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I Got a Pilot’s License and a Bachelor’s Degree. Then I Got a Job at Walmart.

The story of my crippling burnout and the realization that I’m not where I belong

By Rosie Ford Published 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 4 min read
Top Story - June 2023
34

I first encountered classism in the third grade. While all my classmates read silently after lunch on Friday, I, a gifted child, went to my special program down the hall. We did artwork, made movies, learned things the other kids weren’t learning. Why? Because of meaningless standardized test scores.

Back in 2009, I didn’t realize that being able to sit at a computer and read a story or do a few math problems correctly didn’t make me better than my classmates. But really, how could a nine-year-old come to that realization? I wasn’t good at sports, but that didn’t matter. I thought I was smarter than everybody else because everybody told me so.

I wasn’t. I just happened to be good at standardized testing.

Now all I have to show for my time as a “gifted” kid are piss-poor study habits. I never had to work at anything academic. I got a scholarship to my university because I had a good ACT score, but my grades had taken a nose-dive during my freshman year of high school. My dad died in a plane crash, for fuck’s sake. A couple of my teachers were understanding, and I’ll always be grateful for that, but the rest expected me to pick up where I left off. I was only gone for a week because the homework kept piling up.

That was a turning point for me. I’d always had close to a 4.0 GPA, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. At 13, I was dealing with far bigger issues. I have to believe that’s when the burnout began.

In grade 9 I almost failed a couple of my classes. One of them was English, which until that point had always been my best subject. I managed to bring them up a little before the end of the year, but grade 9 was the difference between a full ride to my university and the partial scholarship I ended up getting because my ACT score was carrying my academic career.

Thank goodness for standardized testing, I guess.

When you live like Rory Gilmore for the better part of your life, you think the world is full of open doors. You think you can do anything. When I was 17, I got my pilot’s license just to prove a point. I played the violin in orchestra and the bass in jazz band. I was pretty good.

Then I stopped playing.

Have you ever had a hobby that got just a little too serious to be a hobby anymore? I have. Violin stopped being fun when I got old enough to realize I had competition. Bass stopped being fun when everyone in band decided they hated me because a girl in my class orchestrated a complicated scheme to frame me for something I didn’t do. And flying? Flying was supposed to be IT. Working as a professional pilot was my dream, for a while. But then I started meeting people in the industry and they were the same as my bullies were in high school.

I don’t fit in. I’ve never fit in anywhere.

I got an internship at the international airport during my senior year and for a while, I did fit in. Everybody made me feel so accepted and I have zero bad memories of my time there, even though I witnessed some unpleasant things. I check the website almost daily for permanent openings, but the low turnover rate means I might have to wait years.

Figures.

After my internship ended, I graduated from university with a degree in aviation management. I worked at another airport for a while, but when I started crying every time I had to go in, I knew I couldn’t deal with the negativity anymore. So I applied to work at Walmart. And I had a great time.

I made some friends and it was so nice to interact with normal people—not the inflated egos you constantly encounter in aviation. I just put stuff on shelves, found items for people sometimes, and went home.

As much as I wish this were an inspiring story about how I overcame my burnout and found myself again, I didn’t overcome so much as I awoke, I guess. How am I meant to find my place in the world when all I am, biologically, is a hunter and gatherer? Evolution taught me to use tools, not to pay off credit cards.

Humans are the most invasive species on this planet. Some people like to think they’re above all the other animals that share it with us, but no. That’s all we are. Animals. But instead of fighting for territory with tooth and claw, we build nuclear weapons.

I don’t have a dream job. I don’t want to “build my personal brand” or shake hands with people I don’t care about. I don’t want to sit at a desk or be stuck inside a cockpit. I want to climb mountains, grow my own food, walk across glaciers. But I need money to do that. And to get money I need a job.

So mostly I want to scream.

Humanity
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About the Creator

Rosie Ford

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Comments (17)

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  • Jordan Sky Daniels9 months ago

    Yep most days I want to and do scream too

  • Mohamed Hasan9 months ago

    amazing

  • Laura Lann9 months ago

    I think every artist can relate to the plight too. I just want to create, not grind the corporate ladder.

  • Kelly Imbert10 months ago

    Great story.

  • thats a good one

  • Cathy holmes10 months ago

    This is great. Thank you for sharing and congrats on the TS.

  • Elaine Sihera10 months ago

    A well deserved top story which demonstrates our individual uniqueness extremely well which has to battle against conformity!

  • Gerald Holmes10 months ago

    This is such a real and heartfelt story. Congrats on the top story.

  • Natalie Wilkinson10 months ago

    Congratulations on the ‘Top Story’. Now I’m curious about what is prompting you to write?

  • JeRon Baker10 months ago

    This was one of the first stories that compelled me to click and read, and I'm glad I did. Thank you. But from one "gifted and talented" school kid to another, I have to say I don't think the events of your life speak so much to whether or not you're gifted, but more so to whether or not you are STRONG. And I say that with the utmost respect. You may not be giving yourself enough credit.

  • Melissa Ingoldsby10 months ago

    Very honest and down to earth testimonial and narrative

  • Thavien Yliaster10 months ago

    This reminds me that there are people that live in society's where they remove technology and forms of currency entirely. Learn how to make shelter, tools, clothing, and things to assist in living. Instead of living "off the grid," why not live on all of them as a nomadic lifestyle? It takes time to hone crafting skills, let alone skills for foraging. Yet, that might be more worthwhile to some people. Great, now I'm thinking about making a viking boat out of fallen trees and have a craving for salty fish and mulberries, and am thinking about gathering farm animals where wild farm animals roam a plenty within the wilderness.

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Courageous & honest!!!❤️❤️💕

  • Ashley Lima10 months ago

    This is so real, Rosie. Thank you for sharing your struggles. I was also a "gifted" kid who nearly flunked out of high school. I found my voice in college, and I stuck with what was easiest for me: writing. I don't know if you can relate, but the pressure my parents put on me (as a potential first-generation college student) was the breaking point. I hope you're able to find your stride and continue doing what makes you happy.

  • C.R. Hughes10 months ago

    As a fellow "gifted kid" I can relate to this so much. I did so well all the way throughout high school and by the time I got to college, I couldn't stand sitting in a lecture and would only show up to classes on test days. After college, I got a job at a Starbucks inside a grocery store and was told by everyone around me that I could do so much better so I quit and got a job at a bank, which was still not in my field but it was a step up from Starbucks. Now I'm where you're at with things. I hate working a 9-5. I just want to write and enjoy time with my family but I don't have the means to not rely on my 9-5 right now. Thanks for sharing such a relatable story

  • Moon on the water10 months ago

    thank you for this wonderful story of yours.

  • Alexander McEvoy10 months ago

    Hey Rosie, I feel exactly the same way. I always tested very high on intelligence tests, to the point where I was actively bored in school for most of my life. And it taught me terrible habits, I just expected things to be easy and got upset when they’re not. I don’t want to work in my nice office job, I want to travel and surf and hike and camp, but I need money. I’m really glad you had a good experience at Walmart :) all of my min wage work was extremely toxic, more so than literal negotiations with the government.

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