I am a stay-at-home dad. I have been one for about three weeks now. I clean, I cook, I’m selling stuff I never use on eBay, I’m finding time to work on my website and portfolio, and I’m spending copious amounts of time with my two-year-old son. It’s all so wonderful, yet at the same time, I feel like I’m in prison; a prison where I’m locked away from a career that I have always wanted.
I hope it’s perfectly clear at this point that when I said, “I am a stay-at-home dad,” I meant “unemployed.” From a morale standpoint, it just sounds better. I would also like to reiterate on the front end that I have no one to blame about my current situation other than myself; I take full responsibility, and I am currently doing everything in my power to break out of this metaphorical prison I feel trapped in. I want to be making money and supporting my family, and I want to be happy while doing it.
So that brings me to the title of my piece: I am a Xennial, used to describe individuals born between 1977 and 1983, who grew up with landlines, dial-up internet, and making cassette mix-tapes, but embrace and thrive on digital technology. We LIKE social media; we don’t LOVE it. Learn a little more here and see that it’s a word Merriam-Webster Dictionary is following.
As I wind down my path of life, I take comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only one to find myself in the “predicament” I am currently in. I graduated from college in 2006 without a completely defined career path, and then went to a portfolio school in 2007 for two years, focusing my sights on Art Direction in advertising. When I finally finished school in 2009, the recession had plagued the United States and jobs, specifically advertising jobs, were scarce.
I picked up freelance gigs here and there, but they were very random and couldn’t provide me with a steady income. Retail ended up being the viable option that provided me a reliable budget to pay my bills and allowed me to tackle freelance opportunities on the side.
Unfortunately, freelance projects slowed down while I continued to advance and flourish in retail. The lie that kept me advancing in retail was that “I won’t be doing this forever.” Opportunities and growth and raises were all nice perks, but as I kept rolling with them, I was having less and less time outside of retail to do the things I love, even as hobbies. I was also finding that all my friends were planning get-togethers and parties on weekends, usually on days I worked.
Fast forward nearly 10 years, I get married, have a son, dogs, and a beautiful home; I also am running my own store, managing and developing my own team of skilled retail salespeople, getting paid salary (as opposed to hourly), and we are a very successful location within my district. Then one day, I glanced at my website and it brought me to my splash page that just had my logo and a nifty, rustic looking sign that said “Under Construction.” I had put that up to hide the updates and changes I was making to my website, and I realized I hadn’t been making much progress towards it. Then the earth-shattering reality hit me: I put this image on my website in 2014. It had been hiding my work and my original website for over 5 years!
I drove home from work that night; only to find my wife and son were already in bed. I wanted to ask how their days were, but I didn’t want to wake them. I wanted to hop on my computer and do something about my website, but I was exhausted. “I can tackle it tomorrow after work.” I double-checked my calendar before I laid down and chuckled: tomorrow was going to be my ninth day in a row of opening-to-closing my store, a term that was dubbed as “working a bell-to-bell.”
Wait a second.
What has retail done to me? I’m salaried, meaning no overtime pay and clearly working seven days a week. I’m not seeing my son ever. I’m not seeing my wife. I’ve gotten far too comfortable putting things off due to being exhausted all the time. Even if I hinted at looking for advertising jobs, they required a portfolio, mine of which was so horribly outdated that it seemed like a joke (seriously, I have E.T. in my portfolio!).
I made the decision to step down. My boss didn’t want me to leave, so he pulled some strings and got me a 20-hour-a-week gig doing inventory stuff, which bought me some well-deserved time with my family and giving me the opportunity to look for other, more fulfilling jobs.
It was suggested that I reach out to recruiters; I did, and I was advised to look into recruiting. Within a day, I had an interview and was scheduled to shadow for a half-day. My half-day was eye opening and I metaphorically was salivating the entire time; this was a corporate schedule! 7:30 to 5:30, I get lunch breaks, I could pick up my son from daycare and I got the weekends off! Sign me up!!
I put in my two weeks and started my training as a recruiter in February. As the training modules dwindled down and I shifted into actual recruiting, my development was given a multitude of conflicting advice and tasks and I was realizing it wasn’t the right fit for me. They started noticing as well, and gave me an ultimatum to change who I was, specifically to stop making jokes and trying to be funny. I was so blinded by this position not being retail that I didn’t look at what this job actually was.
We mutually agreed that I wasn’t the right fit and I was escorted out of the building right then and there, nearly three weeks ago.
I have since then been doing the stay-at-home dad role, spending time with my family and working on my website and portfolio. This whole Xennial Syndrome, where not finding the career you went to school for and falling back on a retail job then getting stuck in a retail rut, may not have affected a lot of people I know (none of my friends my age, to be exact), but is seemingly a thing. I just want to let anyone who might be stuck in a retail rut know that it’s NEVER too late to turn it around!
The TL;DR Version
I suffered from the Xennial Syndrome, onset by the recession and the lack of job opportunities at that time, resulting in me seeking out retail jobs that I succeeded in. Retail kept eating away at my life until I kicked it to the curb and tried something different, which ultimately didn’t work out, but I’m grateful of the opportunity.
Focus on your passion. You can fail at what you don’t want, so why not take a chance on doing what you love?