I was at the grocery store late tonight (and horrors! on a Monday. That's what holiday travel does to ya) The cashier was ringing me up and lost in conversation with the bagger, a guy about her age with braces. As he's bagging my groceries, the manager yells over to him, "Hey are you working tomorrow?" When he says that he isn't, she says, "well, would you like to?" Awkward pause, as you see his brain shift into "deer in headlights" mode, he's stammering for an excuse as to why he can't and not finding one. The cashier bats her lashes at him and says quietly, "What is it, do you have plans after school or do you not want to work?" I can clearly see which it is....and the manager browbeats him into taking an afterschool shift.
Wow, this guy reminds me of my high school self. Flashback to the early nineties, where I worked at a fast food joint instead of a grocery store. (Which may have been my first mistake, but that's a story for another day.) I'd put in long weekend hours mostly working drive-thru, spending Saturdays getting up at 5am to prep for the 6AM opening. I'd work nights, sometimes into the early morning. And I never said no. Extra shifts? Yes. Stay past closing? Sure. Work at other stores because they were short-handed? Just tell me where it is and I'll figure it out.
Truth be told, I allowed myself to become a Yes Girl. In college, I worked retail for two semesters at a popular "cheapie" store. LOTS of nights and weekends where I should've said No once in a while. My senior year, I worked at a coffee shop AND at a nursing home while going to school full-time. My grades suffered, sure. But look at my strong work ethic! Yeah yeah, that's important too. But so is getting decent grades and decent sleep. Learn to say no.
I have only in the past few years learned to put up my hand and back away. Many years as the easy target, attending things that I didn't want to attend, baking for things I didn't want to bake for, etc etc etc. Finding myself chairing committiees and charity events that I didn't want to. And paying for the overcommittment. And silently hating myself for not speaking up.
So I say to this kid in the store (in my head, because I don't have a lot of guts to open my mouth and lay it down to a stranger.) Kid: a strong work ethic is important. And I know that your generation doesn't have a lot of that. But being young and getting out and doing your thing is important too. You have your whole life to work. You don't have to feel like you're disappointing your boss because you don't want to come in on your day off. Because if you start doing that, they're not going to remember that you did it, they're just going to call you in more often. So, even if you don't have any more plans than to sit on your couch afterschool, and catch up on the DVD or just plain stare into space, be honest. Grow a set and say "Sorry, I can't I've got plans." You'll be glad that you did in the long run. Because there's such a thing as a team player, and such as thing as a doormat.
The Yes Girl, she doesn't live here anymore. And I don't really miss her, and neither does my family.