When I started fulltime with my grocery company, I made it a game to see how fast I could move up. The answer was very fast. I got three promotions in less than two years. The best part for me was that it was just a game… I wasn’t taking moving up very seriously. I just wanted to see how high I could get and how fast I could do it.
My first full time job is still my favorite… it played to my strengths as a trainer and a coach. My peers trusted me as a go between and mediator with our bosses. I got to watch people grow and develop. If that job had paid enough, I’d probably still be in the role. Alas, it didn’t. Five months after I started, I was on to another position.
My next job was as the wine buyer at a high volume store in a rich neighborhood in Dallas. It was both an easy and an intimidating job. With my background in event coordination, organizing my displays and promo buy ins according to our sale cycles was easy and satisfying. However, it was really intimidating to deal with my guests that were more knowledgeable than me about the products I was selling. There was one guest I still remember that asked me for a replacement for the Chateauneuf du Pape that we were out of stock on. I had no idea what to recommend and it was embarrassing. Ultimately, though, my bosses were happy with my performance I moved up again nine months into my time buying wine.
It was when I moved into managing a department that I kinda hit a wall. It got under my skin that my coworkers sometimes just didn’t care. At all. They were at work to draw a check and go home. My requests were sometimes ignored and I remember holding back tears of anger one time when an employee said “okay” to what I was asking even though we both knew he was going to ignore me. This was also around the time that the chaos of covid started and we were sold out of a lot of items and getting yelled at by antimaskers and the insane fact that we were risking our lives for other people’s groceries was at the front of our thoughts. I thought a change of stores would help.
When I took a lateral move into a more queer part of DFW, there were some immediate improvements: People stopped misgendering me and laughing at me like my entire existence was a joke. The workload was less because this was a lower sales volume store. There were old friends I reconnected with from my last stint in this store and I had the greatest office mates in “The Gayest Office in the Company” (two gay men, a Bi woman, and me). However, I soon hit the same wall I had hit at my last store. Some of my employees had given their last fuck years ago. They were never going to give another one. Intellectually, I knew that they cared the appropriate amount and I was the dumbass that cared too much. Emotionally, though, their lack of passion drove me crazy. I wasn’t their manager. I was their babysitter.
The final straw for me was the day I was eating a free taco while I hid my face behind my computer monitor and cried. I was completely overwhelmed with a simple job at a grocery store. My sleep was shit from the constantly changing shift times. I was going home angry with myself for snapping at my employees. My equipment was constantly breaking and we were throwing away thousands of dollars’ worth of cheese on a near-monthly basis. I wasn’t happy and all my efforts at work felt futile.
I sat down on a day off and pulled out my journal. There was a quote I saw somewhere on the internet that was probably attributed to the wrong person that I let guide me. The statement was that, according to some native tribes, our purpose is not to achieve nor accumulate, but to live in harmony with our environment. I felt completely out of harmony on that day I pulled out my journal and something had to give. I made a list of what I wanted out of life and realized that my current job didn’t check off a single box on my list of values. The job that did harmonize with my values was my old role as Wine Specialist. I made the decision to go for a demotion and a month later I got the last job I remembered being happy in.
Honestly, I have zero regrets. Well, one regret- the pay cut. I have emotional energy when I get off of work to invest in my girlfriend and our kids. I enjoy talking about wine with my guests, using things like music, warm blankets, and smartassery to convey how the wine lands on a palate. I drink a new wine every week and review it on Instagram with a sensual pic that is so fun to create. I still have my guests that know more than I do, but they are a treasure to me. They push me to learn more and be better.
It’s counterintuitive to our western, capitalist mindset but sometimes down is better than up. Sometimes less is better than more. Sometimes it’s the empty space that is the treasure and not what fills it. I have less and make less yet my heart feels so full.