I once lived in a cubicle, 3 half walls surrounded me every day. I put up photos of family and pinned funny bumper stickers to the cloth walls. The company I worked for moved our office to a brand new building and decided to replace everyone's nameplates. They purchased these shiny new glass etched monstrosities. One by one everyone in the cube farm had their little box arrive with their shiny new nameplate. I would watch as everyone received their boxes and they giggled like school girls who had just met Justin Bieber. Finally the day came and my little 3lb square box arrived! The mail lady left it sitting on my chair and drew a smiley on the box with a sharpie for me. I inspected the box and it did indeed have my name in the address to field so I ripped that sucker open. Once inside I tore through the brown paper that surrounded the nameplate. I grabbed the shiny glass plate and held it in the air in joy and just as I smiled one of my coworkers from the cube farm screams "Hey everyone it's Eric Beaver!!!". I was mortified. They sent me the wrong name. Did I look like Eric Beaver to the nameplate people??!?!?! So I sent the nameplate via interoffice mail to its rightful owner on the 2nd floor and my manager ordered me a replacement. A few weeks later I got another one of those small but heavy boxes and knew exactly what was in it. Opening the box was like opening a wonka bar and you were just hoping for a golden ticket. Everyone in my department had their name plates up and some even shined them everyday. We were proud that the company bought us such a nice token of appreciation. I tore through that box and threw my nameplate in the air and exclaimed, "It's here guys!"
The same coworker then screams...
"Hey everyone it's Darnelle Magespro!"
My first thought was.... Dammit, did they just mispell my name? My second thought was, gosh that coworker is a douche bag. Didn't he know that I was yearning for my very own glass nameplate? I showed it to my manager and she had it replaced. When I got the new one I said what do you want me to do with the old one? She told me to keep it as a reminder of how hard I worked to get two glass nameplates from the company.
I had been with this company roughly 6 years at this point. I took stock. All I had to show for 6 years of hard, around the clock work in the IT arena were these two damn nameplates. I had decent paychecks too of course but was I really fulfilled financially? If I looked towards my future all I could see were 4% raises annually and a possible small bonus once in a while.
So I did the math, I took the roughly $50,000 I was making and realized any raise I received would be around $2000 + a year raise. I broke that down into the amount of hours I worked, the bare minimum being 2080 a year and I realized the raise came to $1.00 per hour. What?! Actually it came to around .96 cents raise per hour. At 40 hours a week that came to $38.00 a week raise. Minus taxes, that came to about $28.00 a week. Any raise was a good raise right? Well yes, in this economy it might have been a good thing. In an economy where most people I know make less than $15.00 per hour, it really was stupid of me to complain so I put it that little math calculation out of mind. I told myself to be thankful for a steady job and just live as well as I could off of my $2000 annual raise (that really came to $1486 after Uncle Sam took their part).
I'm not a complainer, in fact I used to be the opposite of that. I always made sure I counted my blessings and knew there were millions and millions of people less fortunate than me. I would guilt myself every time I thought about how much I was being paid and how it affected my future. My vicious inner critic (VIC) would say, "Girl just keep your mouth shut, you really don't do much other than farting around on the web anyway". I struggled with this for a long time. Was I trading hours for dollars? Yes. Was it worth it? Well it paid for my rent, my car and utilities. It afforded me some groceries and gas. It did not afford me much in terms of vacations or extras but I was meeting my families needs with it. I had huge student loans hanging over my head that this couldn't touch...thank god for forbearance's.
I felt stressed out and overwhelmed most days when it came to income or even the mention of income. I went to school for a few years and received an Associates in Network Engineering. After years of working in HR and Payroll, I wanted something I could use to gain more income. I was a geek and proud of it, although the amount of debt I incurred getting this lower level degree really did not seem balanced to me. The best part was I ONLY went to my school of choice and pursued this particular degree because I was dating someone in the admissions department of the school at the time. How's that for judgement? See far from perfect but all of this little bumps and joys became part of my story. At this time I was still measuring my success by my ability to continually improve my income each year. My thought was if my pay was more than double my age at the time, I was a baller! Then reality set in and I figured out all the math above leaving me back to square one. How do I gain more income without trading hours for dollars?
So what do you do to fix something like this? Well at that moment, that thought was not even on my mind. I had no plan, no ideas and could only keep hoping for that annual raise to slightly improve my financial outlook. I took a side step and just kept chugging along in the corporate world....whew. It's amazing to talk about this story in the past tense!
Stay tuned for more of this story. I'd love to hear your stories if you survived the cube farm like me!
UPDATE: Read more of the STORY here.