I recently read a book that has me feeling like I tumbled out of a long sleep, wondering how I got here, why my clothes are torn, and when was the last time I brushed my teeth.
Not because it was awesome fiction, although I've had that reaction after really good novels. No, this book made me feel like that about my own life.
The book is called "Delusions of Mediocrity" (not an affiliate link). It was a free Kindle download a few days back, right now it's $2.99. It explains how so many of us get sucked into under-earning positions through some sense of being undeserving of more. Further, it goes into how once we're in those underpaid positions, we (she calls us "co-dependents" - I don't love the psych-talk, but she has some insight here) give everything we have and then some trying to improve the lot around us, and get almost nothing in return.
Please understand - I'm not saying being a volunteer is thankless, or that giving of yourself is foolish. What I am saying is that giving your all, working to the bone and wearing yourself out, in the service of a retail job or other low-paid wage-slave position will ultimately end with you feeling that nothing you do means anything. When you dedicate yourself to a job that is a people user-upper (you know the kind - high turnover, happy to hire new people when the old quit or get fired, and no matter what you give of yourself, you can't seem to get promoted) you have given yourself to work that will never pay you in an equal amount to the pain you experience.
Not that you shouldn't do the best work you can in a job - it's just... working in a retail or other service job, it's easy to get wrapped up in that place, in that weird little world. Your life revolves around the schedule, around inventory and delivery days, dealing with customers, and you lose sight of anything else you thought of doing with your life. Your job has become your life, and you no longer have the energy to work on writing your book, or applying for that awesome job in the paper (which you might secretly think you couldn't get anyway, since your most recent experience is in a different field). You're just... stuck.
If you're stuck right now, you don't have to stay that way. If you work someplace where the big raise they're dangling is only a few cents, and they work you to death and don't appreciate you, you don't have to stay. You don't even need to stay in the same field! You can move, you can change. Apply. If they say no, that's the worst that can happen - most potential employers will not say "get out of here, scum! What made you think you could apply here?". They just say "good luck out there". If you have a book that you've been working on, send it out there! It doesn't HAVE to be a regular publisher - you can self publish through any number of places, put out e-books (I like Amazon's platform, but there are others) and get your words out there! You can even release your album or independent movie that way.
Make that change happen! It's OK to do things differently - especially if doing things the way you have been isn't working anymore.