Today is September 20th, 2017. Today marks ten years since I accepted a position at Spencer’s Gifts in my local mall. And with no over-dramaticism in effect, that job truly paved the way for my current life.
My first job was at GameStop, which I got as a 16-year-old in March 2017. It was fun, but the hours weren’t consistent, and so I decided to get a second job for some extra spending money. I originally wanted to work at Hot Topic, since I personally knew their store manager, but she informed me that no positions were open at the time. Instead of leaving me hanging, she recommended that I try out Spencer’s instead.
I’d actually never been into a Spencer’s until that day, but I decided to give it a shot. I was greeted at the door by a guy dressed in a Rurouni Kenshin shirt and hakama pants, who handed me my application. I filled out the application while noticing the rack of marijuana lollipops on the counter and a blow-up doll stuffed behind the desk, and I wondered what the hell I was getting myself into. Still, I didn’t worry. This was to be a temp job for a few months so that I could splurge my way through senior year.
Quickly, that all changed. I began picking up more hours at Spencer’s, and it became my dominant job. I was getting responsibilities at Spencer’s that GameStop wouldn’t give me. I was meeting great people. I got promoted, and I left GameStop in the dust.
My friends today are a direct result of my employment at Spencer’s. Some of my best friends, like Lee and Erica, are former co-workers. Other friends, like Eric and Brian, were frequent customers that I got to know and would hang out with after hours.
Spencer’s also altered my education route. When I started at Spencer’s, I planned to attend UofL for my undergrad, since they’d given me a full ride. But I really wanted to attend Bellarmine University, who’d only given me a partial scholarship. My Spencer’s crew convinced me to follow my heart, and that’s how I wound up at Bellarmine, and wound up with the Writing Communications degree that UofL didn’t have to offer.
Did I mention that I’d never heard of cosplay before working at Spencer’s? Or knew that smaller anime conventions that weren’t on the West Coast or East Coast were a thing? Or that, as an anime fan, I needed to start cosplaying immediately and running panels?
That’s right. Without Spencer’s Gifts, there would be no “AngieChu”.
I was actually an extreme introvert until my senior year of high school. My Spencer’s co-workers quickly broke me out of my shell and helped to build my confidence and my voice. They taught me that shameless self-promotion is a beautiful thing, and to embrace my flaws and my perfections alike.
I spent over seven years at Spencer’s Gifts, even after finishing my undergrad. Many family members and other friends tried to convince me to take “adult” jobs because that’s what society expects, but I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t ready. I legitimately loved my job, and I wasn’t going to throw that away for a societal need and another job that I wasn’t really that gung-ho about anyway.
It wasn’t until November 2014, when I was crumbling under the weight of extreme debt and several of my long-time staff members were also thinking of leaving, that I was finally ready to change jobs. And I’m happy for listening to my heart and waiting until I knew that it was the right time to leave. Mentally, I wasn’t ready to leave Spencer’s in December 2012. There was still more that I needed to learn, and more that life at Spencer’s had to teach me.
My co-workers felt the same. As corny as it sounds, we truly became a family from our long-time stints at that store. We are all still extremely close and hang out frequently. We travel to see one another. We are in each other’s weddings. We all keep constant contact all of these years later.
I don’t think many people realize how important it was to have your co-workers be such a support system during your teens and early 20s. So much changes in your life during those years, and it’s easy to fall down a wrong path and get into a heap of trouble. But we were all there to hold each other accountable, keep each other out of danger, and help to bail each other out of jams. We weren’t alone. We had each other. And that’s the best thing that you can hope for during adolescence.
We went through celebratory highs like graduations, birthdays, vacations, and marriages. We went through the lowest of lows with cancer, miscarriages, abuse, and poverty. But we all came out okay, and our real-life Spencer’s Saga was heaps more entertaining than any scripted episode of The Hills could ever be.
In conclusion, that random act that began as an attempt to buy more video games turned into one of the most pivotal decisions in my entire 27 years on this Earth. I can’t thank my past co-workers and customers enough for helping to mold me into the Chu that I am today, and I will leave you all with one tidbit of advice:
Don’t settle for second-best. Whether in terms of a job, a relationship, or life itself. Follow your heart, do what is best for you, and find a job that makes you want to get up in the morning. You’ll thank yourself for it 💖.