In May of 2017 I came back to Toronto for the summer. For the previous two years I had held summer jobs and frankly, I hated them both. That summer, I was 18 and I wanted a job downtown. I wanted something new, something I wouldn’t hate. So, I took a handful of resumes to Toronto Eaton Centre and handed them out to every retail establishment I could.
As I plastered the mall with opportunities, I found myself at American Eagle. I had never been a frequent shopper – or even a shopper there at all. I was a religious wearer of BDG jeans at the time and my only real interaction with the company was my collection of Aerie underwear. However, my cousin had worked at American Eagle in the past and didn’t hate it. Plus, I needed a job. I walked into the store with no familiarity of the product, no understanding of the company values and a handful of resumes filled with irrelevant job experience. I left the store with one less resume and an interview scheduled for later that afternoon.
Four and a half years later, I find myself leaving my “summer job”. If you asked me-of-2017, I would viciously deny that the store in the basement of the Eaton Centre would become as integral to my life as it has. That job funded my first album. It allowed me to live in Vancouver. It kept me employed during the pandemic. It provided me with the experience I needed to get a new job I am more than excited to start.
However, that doesn’t mean that I am more than excited to leave. I understand I initiated the launch, I was the one who sought out and found a new job, but there are thing I’m leaving behind that I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss meeting so many people. I helped young girls get ready for their first day of high school. I shopped with children who were taking a day off from chemotherapy at Sick Kids. I shopped with trans individuals who were buying their first items of clothing that represented who they truly were. I helped stylists for movies, people find clothes for their first job, and tourists on vacation. I got to speak German and French and American Sign Language. Additionally, I met a handful of Karens who provided me stories for Tik Toks.
I’m going to miss learning the hard life lessons. Growing up my dad said everyone should work in either service or retail. It makes you a better person, he said. It will teach you life skills, he said. And after a near half decade in retail, I can thoroughly agree. You learn to be kind to others, particularly those working in service and retail. You have a greater appreciation for our friends working minimum wage jobs and expected to perform at 100% all the time. You learn to appreciate hard work, because nothing says hard work like a Boxing Day shift at the Eaton Centre. You learn to appreciate money. When you work hourly, you look at all your transactions thinking about how worth it something is. “Is this sweater worth 5 hours of work?” or “Is this Starbucks worth 30mins?”.
I’m going to miss working with clothes. Growing up, clothes were always an important part of my life. Most of the people in my family respect and talk about fashion and style. We watched TV shows and read magazines and curated closets that represented how we wanted the world to see us. It only makes sense that I thrived in an environment where a passion for style is necessary. I’m going to miss helping customers style pieces. Getting people out of their comfort zones. God’s honest opinion, I’m going to miss my associate discount.
And of course, I’m going to miss the people I worked with. Retail environments have a high turnover of people, so I worked with an infinite number of people over the last 5 ish years. I worked with people who have become close friends of mine, people who got me through the days where I swore I was going to slam my head in a fitting room door. People who became a sounding bored for real life problems and listened to me talk about my sisters over and over again. But I also met people who made me grow. People who I butted heads with and had arguments with and frankly, I’m not going to miss that much but I appreciate them all the same.
So, all in all, I’m excited for my new chapter. I greatly appreciate the opportunities I’ve had over the last year and the lessons I learned working at that store. I greatly appreciate all the free clothes I’ve gotten in the last year and I will shed a tear for that loss. Although, I know I’ll be back. One day soon I’ll need a pair of black skinny jeans because the world will get over their bizarre aversion to tight jeans. And I’ll have to walk down to the basement of the Eaton Centre, and some bright-eyed new associate will come up to me and ask me that question that every American Eagle associate has burned into their brain: How do you like your jeans to fit?
…or maybe I’ll just order online…
From me, with love, to you,