Student quits job to rekindle her passion

Ernesto Leon, Features Writer

Mosaic with paper made by Rebecca Fruto

She walked into work for her shift. It was like every other day she had worked except this was her final day. She was constantly overworked with expectations to still excel in her course load in college all to come home and stare at an empty canvas. The last day of her working felt like a boulder was lifted. The moment she put her finger on the check-out device to be scanned was the moment she felt she regained herself.

Rebecca Fruto is a 20-year-old art student at Bakersfield College as well as a dear friend of mine. Art to Fruto is a passion she holds dear. She talked about how it was instilled in her by her dad when she was young, and the love for it never faded. Her artwork focuses on acrylic painting and painting styles of all sorts. Ironically, she began working because she wanted to afford her own art supplies and supply her creativity.

Working under the stress of what the pandemic created for her workplace at Subway dimmed her passion, and it eventually went out. She explains that she has a love-and-hate relationship with art. She enjoys the outcome but the process is draining in itself, yet she always feels accomplished when finishing a piece. Art is a part of her, she explains that she feels attached to it even when she tried giving it up, the love always came back. Fruto began working in March of 2020, her place of employment was severely affected by labor shortage due to many of her co-workers quitting, and her management not being able to generate new staff to keep up with the demand of the store. Furthermore, customers had become angry due to the COVID-19 regulations.

“When the pandemic hit, I was working almost 50 hours a week, while still going to college full-time. I felt pressured to work, and everyone was quitting. I felt like I needed to work,” Fruto explained.

She elaborates saying that she typically worked six days a week, and it was quite common for her to stay past her shift if the store was busy. She was paid overtime and apart from working over full-time, she was enrolled in 15 units. Due to this, she felt overwhelmed by the workload that was required in academics and her job, her classes were online and she set them all up in the afternoon when she had free time because her typical shift hours were 3:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. According to a report in November of 2021 by CNBC, big-brand fast-food chains are dealing with severe labor shortages. In September of this year, the unemployment rate went down 7% and added over 100,000 job openings in big chain fast food establishments across the country.

Fruto explains that her place of employment, Subway, was severely affected and many of her co-workers were leaving due to parents having to stay home from school being taught remotely at the time. Some of her co-workers quit because they refused to wear a mask that was required by the business’s guidelines. Working so many hours was a draining experience for Fruto. On some days, she worked as many as 11 hours.

“Imagine working from 3 a.m. to 12 p.m. then having Zoom lectures along with all the homework a college student gets…,” said Fruto.

Selfie provided by Rebecca Fruto

Fruto explains that felt she felt as she had to prioritize work more than anything, and let go of the passion she has for art. She is a studio art major at Bakersfield College, taking five classes per semester.

“Being an art major, you would think that there would be a lot more art involved, but I’m doing gen-ed requirements. And the art courses I do take have been illuminating, but it’s not the same to paint for the love of it and paint with a deadline,” said Fruto.

At work, the lack of staff perpetuated a cycle of workers quitting. Arnoldo Bravo, a former co-worker of Fruto, began working at the establishment in August of 2020 and left in June of 2021. Bravo is a 20-year-old college student at California State University, Fresno and while being remote and moving back to Shafter, he took on a job at the same establishment as Fruto. “What sucked was that we were really short-staffed all the time and it put a lot of stress on all of us. I quit because I didn’t want to deal with it anymore,” said Bravo.

He also explained that Fruto helped train him and was glad to hear about Fruto deciding to quit. “It’s a lot, to be honest. I’m happy to hear that she is going to be focusing on herself,” said Bravo.

Fruto remarked that it was so exhausting having to work in such a fast-paced environment and having to deal with new hires who were put into stressful situations due to the short staff. Although she understood the situation for everyone, this caused Fruto to have to pick up extra work, and it affected her personally. “I’m an art major. Part of my curriculum is to draw. But we are also meant to practice doing it on our own, which was something I could not do in the situation

I was in. It was a constant art block, just staring at a blank art canvas, already drained from everything else going on,” Fruto stated. Fruto said customers mistreated her at times because of COVID-19 regulations that she had no control over. She explained that her employer mandated staff to wear masks, distance themselves six feet from customers, to close indoor dining eating, and answer questions about temperature and potential exposure.

However, Fruto’s employer did not enforce a mask mandate for customers. Fruto explained a dialogue with a customer. “Why are you wearing that stupid mask on your face? You do realize they don’t even work.” Fruto ignored the comment.

“It’s not even a real thing. I can’t believe you can believe in such propaganda,” the customer continued. This was just one of many similar interactions, Fruto said. Just by wearing a mask, it opened a doorway for customers to attempt to argue or fight with her.

She explained that she never entertained those conversations. Fruto became uncomfortable with the fact that customers never had to wear masks inside the store. Unmasked customers sneezed and coughed near her or products, and even tried to look over the glass that separates the ingredients and the customer.

Fruto’s sister Magnolia Fruto, 22, noticed how exhausted she was from everything happening in her life. “It’s a lot. Her and I are super close, and it’s not nice watching someone you care about be constantly stressed,” said Magnolia Fruto.

Magnolia explains that Fruto wasn’t the same sister that she really knew. She wasn’t painting anymore. She wasn’t as talkative. She knew that the workload from school and her sister’s job was affecting Fruto.

Fruto’s final day was Oct. 3, 2021. Her final semester at Bakersfield College is spring 2022. She hopes to transfer to California State University, Bakersfield where she wants to obtain her bachelor’s degree in studio art, as well as teaching credentials. Since she’s left she’s been able to focus on herself and although going to college full-time is still exhausting, she found a sense of herself again. Fruto explained that she finally gets random ideas for paintings how she used to. Before her job, she would always get inspired while just sitting on the couch, and how it was torture if she wasn’t home because the idea would be in her head without a way to paint. She feels more like herself than ever. For the first time since leaving her job, she did not see a blank canvas. The creativity and passion inside her saw an idea ready for her to create.