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The walls of my office are sparsely decorated with an eclectic mix of items. On one wall two teaching related artifacts, one a “Classroom Rules” hanging, the other a “Successful Teacher Needs…” poem, both from my mother, my biggest supporter and benefactor when I went to college for teaching, on another wall a “Don’t Quit” plaque, another wall a framed poem from a friend and a button art of my last initial, and my lanyard collection (you read right). On the last wall, is a painting my nephew made, which I loved and he hated.

On the far end of that wall, squeezed between the corner and a bookcase hangs two frames. Both containing sheets of paper that took me nearly the same amount of time to earn, one of which was very expensive. Both I will be paying for for years to come.

These useless pieces of paper are my College diploma, and a “plaque” commemorating my five years in retail.

I have a minimum of ten years or so left to pay on my student loans, and I’ve been working at my retail establishment for five years, helping me pay off said loans.

The irony here, you see, and the reason for this post, is that despite my nearly five years of college, physical proof of my bachelor’s degree in education, and an undeniable love for teaching, I am, in fact, still working at at place I thought I’d only be at for six months.

Almost six years in retail now (my next piece of paper won’t be printed until year number 10) my prospects for a teaching job are still extremely slim–even more so now. Not that I’ve tried much.

Do you know how many times I’ve been asked, upon telling someone I have a bachelors in education, “Why are you working here?” Because I don’t, I’ve lost count. I started telling people not to ask three years ago.

I like to think of it as a success, managing to make it this long in retail. I can’t count on both hands the number of times I’ve seriously considered quitting in the last five years. I’ve feared firing, I’ve been paranoid that they were all out to get me (I’ve had a rough patch or four), don’t tell on me, but I’ve called in once or twice because I just did not want to go to work. I’ve threatened to quit on a daily basis before, and I’ve cried in front of every member of management that’s lasted more than six months (I blame pregnancy for several incidents).

Of those almost six years now, I’ve changed positions not once but four times. I love my department now, but can’t seem to get done quick enough. I’ve been physically injured on the job at least twice, once actually reported and was on medical leave for two weeks. I came back with restrictions I didn’t follow. I’ve worked every Christmas Eve but two: the year of my gall bladder surgery and this past year when I had my tiny human. I’ve been written up at least three times and I’ve “donated blood” to the retail gods almost daily. I’ve developed what one might describe as chronic pain in my joints, my back, my knees. I come home every night with aching feet and legs, and if I sit too long, my muscles and joints stiffen to an immobile extent.

But I’ve made many friends, several whom I’d trust with my first born. I’ve earned respect and praise, I respect many others. I’ve helped several coworkers and tried to be as helpful and hardworking as I can (mostly). I might do it begrudgingly, but I’ll do it, and try to do it well. I love helping most types of customers, and I try to go at least a little further to help them out, when I can. I enjoy my job best when I can work quietly and and do it right.

College was a life experience i will carry with my until the end of my days. I made lasting friendships there, I learned a great deal, and I miss learning every day. I even had several moments of where I doubted whether I should remain in school or drop out. I stuck it out, mostly because I was unlicensed and lived on campus two hours from home.

But my biggest regret and disappointment about going to college is that I spent four and a half years and thousands of dollars on a piece of paper I may never use. And I think that major disappointment is the main reason why deep down I will always resent my retail position.

When I returned to work from leave, I was excited and a little nervous. I ended up having a lovely day, and coming home to my beautiful daughter after eight hours away (the longest we’d been separated) topped it off. But I’d forgotten the soreness and aches that came with being on my feet all day. That will never go away. It’s as if I’m being paid back for not using my degree. And it sucks.

I may eventually be able to use my Bachelor’s. It may not go to waste. But right now I’m stuck with a reasonably but not the best, paying job that allows me to stay out of debtor’s prison. That’s still a thing? Is that still a thing?

Do you have any regrets? What’s your dream job?

-c

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