End of an Era

Time passes. People move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. People come and go. New opportunities pass as quickly as they come. The chance of a lifetime flies by without a second glance. Life happens. Blink, and you may miss everything.

For four years, I have been in one consistent routine: My on-campus job. Certainly far from being the most glamorous or savory, it paid the bills, paved the way to beautiful friendships, and instilled confidence in me that I don’t believe I would’ve found otherwise. Many times, things were less than pleasant, from coworkers and managers right down to the work itself. But it was a job. I did what was required of me. And most of all, it gave me something to believe in: Myself.

At the dawn of a new semester, I found myself in a hotel room in Chicago, having had to spend the night due to a delayed flight from Orlando en route from my vacation in Key Largo. After making it to one of my classes, I returned to the dining hall, ready to resume my post of reaching out to applicants, hiring in students, adjusting the schedule, and all the fun in-between. One of the managers there who was in charge of the students informed me that the main manager of our unit was not happy I had taken a vacation the previous week, and no longer wanted me responsible for the student scheduling.

This came as a bit of a shock to me. I had made sure to give prior notice before I left (which possibly could’ve slipped through the cracks and something I should’ve kept up on, admittedly). It was not my first vacation under that capacity, having escaped to Europe back in May earlier this year. And (although this was not a point I vocalized) most of my work, if present, would’ve consisted of hiring students, changing the schedule, and so forth, items the managers are certainly able to handle in my absence. To top it off, despite holding only two part-time jobs, I had, up to that point, been working nearly every single day. My shifts weren’t long, no, but at times, it was still exhausting, and I needed a break. My mental health is important.

He offered me some shifts on the student schedule to make up my hours, which had instantly been shortened from 20 to 5 with that bit of information. I said nothing aside from an explanation of my actions, privately noting that if anything, I’d much rather prefer to work in a supervisory capacity as before.

The following day, I arrived after lunch in the hope of picking up a shift or two. Said main manager happened to be there, and showed hesitation when I mentioned my intent to pick up one of the open supervisor shifts, and noted he would have to consult with another manager to see if I could permanently take it. Despite being down a supervisor at the time and my willingness to work, he initially specified that the working supervisor would cover both sections of the caf. After realizing that the other supervisor had called in, he allowed me to work from then until 8, where I proceeded to clock out, eat my meal, and leave.

Last week Monday, and with a bad feeling in my stomach, I arrived to work, where said main manager pulled me on to what used to be my office of operations. He explained that my absence during welcome week was unacceptable, and they had decided to end my employment. He presented me with the option to resign, rather than be terminated, which I gladly took, and with a briefly scribbled note on a clipboard he had with him, I effectively signed off on my four years of employment.

While I vocalized my understanding that we were short-staffed and busy that week, I did mention that it certainly wasn’t an intentional vacation, and despite the part-timeness of the job, I did highlight a particular commitment of mine earlier in the year where I returned to complete my shift after smashing my thumb in a cooler door. It was still to no avail, and with the common “good luck in your future endeavors,” I returned my plate to the dish window, said a few goodbyes, and walked out.

It’s an enormously surreal feeling to no longer work at a place you’ve worked at for the past four years, and to have it end so abruptly. I can at least be thankful that I had the choice to resign, albeit forcefully.

In its absence, it does put pressure on me to find my next gig. My primary reason for staying was to absorb as much resume-boosting material I could, particularly the last five months. It was, however, outliving its usefulness, and I was eager to find something that was a bit more dynamic. Now, I’m getting that push, even if it’s more of a shove in this case.

As things stand, I remain employed at my former apartment complex, and while it also remains in the realm of part-time, it also provides me with some form of income. This, too, is gradually reaching an impasse: One of the stipulations to be a ‘brand ambassador’ is the need to be an on-site resident, something that was recently brought forward by our new property manager and initially introduced by corporate back in May. While my argument of being a former resident of four years is, in my mind, suitable, it’s still unsure how much impact it will actually have, if things eventually reach the end of the line for me. Adding to the unknown is the fact that I don’t know if, much less when, this will be brought up, and how suddenly my employment will end unless I can fulfill a different capacity and remain employed under a different title, avoiding the ‘on-site resident’ requirement altogether. There’s a massive question mark over how much of a requirement it actually is, so things could go either way, but she encouraged me (and rightfully so) to prepare for the worst, and line up another opportunity as soon as possible.

Thus far, I have sent out applications to a few places, including Meijer, Target, and CVS, as well as other apartment complexes in an attempt to continue serving in a similar capacity as before. Wherever I end up is the big question, the answer to which I’m keen on discovering as soon as possible.

The past two weeks have been so consumed by my sudden job switch, I haven’t had much of a chance to take a breath and remember where I’m at. I’m a stone’s throw away from receiving my degree next spring. I remain as single as ever, which, although bothersome, is something I’ve grown to live with. My living situation has dramatically improved from what I’ve known the past several years, and despite my occasional missteps, I could not be happier to finally be living wth people I actually know, much less two of my best friends.

Elsewhere, my international pavement-pounding excursions continue! Not too long ago, I booked my next trip: Mid-May, I will be bound once again for Europe, this time hitting up Spain, the southern portion of France, and Italy, starting off with two days in Paris! I know not long from now, I will (hopefully) be bogged down with a full-time job post-graduation, so the more chances I get to travel the world now while I have the time, the better. There’s a lot of world to see out there.

In case you were wondering, all things considered, I do NOT regret going on vacation. Yes, it cost me my job, but my mental health is vital. I’ve undergone my own mental obstacles as much as the next person, and like anyone else, I deserve a break. Was it perhaps not the greatest timing for a vacation? Could I have done more to get reassurance from the managers that I wasn’t going to be unexpectedly ousted from not only my role, but my job altogether? Of course. But I have outlived the usefulness the caf has provided for me. I have gone through too much of the same routine day in and day out, checking attendance, sorting silverware, wiping down tables, and enforcing the rules. Is it still a role that has some contribution? Absolutely. All jobs do, to a degree. The past four years gave me more than I ever expected. It’s time for me to seek my next big adventure.

I’ve had more than my fair share of doubt over my future. As uneasy as this makes me, I need to focus on the present. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed there’s not another disaster around the corner.

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