For the past 12 years, my life has been focused on a certain career field. Four years of schooling and 8 years of experience in the medical field. I am a nurse. And as you know, nurses are funny people. None of us are the same and yet, you bring us together and we become wildly quick friends. So, my day-to-day job…is, let’s just say, not too worried about fashion. 38 hours/week of not caring what brand you wear, not caring what brand I wear. Life is fragile and short. And although I like to look good, fashion is not priority.  Ok, so you know where I am coming from. I was also raised by a nurse, so again, just being clothed is good enough.

I have been wanting a retail holiday job for a few years now and finally got one. With no store experience (although I bring a lot to the table!), they hired me. After working my “I don’t care what you are wearing, I just want you to take your meds, get food, get housing, get healthy” job, I went in for my first shift.

I had spent the previous 38 hour work week with 2 main people on my mind.

First, a middle aged woman who recently lost her job and her house and moved to Seattle from a nearby town to find more available resources/housing. She has no family, no friends. She is utterly alone and trying to navigate a system she is clueless about. She is living in a packed shelter, with people who are violent, angry, ignored, forgotten, depressed, broken, lost, some mentally ill, some drug addicted–people who don’t sleep at night and just pace up and down the room, people who steal your stuff when you aren’t looking, people who are your friends one minute and flipping you off/swearing at you the next.  This woman is tired and becoming hopeless–with probably not the best nutrition, not sleeping, no friends, etc. I met her because she needed some foot care. And as I helped her navigate the system, we talked extensively about her current situation.  And it is heartbreaking.

The second person is in his 40s, has housing but has no friends, no family.  Just got diagnosed with something that he will have for the rest of his life–that causes him to be nauseated/vomiting all day and he has also been passing out and falling often. He lives alone and does not accept help. No meds are helping him right now and the neurologist gave no hope. We have no answers for him except to try and help him cope. He is angry, depressed, grieving, unable to get out of the house very well, not keeping much down in terms of food/fluids and is utterly alone.   And he won’t take the dang wheelchair I have been trying to get him to take home with him. Believe me, we have been working on solutions as this situation is not safe for anyone.  But resources are scarce even in Seattle, the birthplace of Microsoft, Nordstrom, and Costco.

So, as I greenly show up for my “fun” job that I do truly like, my eyes are being opened to a whole new world. A world where I don’t know my way around but I’m learning.

A couple came in at the end of the day. Found 4 shirts to buy but because they didn’t understand the sale prices we were offering, they became upset quickly and stormed out of the store after I told them the total and explained how the sale specifically worked. Was I crushed that they left angry? Well, as much as I don’t like people choosing to be angry, I was able to continue my shift whistling. Why? Because they have housing.  They have clothes and shoes on.  They have a car. They have friends.  They have family. They are going to make it without 4 shirts. They are going to be ok. Life is going to go on.  And hopefully they will come back and shop with us. Tonight, when they sleep, it will be quiet.  When they sleep, they will be safe. They were here on vacation, so I’m pretty sure they have resources to navigate this life quite comfortably. Now, I may be wrong. Their dog and their iPhone could have just died  and the nose job had to be postponed for a week.

What I should have done is pull out a picture of a bridge and say, “Here’s a bridge, get over it”, and hand them a full cup and say “Here’s full cup. Now, shut the full cup” and here’s a straw, “Now, suck it up”. #firstworldproblems #youtubevideos #watchit

But I didn’t.  Because I like the job. Because I like people.  Because I like fashion emergencies.  Fashion emergencies are so much better than fatal diseases and homelessness.  Fashion emergencies are so much better than having no friends, no family, no food, no car, no job, no hope.

So, next time, you are in a store and angry they don’t have your size, have the sale you were expecting, or don’t have the color you wanted, be happy and count your blessings.  Thank God for fashion emergencies, for it may just mean you have nothing else to worry about.

(Just a friendly reminder from your neighborhood nurse who is a closet retail employee).

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