Punching My Clock

I have not been writing very much for good reason: I had three different jobs. I edited the current issue of my school system’s magazine, I worked as an intern for another local magazine, and throughout the work week, I worked as a receptionist at a law firm. 

The waiting room of the law firm

The perfect skin that I had when I left high school is now gone in exchange for stress-induced neck zits and under eye bags, because nothing says you’re no longer a teenager quite like a breakout of acne and a chaotic sleep schedule. I also had my wisdom teeth removed, because dental problems, I am told, always come at the best possible times for your work schedule. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I was actually looking forward to being at college, where less will be expected of me, as an RA, Junior, and potential intern.

The start of my time sheet

With my Kate Spade laptop bag and the two pairs of professional pants I kept on rewearing, I was armed and ready for anything corporate America could throw at me. I woke up at 7 so that I could work from 8 to 5:30 (8 to 12 on Fridays). Then I went home, counting my earnings for the day like they were strapped in my garter and I was walking away from my street corner. After work, twice a week, I went to karate, which is appropriate because when you work three jobs, you sometimes need to grunt and kick the air. If it weren’t for my three jobs, karate, and my biological need to sleep, I would have simply gone home and watched Working Girl. In fact, I spent a lot of my time thinking about the films that I could and would be watching if I was sitting on my couch and not being a productive member of society. 

Me, eating a cookie that my mom packed for me, while on the job

I’ve learned much about life through these job experiences. For instance, I learned that the expression is “punching my card” and not “punching my clock,” which more aptly describes the act of punching your time card into the time clock everyday. Also, through my various lines of work, I encounter people whose names, despite the difference in spelling, can only be pronounced “Fuck.” Sometimes, I get put on hold and I understand how I make others feel, often holding the phone to my ear for so long that I’m convinced I will get cauliflower ear. The phone won’t ring for several minutes on end and then suddenly, three different people will call at once needing everything. 

And they needed it by yesterday.

Me on a lunch break on my last day on the job

Because I worked with five other people (who I didn’t interact with much being the receptionist) and then worked alone as a journalist, there wasn’t much workplace drama to dish out. I did, however, often spend my lunch hour at my mom’s office where I learned about all of the hot gossip. So if you’re ever in need of an expert on the goings-on in the Valdosta legal scene, I’m your girl.

For the last half of summer, I was constantly working, but I didn’t mind it. Having a lot of work to do is like getting old; it’s the worst thing in the world except for the alternative. I think now I finally understand the feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction people get when they have a job that they go to everyday. There’s a sense of pride in having a job. I knew that I accomplished something day in and day out regardless of how tired I was when I got home. 

My brief stint at the law firm came to an end when it came time for my mouth surgery. I’d been working nonstop leading up to it, that I hadn’t given much thought to the reality of getting surgery. I hadn’t, for example, given any thought to the IV they stuck into my arm that knocked me out in a matter of seconds. I’m sure I was their absolute favorite patient, having exclaimed things like “is that thing going into my arm? Where’s the novocaine? My arm is getting heavy. My arm hurts. Is my arm supposed to hurt? I’m getting sleepy.” This was met with responses like “my arm feels heavy too,” and “I’m sleepy too,” which is not always what you want to hear from a surgeon as you’re going under. I woke up twenty minutes later, convinced I’d been through a rugid, three hour long surgery and feeling like I’d been drop kicked. 

Mouth surgery has a way of feeling like a punch in the face that’ll leave you with sore gums, a tight jaw, and a liquid diet. High as a kite, my mother then dragged me to the car where I supposedly cursed a blue streak and demanded everything. The only part of this that I remembered was when I dove head first into my pillow with my mouth stuffed with gauze and my face wrapped in an ice pack. Being lowered into my bed, I told my mom, “I sleep on my face.”

“Not today you don’t,” was her response.

A swollen mouth

After that I took it easy and made it through this surgical rite of passage. Like all of my friends, I am forevermore without my wisdom teeth. So much of what I’ve been doing recently has felt like steps into adulthood. Working a couple of jobs, answering phones, and getting my first real dental problem has always felt like the type of things that were decidedly in the realm of adulthood, which is no longer nebulously far in the future for me. Here I go, trying to navigate it with as much grace as I can muster. 

So far, I have yet to disappoint myself. We’ll see if I can keep that up.

The Tragic Queen,

Raquel

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