Stephanie, I could so relate to your experiences, though mine were in a different field. (art). I worked in a grocery store and worked every Sunday because it paid time and a half. Then I worked my way up through minimum wage jobs and barely made it, but I did.
I eventually got a job as a costume jewelry designer, and paid my dues for 7 years learning how to throw a design away because there would always be another one. My best lesson in life I think! Eventually I became a designer for a very good company. That all went overseas and I went back to RISD in my late forties to learn computer graphics.
I am doing an E-commerce site for a large outdoor furniture company. I made more money in the nineties! But I am happy with my job and the people I work with, and it is relatively cheap to live here.
I think we need to revisit what our goals are in both work and our personal relationships every decade or so! I know my expectations of people, jobs and life have changed tremendously from that time of struggle. But…my work ethic is still strong and is what keeps me in a job like mine at age 63.
Thank you for writing what you did, it made me happy to know that there are younger people like you out there. I would hire you! Your friend in work ethic, Jill Bell
Web Design, E-commerce, Digital Marketing
PS. I keep parrots, a cat, a live-in-Dude, and a ton of plants. I am happy.