What do you do for a living?

Until I started, when someone asked if I was working and I answered no, I felt terribly guilty.
I could hear them judgingly thinking: “Why isn’t she’s working? Unbelievable.” But I was ok, I didn’t really care, I hid behind classes and courses, which, between you and me, were virtually non-existent, with easy courses in a few weekends a year without too many exams.

Instead now, when the same question gets asked and I answer: “I’m a floral artist. I have my own crafting business. And, well I also tutor English. (And I write flash fiction and poems in English.)” I don’t feel guilty, but downright embarrassed.
I can see myself labeled and shoved into the same pot as “losers” who aren’t able to find a job in their field, fitting their training and education, or even a job where you can sit down from time to time, and have the only required exercise of bowing to clients.

I think that any job where you have to deal directly with the customer, a customer who automatically is on a higher rank because “I don’t like what you have here, I want you to make me something else” is a job where your value is determined strictly by the degree of kindness that you are willing to offer. And yes, especially on days when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I don’t have too much courtesy. Yet I’m still kind and patient despite everything thrown at me, while I just feel like running towards a more “noble” job, where you only have to sit at a desk all day long and think instead of sweating over hand making something quickly.
I would like to be paid for what I think (or even for my writing someday), and not for how quickly I can move my hands. And though this business can seem so dreamy and calm and relaxing and involving tons of creativity, I’m guessing that most of the world couldn’t care less about my/our creativity. We’re here to make the customer’s creativity reality, which more often than not is questionable, because in some people’s opinion you can mix red with yellow and orange, purple, green and white with pink and I know how many decorative birds and ribbons and hearts and butterflies and still end up with something nice.
And yes, the reply I heard most often to the question “Wouldn’t you like any of the bouquets already made?” was: “No, I want something more spectacular, more interesting. Make me a bouquet of three roses.” (red of course). And that’s even without mentioning those customers who don’t even ask “I’d like you to make a such and such bunch of flowers” but who say “I want to make a bunch so and so”.

Perhaps it’s not quite so bad as it seemed to me at the moment, and yes, I should be happy that I even have jobs, with the financial crisis and wages cuts and everything else going all wrong. But I sometimes feel all sad and I can not find a tangible reason, the rain doesn’t seem to stop washing me of everything; thoughts, ideas and especially the joy of the holidays that are getting closer with each passing day.

So… I’m waiting for sunnier days (in a lovely place (more on that to come)).

And Christmas! :)

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10 Comments to “What do you do for a living?”

  1. Hold that chin up Estrella! Working in customer service is one of the most difficult professions there is, if not The most difficult. I worked four jobs at once in my early 20s, all in customer service and it was hard. But at the time I was single, had no children, and had energy; there’s no way I could do that now. One of my jobs was as an Event Coordinator, and I can relate to customers wanting something “special” instead of what you’ve already created. But don’t take that as an insult – people are just particular and most want to be able to say they had a hand in it, whether they really did or not.

    I now work as an Administrative Assistant in IT – I have several different tasks but my main job is managing close to 800 maintenance contracts, subscriptions and licenses. It’s not easy, but it can be rewarding, knowing I have the organizational skills to keep up with all that. However, if I didn’t have my illness to deal with, I’d so much rather be creating something with my hands. I love “playing with junk”, giving old things a new purpose. Fortunately I’m free to practice that as a hobby, along with my writing, so at least I’m able to satisfy that need.

    Gosh, I didn’t mean for my response to be longer than your post! Just know that you aren’t alone. We all feel this way at one time or another, and we get through it. Chin up!

  2. Sometimes, people can be hurtful when asking questons that appear to be innocent. Believe, I’ve been there… even though with personal things other than what do I do for a living.
    Such is life, I think.

  3. Hi Estrella, I understand perfectly what you mean! I work myself in customer service, with one of the most awful categories: tourists! They’re on holidays so they have to make your life impossible just for the sake of it, you know?! And even if you didn’t create anything and you’re just doing what you’re told to, they will find problems because the want to be able to tell you what they would like!!!
    And yes, there are a few times when you’re tired and you just want to give up, but then it will pass by!! You’re a positive person just think about that and also think that you make the people happy with your creations (blog posts included, which are a creative process result!!!). So, when you feel sad you think of how many smile you gave in comparison and feel proud of yourself!

  4. You guys are amazing, thanks for your lovely comments (and I wouldn’t mind if they’d end up longer than my post :P)

    I’m usually pretty cheerful and everything, but I just needed to deal with this “out loud” and not bottle it up right now. (and don’t even get me started on my roommates cause that would be novel-length)

  5. Since you own your own business, you could stay in bed every day and refuse to answer the phone or the emails. When you choose to get up, when you have the drive to go after business—you should feel proud. It must be very difficult to be your own boss. You have to crack the whip on yourself!

    People are just nimrods (idiots). They demand things and have no clue how rude they are.

    You just have to practice keeping a straight face while you are thinking funny,evil thoughts about those thoughtless customers.

    The talent that enables you to create art with flowers is an incredible gift. (If I put together a bouquet, the flowers would beg for the opportunity to escape. Really!)

    Keep your spirits up, Estrella!

  6. I used to work in customer service and I got so stressed out that I literally had migraines every weekend. Luckily I was able to transfer to a different department in the same company and I started feeling better. Just stay open to new possibilities and nicer things will come your way, usually when you least expect them!

  7. Life, in general, can be so stressful and difficult at times. No matter how positive a person’s attitude…negativity happens! It’s good to not keep it bottled up, as you said! I, too, was like Janel. I used to get migraine headaches very often, and dread the thought of going to work every day. What an awful way to live! I wasn’t even a writer yet back then, so I didn’t have that to look forward to! Hang in there!! Just think of those of us who know how wonderful you are! :)

  8. Err. I just typed a long comment and my cat stepped on the keyboard wiping it out. I’ll try again. I think you should first start with gratitudes; that you are able to work with your hands, that you can work with beautiful plants and flowers, that you have learned the names of so many (I remember your comment on my houseplant post). Now for the customers… I have been in customer service forever and I think you need to think of it as a profession and a science. What worked for this customer? If you change up the bouquet or even the way that you describe it, what is the result? Does it work differently with men and women? When you remade a bouquet, did it result in a customer who returns? Make a game of it. It is truly an honorable set of skills.

  9. Oh you’re so good to me! Thank you :)

    I, of course, know all of this, just really needed to type things out for stress relief purposes. I’m grateful that at least I have jobs, even though they’re sometimes hard and don’t pay too much, it’s still more than nothing, so for that I really am grateful.
    Reading your experiences and advices makes me happy that I have such great friends who won’t let me stay down and pull me back up :)

    Thank you ever so much!

  10. I would love to have a better job, one where I can be myself and express my creativity freely. Instead I’m stuck in a store selling a bunch of stuff people don’t even need. But like you said, at least it’s earning a living for now with the holidays approaching I can’t even think of quitting… Anyway, I can’t wait to find something else, something better and more appropriate for who I am.

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