A mouth full of ulcers

So this morning I resolved to write a little about my work experience so far in Canada. Then some interesting things happened at work, which led to my having to make good on that idea of ‘do at least one thing a day that makes you uncomfortable’. Anyway, more on that later….

So back in the UK I worked for 5 years in various support staff roles at educational establishments, before landing my residency and then getting some Print Technician cover work at Central St Martins back in 2015 (which I did alongside working full time at a secondary school.) After all those years of working in jobs which, for the most part, were irrelevant to my education/interests/skills or fell short of my expectations of what a day-in-the-life-of-Maya should be – plus never paying me enough to even break the barrier of the minimum earnings needed to start paying off my student loan – I told myself that in Canada, I would make my work relevant, and I would improve on my quality of life. No more waking up at 6:30am with a 3 hour round trip commute. No more having a job which consumes all my energy and leaves no time for me to create.

The best laid plans, right?

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As I write, I am employed by a textile screenprinting company in Burnaby (an area in Greater Vancouver, BC) – sounds pretty relevant, but then bare in mind I am not in the screenprinting role which I applied and was called to interview for. I applied while we were still in Calgary, and by the time we got to Vancouver the boss still wanted to see me – which was great – but I was greeted with an alternative proposition. He said he’d filled all the printer positions, but that he needed help in the stock area of the business. I was desperate to get some Canadian experience under my belt, so despite the $12.75 he was offering me, I decided to take the position on the understanding that I would be integrated into the printing team as and when they needed more hands.

3 and a bit weeks in, I’m back to 6 hours being the norm for a night’s sleep (aka just not enough for me.) I work a 40 hour week, I get up at 5:30am, I start at 7:30am and end at 4pm. My commute is 2 hours round trip. I get a 15 minute break in the morning and a half hour at lunch – these are the only times I sit down all day. I haul boxes weighing 40lbs plus around the place, lay out stock (which with certain brands involves taking clothes out of individual plastic wrappers) –  the largest order I’ve laid out so far was just under 2,000 t-shirts – count everything to make sure we’ve got what we should have, stand infront of piping hot driers with little ventilation and pack away orders. There’s the novelty of having to clock in and out with an old machine and a piece of cardboard – but then thinking about it, it just means I’m on a zero hours contract (although I don’t actually have a contract….)

I’ll admit I’ve questioned whether I made the right decision jumping into work like I did. On the one hand, it’s a positive thing that I’m getting Canadian work experience, my commute is shorter than it was back in the UK, and somehow I’m due to bring home more than I was in the UK. On the other hand, I’m back to jaded mornings and mouth ulcers – with the added bonus of upper back pain. And on top of that I noticed that a new screenprinter had been hired today, into the all-male team of screenprinters. I am in the all-female team of layer-out-ers and boxer-up-ers. I couldn’t help but feel a little pissed off today.

So to round off –  I ended the day by asking to speak to my boss. I told him I had noticed a new screenprinter had been hired. I thought we had an agreement regarding my movement into print if they needed extra hands? I watched him give his excuses. I asked if he had forgotten about me. He said he kinda did. He said he’d speak to the print lead tomorrow and start getting me involved in that side more. I left feeling like I had a tiny win, but I know in the long run it’s not a healthy place for me to be.

So I’m back to having 2 jobs, the second being that joyful vocation of looking for a new one.

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