Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can write a first class academic thesis but can't handle a job at KFC

I finished my internship in mid November 2010, and won't be registered to teach until sometime in 2011. So I did what was expected of me, I went and got a job to bring in some money until I start studying again and/or teaching. I got a job at KFC. As the manager knew my mum because she had worked there previously, there was no interview as such, it was just 'ok, you start as soon as your uniform comes in'. I did my first shift about a fortnight later. I psyched myself up, telling myself that the job didn't mean anything so I didn't have to stress about it, just turn up, do the job, and get paid. I walked in on my first day and without any training or anything was put on the front counter to serve. That meant simultaneously trying to work out where the various meals were on the computerised till, what to pack in the various meals, and dealing with general customer rudeness and stupidity. For my brain that thrives on order and knowledge, and with my trepidation of pretty much any social encounter, this was absolute hell. After a four hour shift I was completely emotionally and mentally exhausted, wanting to just crawl into a hole and stay there until the rest of the world just disappeared. I had no intention of ever going back, it was just too much. I lied to my mum, saying that they hadn't rostered me on again. Then she decided to intervene on my behalf, coming home a few days later to tell me I was rostered on for a five hour shift the following day. So I went, because I knew that was what was expected of me, and I couldn't find a way to explain just how hard it was for me. My second shift was profoundly worse that my first. Because I was so stressed/nervous about not knowing what I was doing my hands were physically shaking, so bad that I was dropping things, spilling chips etc all over the place. I packed many of the meals wrong, and had one particular customer abuse me because I had mistakenly given him extra chips. I couldn't help myself, I asked him why he was complaining about EXTRA food that he got for nothing? The manager wasn't impressed. Apparently that's poor customer service.

I didn't go back for another shift and I have no intention of doing so. I just mentally can't handle it. When my mum found out she gave me a lecture on how sometimes we have to do things we don't want to. As much as I tried to explain she just didn't get it. It's not a case of not wanting to, it's that for me that situation is unbearable to a point where it impairs my functioning in the rest of my life, and I just can't see that it's worth it for any amount of money, but especially not for $19/hr.

I communicate best in writing, always have, but even now I'm struggling to put into words how and why it's so difficult for me to work in a place like KFC. Any customer service job that I've ever had, I haven't lasted long. It's partly the poor people skills, and the fact that I forget to smile (I only ever smile when I'm genuinely happy, which obviously I'm not when at a job I hate), but it's also the fast paced multi-tasking that does my head in, especially when it involves tasks that I don't feel competent to do.

On the other hand, I have found one thing that I do incredibly well. I'm not trying to blow my own horn, so to speak, but for the first time in my life I can honestly and proudly say that I have one thing I enjoy doing and that I feel confident and competent in doing. That one thing is academic writing, and the research process along with it. Fingers crossed, I'll be starting a PhD this year. In 6.5 weeks' time in fact. The beginnings of what I hope will be a successful and enduring academic career. I know that I need to put my all into it, because it's what I want as a way of life, not just a job to go to to earn the money that puts food on the table, but something that does that and more. A career where I can make some small difference in this world and all while doing something I love and am good at. I can finally see where I want my life to lead, now I *just* have to pull out all stops to make it happen.

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