Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Work’s Got You Down?

The evolution of my job at Hostage X Nightclub

For those school-aged hopefuls who aspire to one day reach University, the real work-your-knuckles-to-the-bone world seems conveniently distant and gloriously irrelevant.

During the five years of my degree, I felt on numerous occasions that my heart had in fact stopped beating altogether. This usually ran parallel to thoughts of the future. In the absence of bite-mark neck wounds, I was able to conclude that the lack of pulse and pale complexion stemmed not from vampirization as I had hoped, but instead reflected a deep-seeded fear of life after study.

I was scared of becoming a journalist; scared of meeting people all the time, of commuting to Sydney five days a week, of job interviews (what would I even wear?). I was scared of the unknown, of being locked in to a career that put me out of my comfort zone, and that I wasn’t sure I could handle. Yet when people suggested I stay on at Uni and learn to teach or lecture, I cringed. I didn’t want to be that person still studying after fifteen self-obsessed, ludicrously indulgent, alcohol-fuelled years. No, I wanted to take the difficult path, and begin the career that I knew would challenge me. The extent of the challenge was what I was afraid of.

Post-graduation, I began applying for jobs. The beauty of hindsight is that I can give the impression that this was a time consuming and indeed frequent process. In actuality, I applied for jobs on two or three separate occasions, with an unnecessarily thorough resume, and motives that stemmed more from one Centrelink employee’s impatient tone than from any real want of employment.

My tactic was to aim low.

With my distinction average, my double degree, my outstanding references, and my extensive media and artistic experience under my belt, I sent out email after email for everything and anything brainless, mind-numbing, and most importantly non-stressful that had to offer. This included applying for bar jobs, wait-staff vacancies, café jobs, ‘in need of pet shop clerk’, as well as the Kmarts, the Bunnings, the Coles and the Office Works employee pools. I would have even applied for the children’s party face painter position if it didn’t involve the stress of phoning up the employee.

And eventually I got a response. From a nightclub. Look out Wollongong – there’s about to be a new (and, I fantasized, generously tipped) bar tender in town.

The night before my interview I re-read my entire RSA and RCG booklets, and looked up cocktail recipes online, as well as bar tips such including standard measurements and customer etiquette. I went to that interview with my Dunlop Volleys on, dressed in black and ready to start then and there. My only response to being painfully underprepared for any job interview was to overcompensate and expect any situation. Oddly enough, my new boss asked if I could help man the club’s Facebook accounts, write their newsletters, and get some articles in the Mercury. Bar training would come later he said, having cottoned on to the fact that my two years experience behind the bar at WIN stadium may not have been as informative or, indeed, true, as my resume had led him to believe.

This was in early February. By May I was a different person. Hundred-dollar op shop sprees were frequent. I shouted people drinks, dinners, tickets, petrol, and, with no living expenses, had a wad of cash accumulating in my drawer as the odometer ticked up on my Centrelink bloated bank account. Ah, to earn money – a novel concept at the very least. My $15 an hour was going damn far, albeit damn far short of the $23 an hour legally entitled to a 23 year old casual employee.

There was a darker side, however. The flexible hours of promotional work led to a situation where I was on call at all hours of day and night. Coffees with friends and attempts at painting were frequently cut short. The monotony and moral guilt grew as I was asked to email more people, update more statuses, post more flyers on the cars of my friends, and push the nightclub onto more unsuspecting and unwelcoming people.

There were the instant messenger regulars, who sent frequent friend requests to my personal Facebook account, and stalked whatever profile information my then-liberal privacy settings afforded them access to. There were the freaks – David Berry who would begin each conversation with “I want a girlfriend. You own a club, get me one”. There were the haters, who would come online and offer such useful and uplifting insights as “Hostage is shithouse”, to which I would be, under some intrinsic duty to do well by my boss, suckered in to refuting at the expense of my own emotional energy. And finally, there were the idiots. You know the types – their profile pictures are typically high-angle shots, generally involving a semi-naked torso, accompanied by a thumb pulling down hard on a belt loop, and possibly even a ‘seductive’ pout. Those God damn status misspelling, Facebook for mobile-extorting, exclamation mark-abusing, monosyllabic word-abbreviating, punctuation molesting, Winnie-Blues smoking, racist and homophobic, bleached tanned and straightened teen pregnant and proud douche bags that find it somehow necessary in their attention-starved lives to update the world with the most menial and soul destroying details of their disgustingly uninspiring and disturbingly ignorant daily routine. “omg u r such a fucken bitch slut dog. U look like a dog slut. Leev mi man alone u slut or mi cusin will b ova ur house with his nyfe.”

For some reason, I began to feel unfulfilled.

On one hand I had my Uni friends, who reveled in the safety net and socially-sanctioned excuse for laziness that is the tertiary education system. On the other hand, I sat quiet and envious while my more conventionally successful friends spoke of salary increases, Christmas bonuses, weekly travel cards, designer stilettos, French manicures, casual Fridays, after-work drinks, coffee breaks, fixed rate mortgage repayments, $347 baby shower gifts, weekender vacations, Armani hand bags, net gains, board meetings, term deposits, market influxes, taxable incomes, and everything else grown up and all the more impressive for the fact that I hadn’t achieved it yet.

I was stagnating. I was underutilized. I imagined my precious God-given talents, my “gifts” as Mrs. Meredith had called them in year three R.E., slowly dissipating like cool air from an open freezer door. While my friends’ workplaces helped them to became stronger, smarter, more experienced and more worldly, I was slowly sinking towards giving some female rival the proverbial bitch slap on the Hostage X home feed.

I began job searching in earnest. I subscribed to on my RSS feed. I strutted in to JobFind with a new vigor and a job sheet that was, for the first time, filled out with integrity. I was somewhat taken aback when the JobFind staff, with their ridiculously excessive and disastrously strict commitment to a terrible green and purple colour scheme, appeared decidedly underwhelmed by my new found honesty and enthusiasm. I spent my days at work daydreaming of the new me – saving for a trip to America, then Europe, then…who knows? Most importantly, the new and properly employed me would spend my days expanding my mind. I applied for research jobs, events coordinators, editing positions, and journalism placements in ludicrously specific niche trade magazines despite not owning a campervan, nor adhering to the Scientology belief. Anything remotely associated with my extensive and malnourished skill set was fair game. I even spent five hours watching YouTube Excel tutorials, before waking up at 4am in order to keep a job interview in Martin Place at 8.

You can only handle so many rejection letters before your enthusiasm and efforts begin to feel like a waste of time. Why did I want a full time job? I was less stressed than ever before. My diary was getting the attention it deserved, and I was drawing every day. I had begun to cook again, and my dresser was forever crowded with a new clutch of diverse and informative library books, exchanged once a fortnight following my Centrelink appointment. Part-time life was good. And anyway, things at work had begun to change.

Since I began working at the club, I was distinctly aware that I did not fit in. A red haired artist in pastel-coloured tights, a woolen chequered kilt, black-rimmed glasses and a lace camisole could seldom be found at home among the head-to-toe white Adidas clad lads, with their caps on indoors (and generally at night), sporting rats-tail mullet cuts and chunky gold bling; whose hands spend an inordinate amount of time around their crotch region, who take pride in pronouncing every ‘th’ diagraph as ‘f’, and who speak about women as if they were Elastoplast bandages – good for one use, upon which they become contaminated and repulsive, relegated to the garbage heap. Despite the heavy presence of these Hostage Regulars, the boss felt a band night may improve the club’s image. A pin point of light emerged in the darkness.

I am now the Midnight Kamikaze Thursday weekly band night girl. People want to know me. They track me down on Facebook and request my approval. I know the names and (incredibly for me,) faces of dozens of band members in Wollongong and the surrounds. When people come to my band night, I take their money, stamp their wrist, and with each free drink card handed out, cement my reputation once again as someone notable in this community. I’m not the graduate nobody, pushed aside by the new crew of third years, with their exhibition openings, new bands, and parties I’ll never hear about or be invited to. No, now I am one of the recognisable names on the Wollongong It List. I’m the female equivalent of “You know Aaron?”, “You mean Aaron Monster Rock n Roll Murphy? The guy behind the Monster League gigs? I wish I knew him.”

The best part, and possibly the reason why I’m typing these words right now, is that I’ve began writing again. Band night reviews. It started out with plans of a trip to the U.S, a few chapters of Kerouac, and an invitation to heavily edit a friend’s blog. It’s turned into a full blown obsession, and a majestic realization that I’m not just a promoter, I’m not just highly organized, I’m not only good at meeting people, speaking well, or being out of my comfort zone. I’m not just an artist, or a loser who couldn’t handle the responsibility that non-student life involved. I’m also a writer, and I always have been. I love it, and people are telling me they like to read it.

When a form says ‘occupation’, I was able to write ‘student’ for the first 23 years of my life.

For several months I wrote ‘artist’ (note: some have said they include that question to weed out those that write artist. But I still believe that being a real life artist is a really, really cool job). Now, however, I will write Events Organizer, and be proud of it. This is my job for now, and it’s going pretty well.

1 comment:

  1. You're a great writer, Bren.

    This is probably the first blog post I've ever read start to finish. Top notch little lady! I can totally relate to the feelings of guilt around your "extensive and malnourished skill set". As well as complete fear of life after uni. That's why I'm doing teaching. It's even more boring and unfulfilling than everybody says.

    I miss the crazy days!

    Mary x