Hannah's Initiation to the American Workforce
I’m a failure.
Sure, I had plenty of success as an actress in Canada. So much so that I moved to the US. But Nashville is not Hollywood. And I grew sick of travelling across the country to perform to half empty crowds, and Hollywood isn’t biting and I’m in mid thirties... which is ancient for an actress. Stardome was not happening for me.
So I quit. I quit it all. I gave up on my dreams.I know that’s not easy to hear, because we live in a world that values optimism and delusion over realism and truth, but quitting show business was the best thing I have ever done. And even though my identity took a big hit, I regret nothing. In fact, if you haven't had any professional wins in a couple years, and bitterness and envy grows in your heart like a parasite, I recommend you quit too. Ignore the ted talks, motivational quotes, and podcasts that tell you to never give up. Sometimes you need to face reality. Sometimes you're not good enough, or your personality just keeps getting in the way, or you're an addict, or you're lazy, or you're just straight up unlucky... either way, if you're more miserable than you are content, stop chasing your dreams. Your dreams have become a nightmare and you need to wake up! Get a day job and start over. That’s what I did in 2019. This is my story.
After I quit acting, I decided to get a job. Problem is I’d been a working actor since I was 23, had no real world work experience and no college education. What resume I do have is full of Canadian references. Basically, I am an unqualified immigrant. So I get a job where all aspiring entertainers or washed up actresses like me can get work. I become a tour guide at a museum.
Maybe it’s for the best, I tell myself. Yeah. I can utilize my public speaking experience, these superior communication skills, and reinvent public history. I’m about to disrupt this museum, I think! One day, soon, I will be a boss, and all the disappointment surrounding my failure to launch as a comedian in the US will make sense.
At my new job, I take my training very seriously. I raise my hand and ask questions. I take notes. I show up to all the staff meetings on time and sit in the front row. Every room I enter, every new co-worker I meet, I smile and joke. I am a ray of sunshine in this bleak, corporate environment. They are so lucky to have me, I think. I’m gonna be a game changer here.
My co workers often show up late, and I judge them for this. Some of them even call in sick the day of work, and I think, wow, they are lazy and incompetent. This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this. Since I moved to America, I’ve noticed how terrible most customer service is. At banks, fast food restaurants, stores and shops, it's as if most employees in America are half assing it. Everywhere I go I wanna ask who is your manager? Who trained you? There is no accountability here. What’s wrong with this place? But it’s good for me that most employees aren’t good at their jobs. Because if most people are lazy, I will stand out. I will climb the corporate ladder.
When my boss asks me to write a script for a new program they are creating, I jump at the opportunity. I spend all weekend writing this script, and email it to my boss with a professional and hilarious explanation. I don’t hear back from him. My mind goes wild with insecure assumptions. He hates the script! Maybe my writing is terrible? Then resentment starts to brew. I wrote this on my own time. Even if my boss hates my work, he doesn’t even have the decency to say thankyou for going above and beyond your job to do this. I appreciate you writing this FOR FREE. But I hear nothing from him. All week, my mind runs wild, wondering why my boss is hanging me out to dry.
When we meetup days later, to my surprise, my boss hands out my script to my coworkers. He mentions I helped him write it, but gives me very little credit. I am blown away. I thought I had failed him, but he simply just didn’t say thankyou. He took my work, ran with it, and seemed oblivious to my expectation that I would be thanked.
My opinion of my boss begins to wane. I thought he valued me, but clearly, he doesn’t. I quickly realize there is no real bar or standard to keep this job. There is a high turnover rate, people who don’t show up to work or complain a lot never get fired because they need us, because they are perpetually understaffed. It turns out, its hard to keep people when the pay is terrible, there is no health insurance, and the bosses ghost you. Wow. Who would have thought.
But I don’t let the disrespect rattle me. After all, I’ve still got my eye on supervisor positions. I decide to focus on my skills. I’m good with people. I’m an organizer. When one of my co-workers announces he is leaving, I decide to throw a going away party and a fundraiser for him. This guy is well known to be broke all the time, and I think throwing a party would be good for him, and the morale of the staff. So I book a party. I send out the invites and place a donation jar in the staff room. Weeks go by, no one rsvps to the party. The donation jar remains empty.
I begin to feel embarrassed that I’m organizing this party and no one wants to go. I decide to scale back my announcement of asking for a donation, and simply request that people sign this guys going away card. Even this is a challenge. The week before the party I have to literally confront my coworkers and bosses with the card and make them sign it. Only four people show up to this guys going away party. I add one hundred dollars of my own money to the going away fund, for a total of 115 dollars. When I give this guy the card and the money, he mumbles thanks without making eye contact. I noticed a few days later that he has for reasons beyond my understanding, unfollowed me on Instagram. Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.
My friends, including Ashley, tell me to quit this job. I refuse. I think, despite the constant disrespects, when a job opportunity opens up, I am the clear candidate for manager. It’s Feb 2020. Corona virus is spreading across America. I send a professional but forceful email to my bosses asking them why they have not talked to the staff about safety measures. After all, we are a museum, we get hundreds of tourists from across the world every day. In typical fashion, none of my bosses reply to my email. I literally wrote to them that I was concerned about my health and welfare and all I got in return was a mass email reminding me to not flush tampons down the toilet. Ok. Cool corporate America. Cool.
My resentment brews. I begin to realize my bosses are aware of covid, but they are pretending like it's not a big deal, because they want to stay open and not cause a panic. They are hoping Covid is gonna play out like Sars or Swine Flu. This bothers me. After all, they are working in the safety of their desk jobs, away from the public. As a tour guide, me and my coworkers are on the front lines, interacting with tourists, exposing ourselves to Covid every day. Their silence on Covid is more than disrespectful, it’s unethical. After an anxiety fueled day at work, being surrounded by coughing guests, I send my bosses another email, giving them explicit instructions for how the museum should and must implement what would eventually be called “social distancing” practices. Again, no one responds to me.
One week later, the US shuts down. I never get a response or thank you from my bosses for my concern, but I do get cc’d in an email informing me that I have been furloughed. Because I am on the emailing list of the museum, I get weekly emails informing me that the museum cares about the well being of the public. That’s fresh I think. They care about the public, but could care less about their employees. In truth they don’t care about the public, they care about making money. It’s all about money. I don’t know why it took me so long to see that.
It dawns on me that I misjudged my coworkers. I thought they were lazy, grumpy and stupid. But really, they were just people who have worked in America for too long, been dragged down, demoralized by the workplace power structure in this country. They aren’t bad people, they are realists, just trying to keep their pay check and maintain their sanity. They show up late, because life is hard and they should get paid more. They don’t go to staff parties because coworkers are not your friends, and their bosses are wolves in sheeps clothing.
I’ve often asked myself while living in America, who is the manager here? The manager is greed. He is a tyrant that never sleeps. His demands trickle down to all of the ceos, executives, administrators, and these people are so desperate to make a profit and not let their overpriced college educations go to waste, that all they care about is pleasing the hire ups. Pretentious, career professionals have little to no regard for the staff under them. So the labor force, the lower class, the expendables, are treated like subhumans, cast off and fired by email, because it’s all about profit in America, and if you found yourself on the bottom of the labor force, well that’s your fault. I’m no Bernie Bro, and even though I’m canadian, I’m not against capitalism, but after working a minimum wage job in this country, it doesn’t take long to figure out why so many people are angry and fed up with the callousness of this country, with the greed the drives this country, and dehumanizes its citizens along the way.
I learned a valuable lesson at my first minimum wage job in America. Sometimes you just gotta clock in and clock out. Do your job, but don’t give more of yourself to a job or a person that doesn’t appreciate you. I hate that I’ve learned that lesson. As a Christian woman, I am instructed to love my enemies, if someone slaps me on my cheek, show them the other one. But if I let people take advantage of me or disrespect me, I start a war within myself. America has taught me, it’s every man for themself. I’m just so grateful I have God, otherwise this would be a very scary world.