was there, and because I’ve just been doing my job (tagging hats, using registers, straightening shirts, etc, it’s not hard).

According to her, these were my offenses:

Chatting with co-workers

(All of our customers come in rowdy and drunk. Pretty sure the occasional small talk, which really was infrequent, never hurt our sales.)

Having my back to customers while straightening merchandise

(Impossible to not have back to some customers while doing this, due to store layout.)

Drinking out of my water bottle

(We were allowed to have drinks if they were closed beverages, and I often poured my water into the lid of my water bottle which doubles as a cup, at which point it evidently became an open beverage.)

Tying my much-too-large-T-shirt behind my back

(Which she claims I was doing just to “spite” her, despite my insistence that I was doing it solely and exclusively because my T-shirt was too large. Also, this is a place where our required uniform includes black pajama pants).

Standing behind the counter

(Evidently we are supposed to do this ONLY when ringing a customer up.)

Crossing my arms

(Just my default!)

Leaving work early

(Just following orders! The assistant manager sent three of us home early that day because the store was so dead that there was nothing to do.)

Using computers for personal use

(Never, EVER did this.)

It was truly a confusing and upsetting moment, though I’m sure it was a result of her own psychological circumstances that I will never get to understand. And no big deal, this was not my career, it was only a temporary thing to keep me occupied while I looked for real work. But still. As I sat there and got yelled at while glancing at a very official-looking form she had filled out regarding my offenses (she even filled the margins), I kept having this recurrent thought: This is not my life.

I have had several this-is-not-my-life moments over the past several months. It has been a strange road.

Moments over the past five months when all I could think was this is not my life:

-Pretty much any moment I was in India (except those that were deeply rewarding in a life-changing kind of way)

-That unfortunate week-long period in which doctors were poking, prodding, and draining the extremely painful abscess on my butt

-Having my mom have to drive to Illinois to pick me up due to said abscess

-Sitting on inflatable butt pillow on airplane due to said abscess

-Going on my first interview only to find out the place doesn’t exist

To be fair, I have had many I’m-glad-this-is-my-life moments as well: watching my sister get married, moving in with Doug, raising a kitten, having friends travel far to visit us, going to Montreal.

And one that I haven’t announced yet: getting a job.

It finally happened. I went to an interview two days after I quit the store, not really expecting much. (All the good things in my life, without fail, turn up where I’m not expecting much). But everything just felt right. There are some things about the job that are scary to me—the fact that it’s just starting up, the fact that I don’t have a guaranteed number of hours per week, the fact that my hours might not count toward my license. But there was something bigger than all of those worries when I listened to my interviewer just speak candidly about his passion for this beautiful thing he is trying to do. And the thought I kept having was this: This is my job.

And I guess I was right, because it was offered to me on the spot. I’ll be working with kids, teenagers, and families, and I start this week.

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