It’s not a secret that I despise working for a living. I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than ever answer to a boss. Why am I like this? I certainly wasn’t born hating work. I just had horrible jobs and was never once treated with any respect nor was I ever paid what I was worth.
My first jab at employment was applying for a job as a camp counselor’s assistant at the CYO I attended for six years. I was now 16. I could qualify for work papers but when I applied, the camp director knew I was also going to summer school (because I failed a subject) and he refused to hire me. “Study hard” was his nasty, mean-spirited reply. Man did I despise him!
My next job attempt was two years later. At the age of 18 I applied for a summer job with Merrill Lynch on Wall Street in New York City. That job I got, but I lied to get it. Merrill didn’t want to hire teenagers in May who were going to college in September. So, I told them I wasn’t going to college and got the job. I was considered full-time, so I was paid twenty-five cents an hour more than the summer kids. I made a whopping $2.00 an hour. When my boss told me my salary was going to be $86.54 for a 40 hour week, I asked him if that was gross or net? Yes, I knew the difference back then. His answer: Gross.
I sweated that long hot summer working on Wall Street. I was trained as a bond clerk. I had to wear a dress and stockings each and every day. I had to endure hours of daily commuting in hot, hot subways each and every way. It was brutal. My father used to laugh and make fun of me. He thought it was hilarious that I clipped bond coupons and stamped bonds all day long. One morning a fellow co-worker and I arrived at work at 9:05 AM. He was fired instantly for being late. Since I was a full-timer, I got a warning. When September and college rolled around, I simply told them I broke my leg and never went back.
When I attended college my father told me I couldn’t study the courses that I wanted. I was a very creative individual and wanted to pursue graphic arts. My dad said there was no money in graphic arts and made me attend Ophthalmic Dispensing school instead. Since our entire family was in the eyewear business, I had no choice but to follow their foot steps. I went to a special technical school and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Most times I got zero on a test. And yes, the class would laugh at me. The school was made up of mainly boys/men/guys. There were only 3 girls in the entire school.
Eventually I graduated, got my degree but could never pass the licensing part of the ‘career’. I never became an optician BUT I did become an ophthalmic assistant. Again, despite having a degree from the technical school PLUS a liberal arts degree from a Catholic University, I never made much money. No boss ever paid me what I was worth. They basically took advantage of me. I worked in the optical profession till my mother died. Once she was dead, I was finally free to do whatever it was with the rest of my life. I was 32 years old.
Since I was extremely good in money management, I took a free bookkeeping/accounting training course with a local New York authorized special education program. I received a certificate at the end and applied for bookkeeping jobs. I never once had any trouble getting a bookkeeping job. I did everything from payroll, to employee taxes, health insurance, profit and loss, cost analysis, debit and credit, General Ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable. I even did collections and I had a 100% rate of return.
In 1989 I landed the job of a lifetime (or so I thought). I was hired as a Budget Administrator for a well-established, prestigious law firm. I was in total charge of their entire financial operations, oversaw a $12 million dollar budget, managed the payroll for 44 employees, responsible for all procurements etc. etc. etc. etc. I did all of that (and much more) @ $560 a 35 hour week. I was newly divorced, newly remarried and all the senior partners knew I needed that job more than life itself. And, of course, they took advantage of me.
Not a day went by that one of the senior partners didn’t make at least one sexual innuendo or one ethnic harassment notation. They knew I couldn’t do anything about it (nor would I have tried) but the office was disparaging anyway. We girls used to laugh it off. Me? I kept notes and records. For example, my phone extension was 38. Most everyone said my extention was 38 Double D (referring to my bra size). I later found out that after I was hired, the 2nd senior partner asked “Did they hire that woman with the big tits?” Yup. It was that kind of office. And as the years went on, it got worse.
One Christmas time, a senior partner gave me a coloring book as my gift. When I opened the book, it was a book that you had to fill in a man’s penis and then color it. Another Christmas I got a pair of sexy lingerie. Everybody laughed. Everybody thought it was funny. I never did. But I desperately needed my job and where I lived good paying jobs were very hard to find. I had to drive 2 hours total round trip just to get to this job. I had two young daughters to house, clothe and feed. My bosses knew this. And yes, the other women in the office also needed their jobs and yes, the bosses took advantage of them also.
Twice one of the senior partners put his fingers down my blouse because he “wanted to feel what real breasts felt like”.
After eight years of working in this office and after eight years of getting outstanding rave employee reviews, my supervisor wanted me out. She had just returned from a pregnancy leave of absence and was enraged that I had done such a great job without her. She made my working life there a living hell, Heck, she even called me in to her office on a Friday afternoon to tell me she put my job in the paper just to see what the responses would be. Sure enough, my job was listed in the Sunday paper. I didn’t get mad or anything. I hired a labor attorney instead. All my fellow co-workers told me I’d never win against such a strong law firm but I knew better. After all, they were the ones who taught me everything I knew PLUS I had been stashing damaging evidence against them for years.
I’ll get to the end of this story, I did eventually win my lawsuit against them. But not without so much stress that I wound up in the hospital almost dying from everything this law firm put me through. And for what? A job? They wouldn’t pay my vacation (14 days). They wouldn’t turn over my retirement money. They wouldn’t pay for my unemployment checks. They kept lying stating I stole from them, I crashed their computers, I damaged their backups……….they were despicable. But I was relentless PLUS I had a fantastic, hard fighting attorney representing me. I sued them for age discrimination (since I had turned 40 and they were hell-bent on getting me to quit) AND sexual harassment.
I won my back pay, my vacation pay, unemployment benefits, my retirement funds in full, plus a settlement equal to two weeks pay for every year I worked (16 weeks), plus a separate check for $5,000 (for simply annoying me) and I got an outstanding Letter Of Recommendation (that I wrote myself but the senior partner signed).
This was the last time I ever worked for anyone ever again. Oh, I’ve had a few bouts of work here and there but honestly, I’ve never worked for any boss since. I started my own businesses a few times. I had a good run of success with my computer company (1998 to 2001) but was wiped out with the dot come disaster. My husband had a great run working for Disney Imagineering for 12 years and thankfully has a pension from them. But between him and me, we’ve had so many episodes of unemployment that we never properly saved for our retirement.
Over these last few years I have become so adept at frugal living that I can suck the coinage out of a wet ten-dollar bill to last a lifetime. As I said, I would rather stick needles in my eyes than ever work for a boss ever again. I had a lifetime of employment misery and I’m done with it forever. So, I honed a frugality craft instead.
They say the good Lord provides and with me, He did. My dad must have been overwrought with guilt (he literally is responsible for destroying any chance I might have had for a fulfilling career of my own choosing) because when he died, after threatening me for decades that he was going to leave me nothing, must have had a change of heart. He put me in his will. He didn’t leave me as much money as my brother and sister but my father did include me after all and I suppose that is all that matters.
My entire (disastrous) work life prepared me for living a sustainable life without a job. I was FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) before it was even invented. I was debt free before Dave Ramsey breathed a word about his own bad financial experiences. Some people just aren’t made to work for a living. They are more suited to be creative and inventive and imaginative. Consider me guilty on all those counts.
I’m a survivor.
I made it, despite it all. No one can ever take that away from me.
Side Note: The law firm had to replace me with a CPA at a salary of $60,000 per year and a Bookkeeper at $40,000 a year. That amounted to $100,000 in 1995 vs paying me $29,120 a year. Also, in my whole entire working career, I never made $30,000 or more a year despite having two college degrees.