Why I’m Glad I Went from $49,000 a Year to Minimum Wage

My old job was as an administrative assistant for a car parts company. I made good money, had several different benefits, and my co-workers were likable and easy to get along with.

My current job is as a barista, making minimum wage plus tips with no benefits and working by myself most of the time.

This job alternates between hectic and dead, with a lot of fiddling work and a great potential for disaster. There’s even a little physical danger from burns working around hot steam and liquids. But I enjoy it. It’s really the first job I’ve had that I honestly enjoy (well, I liked parts of my security job, but that was more like three or four different jobs since each assignment was markedly different).

I really would never even consider trading my current job for my former.

Why do I like it? Simply because at the end of the day I feel like I’ve done something. Someone comes in and asks for a drink, I make it, and I get paid. It’s an honest service that one can continually improve at and which produces a tangible result. That, to my mind, is worth quite a lot. I enjoy mixing and serving people drinks. I enjoy occasionally chatting with customers as I work (and I like that I don’t have to chat with them: it’s entirely up to me whether I engage them in conversation or not). I even enjoy sweeping up the place after closing: working a mop is a remarkably satisfying and picturesque task in my mind.

In my old job, I had a lot of different duties, but few of them involved a sense of having really done anything. I filled out the proper categories on a page in a computer program that was so complicated and finicky that I had little idea how it actually worked and was operating more or less phonetically (so to speak). The things I entered into it held no meaning for me as they were largely engineering specifications and equipment. The company policies involved struck me as idiotic (there was a minimum 30 day payment delay after the invoice had been processed, which meant we were almost always late, since processing itself took a few days at minimum). To cap it all off, I didn’t care a whit for what the facility itself was doing: we were inventing better light bulbs and better windshield wipers, both of which seemed to me to function perfectly well already. I had a lot of trouble focusing on my work, which made me feel like I didn’t do it very well. Apparently my supervisor felt different as he was very encouraging and pleased with my performance. Really, the people in general were probably the best I could hope for; friendly, easy to work with, etc. But I hated the work itself and wanted desperately to be done with it.

So, oddly enough, I’m quite pleased with the change. I would like to earn more money and have benefits and all that (actually I just wish that healthcare were reasonably priced enough not to need insurance, as it seems to have been a mere few decades ago, but I digress), but to feel satisfied at the end of the day that you’ve done something: that you’ve actually contributed to someone else’s day in a small, but real manner is worth quite a bit of money to me.

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