Don’t Settle: A Memorial and Lesson

I’m sorry Kendra, I haven’t taken your advice. I’m sorry that the fight left me. I was scared and unsure of the outside. Your advice after thirteen years of working for the same terrible place that I worked was simply this, “Don’t Settle.” I’m sorry. I have so very settled into my average of sixteen cents a year race and living stupidly close. There were several months where I didn’t even have to put more gas in the tank. My life became very insular. I inhabited a nest about the size of a few football fields. I walked to the store, I barely made enough for rent. I coasted off tax return money. It was liberating in a way. No risk and low effort. I had failed to follow your advice and the one thing that kept me really sane is that things weren’t my problem. S****** was a meat grinder for new people and faces. I remember the first crew I worked with and I remember most of the people who came to replace them. I remember the four other stores I worked at. I remember seeing a few of the other lifers. I remember feeling angry at people for leaving and I remember learning to get past that and feeling proud of them for moving on, unlike what I have done. She told me because she thought I might be in danger of doing the same. I’ve made it nine years.

People say a lot of similar things. Things like what you said like, “You don’t want to work a job for more than two years” and “If you are not learning anything, you should be looking for that next step.” I ignored those two.  I got a bit of the side hustle but nothing that made cash. Nothing that got much attention. Nothing that I was really able to treat like work.

The words you told me was after thirteen or fifteen years and making thirteen or fifteen dollars and you hated it. You were bothered by the customers. You were bothered by the corporate. You were bothered a little by the managers. You were good at your job and you knew. It was all enough to make you regret the thought of staying but fear the chance of leaving. So, after a year or two of me being sad and on my own, you gave me one that piece of advice and it caught me off guard. I think I took it for granted at the time. Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe, I took myself for being above it. A fact that I learn and assume I knew it all along. I thought I would move out as naturally as how I moved in. I thought that I would just naturally find my next step.

Then, you died. I had moved twice, that’s two different towns but had the same job. I had visited three dentists. I had been through five or six roommates. I had lost touch with girlfriends and friends. An old acquaintance sent me a message, that you had passed the previous week or month. I thought of those words you said to me and I was sad.

Although, I remembered, that isn’t how you spent your last few years. You had moved on. You found an exit and a better job with co workers that made you happier. You took your own advice. Though it was late, you moved on past your regret and worry.

I wish I could say that it was your life that inspired me to step out but it was circumstances and it took a year or so more. I’m sorry, I haven’t followed your advice, until now. It is a low risk, going from one job while still employed to another. I have several other role models that did it before me. Writers who were mechanics and limbo drivers. Unemployed mothers and surgeons. I hope that I grow enough. I hope that I too can encourage people not to settle. Thank you, Kendra. I’d be lying, if I said that I wasn’t sad that you can’t read this. So, for the voyeuristic reader take the lesson of this letter and memorial; Don’t settle. Don’t work anywhere for more than two years. Always be learning something. Life is short and working is not an insignificant portion of it.

Love, Ray

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