I’ve had a very exhausting few weeks, where I have been working in a cafe, for minimum wage and maximum hours. I took the job because I had just arrived in Brighton, I needed to rent somewhere to live, and was keenly aware that my sporadic, writing/publishing income was not going to be coming in regularly enough to ensure things were paid on time. Though excited about my new adventure, I was in quite a blurry and emotionally low state, and so when minimum wage was offered, for whatever reason, I took it.
After giving my all (because that’s what I do, even for low wages) and becoming more and more involved in the business, I was taken aside by the boss to be told that as a recognition and reward for my hard work and dedication, he was giving me a pay rise, starting from the next month (so not for all the crazy hours I had already worked my ass off in) and I have to admit, when he told me how much my new per-hour wage was, I was insulted. And that’s when I realised (although subconsciously at that time) that he was never going to pay me what I was worth in that position.
Then I had dinner and a long beach walk and chat with my good friend, Liz Chukwu, who I ranted to for a while about work, and she made me realise consciously just how much value I was bringing to the cafe, and just how little he was realising it.
Then last week, one of the staff members, who had also put her all into the job, coming in at short notice on her days off, really working hard every day, was leaving to go on an amazing adventure in South America. She had been offered an opportunity she couldn’t refuse. At first, my boss spoke highly of her, and how we would miss her etc. But by the time her last day rolled around, he was more worried about her paying her lunch tab than anything else. And when he didn’t thank her or even say goodbye, that’s when I had my second realisation – he doesn’t actually give a s**t. This isn’t the first time I have experienced this in a workplace. I learnt this lesson at the age of 17, when I was a trainee manager for Domino’s Pizza. I worked double shifts, back to back, for 7 months. I was even writing personal letters for the boss because his English wasn’t the best, and all this on minimum wage – I wasn’t even on a higher wage than the rest of the staff, despite having much more responsibility. Then I went on holiday, realised that actually, there was more to life than stinking of pepperoni, and when I got back, I lasted a day before quitting. His reply – okay, bye. No ‘thank you’, no nothing.
It was at that point that I realised I needed to work for myself, because I never wanted to experience that again, and here I am, 13 years later, in the same position. When I realised I was going to leave, I made a point of addressing the many issues to the boss, and his attitude and refusal to listen really sealed the deal. I gave notice on Sunday, but when he continued to argue with me yesterday, trying to intimidate me, and make me feel powerless, I walked out and said I would not be back. Standing up to him, holding my own against him, made me realise that no one can ever intimidate me into thinking I have no choice, or that I should just do as I’m told. And for me, that’s quite a huge thing.
When it comes to authority figures, I find it difficult to stand up to them, even if I think they are not acting in the appropriate way or if they’re doing something wrong. But I have just proved to myself, that when I feel I am being treated unfairly, I will not be quiet, and I will not put up with it. This also coincides with the fact that I have, in the last year, become incredibly honest and as authentic as possible. Because I just don’t have time for messing around.
So if you have read this far, I want you to know that you are worth so much, you are so beautiful, and I want you to stand in your power and show others that you know how incredible you are. Accept those compliments, know that you inspire people, and continue to be amazing. When you love and value and respect yourself, you will find yourself in positions and surrounded by people who love, value and respect you too, and that is what I want for you.