By TIFFANY LE
There’s a saying that when things get tough, you just have to bite the bullet.
A few weeks ago, I bit the bullet for the first time when I accepted a job working for $8 an hour as a server at a retirement home.
A few years ago, I was making more than $24,000 a year as a reporter asking politicians about their economic strategy. Not bad for a fresh college grad.
Now, a few years out of college, I’ll be making barely over minimum wage, asking seniors what they want to eat for breakfast.
Why the occupational change? Last year, my brother’s wife was in a car accident in Texas. Tram’s car was rear-ended on the freeway, and she sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Tram slammed her head on the dashboard, causing her brain to swell and rupture critical blood vessels. She went into a coma and was paralyzed for two weeks. When she woke up, she couldn’t walk, swallow foods or communicate with us. To make things more challenging, Tram was pregnant with her first child during the accident. Fortunately, my premature niece was born healthy.
I took a leave of absence from my job to help my brother. I thought as soon as Tram recovered, I would return to my comfortable, fun reporting job. It wasn’t a fast recovery; Tram was discharged from the hospital six months later.
In that time span, my outlook changed completely. I found meaning taking care of Tram at the hospital. Some of the nurses became our family friends and saw my potential.
For months, I debated if I wanted to leave my fun job in California and start all over in Texas. I went for it.
As soon as I quit my comfortable life, my strategy was to return to community college, find a job as a caregiver and volunteer at the hospital. I fulfilled all but one: finding the job.
I relentlessly searched for a position but I just wasn’t experienced. Even though I was trained by nurses and therapists how to care for Tram, my skill set wasn’t enough for the work world.
I was rejected by health agencies, hospitals and even referrals. My bachelor’s degree didn’t get my foot in the door. My military experience and interesting journalism job didn’t help either.
As my savings began to deplete, my self-esteem, pride, confidence followed suit.
I checked Craigslist and found a job posting to work as a server at a retirement home. I called the hiring manager, and for the first time during my job hunt, finally landed an interview.
I soared through the interview and immediately was offered the position.
Trying to overcome my embarrassment, I told a few close friends of my new job, including Christina, a local Texan who grew up in the community where I live now.
I didn’t have to tell her the name of the retirement home. She already knew. “When I was in high school, I used to go there to play Bingo!” she beamed.
My interest sparked, and then it extinguished with her next comment. “My friend,” she said, “worked there from 10th grade to 12th grade doing what you’re doing.”
So not only would I barely be earning minimum wage, I also would be working with high school teenagers.
I met with the human resources manager to fill out paperwork and review company policy.
The woman gently warned me that some of the residents come from a different era where they view women differently. “Be aware, Tiffany, there are some residents you can hug and some you need to lock your elbows out.” We talked about sexual harassment.
I had agreed to bite the bullet. Along with it, I bit a little bit of pride.
But there is no complaining here. I am adding a line to my resume that could lead to a job as a caregiver. I’m in the workforce. I’m helping others.
My wallet might be poor, but I’ll be richer for the experience.