I know that I talk a lot about working in the service industry. Here's the thing. The money is good so you kind of overlook the madness that you are surrounded by. You suck it up and work the hours (oh the hours) because it allows you a flexibility that office jobs don't. You can work two hours a day and make what you would if you had to work an eight hour job. There are perks to being in this industry... but there is a lot of other stuff that you have to learn to suck up, too. I wish I could tell you that serving was as much fun as it looks. It can be but there are days when you question humanity. There are days when you look at the people staring back at you demanding your soul that you just want to accidentally drop that ranch right on their lap. And sometimes it is those thoughts that get you through that very long, very tough shift. The last two days have been chaotic. I have walked out feeling pretty beat up. It was like a semi truck ran over me and then backed up just for kicks. My fellow coworkers and I were yelled at, were made to feel like we were less then human beings. And it was days like those that always made me question was being treated like that worth it?
Yesterday was exceptionally rough. Things just fell apart. Sometimes that's just life but what I saw were some true colors that made me wonder what is wrong with people? There was a lot of stuff going on this weekend which meant that we were extremely busy. We were short, only adding to the madness. We were rushed and unfortunately we fell apart. That is just sometimes how the restaurant business is. You can be prepared as can be and still you still fall to pieces. Life, right? We informed the customers that it was going to a rough ride, that their food was going to take longer than usual but we were doing the best we could to pull ourselves out of this rabbit hole that we just kept falling deeper and deeper into. While some were understanding like the sweet couple at the end of my bar who waited an hour without complaint, others were aggressive. One gentleman physically pushed and cornered our hostess because he was angry about how long his food was taking. I have worked in many places in my life and never have I seen such behavior from grown adults. If this man was so aggressive with someone he does not know, I hate to see how he treats the people he actually cares about. Then there were the customers saying inappropriate comments. I've had my fair share of comments. I'm a curvy woman with tattoos. It doesn't necessarily phase me for a man to speak to me in a way he should not. I don't tolerate it clearly but it no longer makes me feel helpless. And I understand you all want to watch your football games while you are enjoying a nice cold brew but understand it is not your living room. There are fifty other people in there who want to do the same thing. I can't tell you how many times I got scolded about what game was on which television. I can't tell you how many people yelled at me for things that were completely out of my control. I can't tell you how frustrating it was to look at my coworkers' faces and see pure misery because of the way grown adults were behaving. It breaks your spirit, guys.
This sentiment has probably been said in many of my blogs before. I just have to reiterate how important it is to treat each other with respect. There is a great amount of human study that happens in this industry. I've seen some amazing things in my years. I have met the kindest, most loving people. I can't tell you how much I love and adore the people that come in and make me smile, the ones that ask about my husband and daughter, that simply ask me how my day is going and genuinely be interested in the answer. I love seeing the families that come in that have brought their little ones over the years and how those little ones grow. I enjoy the puppies that knock over their water because they are so excited about just being alive. When I saw the two sleeping baby dachshunds in a stroller the other day? Get out of here with that cuteness!! And that's what you try to hold onto when you have an entire restaurant screaming at you about things that you cannot fix. Please, please, please when you go into a restaurant and your food is taking a long time, understand that it is not your server's or the hostess's fault. None of them cook your food. Hell, the hostess doesn't even take your order so where does yelling at the person who just sat you get you? Raising your voice does not make your food cook faster. And if I'm being real honest, you yelling just means your server is going to let those drinks sit empty a minute longer. And it's not because we intentionally want you to thirst to death, it just puts huge amount of anxiety on us to even go near your table.
What this all boils down is respect for each other. Understand that we are human just like you, absolutely and utterly just like you. We have families at home we are providing for. We have parents who care about us and friends who want to see us. All we want to do is our job to the best of our ability just like everyone else. We all want to have a good time and that includes our customers. We want you to leave with a smile on your face because you appreciated the experience we gave you... but it's a hard thing to do when the respect we give does not get returned. It's not about the tips as much as people like to think we smile just for the money of it. It's about doing a job well and providing a service while taking care of the people who wait at home for us. I always had this motto about waiting tables or tending bar. In fact, it's the way I try to live my life. Treat people how you want to be treated. It's the one thing I guess I kept from all those years of Catholic school. When you sit down with me, I will treat you exactly the way I would want to be treated and see what you throw back. If you throw disrespect at me, I will still show you respect. I may not pay as much attention to you but I will treat you with nothing but respect not because I'm paid to do it but because you are a human being. You are a human regardless of your behavior. All we're asking for is that same respect. You may not like the way your server looks. You may think that are slow with the refills. You may wonder where your server disappears to when it's busy. You may tell the people that you're with that you didn't like the server's service. And all that is fair but understand your server is a human being with human feelings. Life sometimes is out of our hands. Life sometimes throws in situations that we can't control no matter how good we are. However, what we can control is the way we treat each other. In every situation, we control how we treat each other. We're all in this together.
I have had this weird fascination with Wilson Phillips pretty much since they came out. I am not ashamed to admit that every time one of their songs comes on it makes me smile. And I know they are cheese but sometimes the most uplifting messages come from a simple corny song. They are just three women, daughters of famous musicians, trying to make a name for themselves. Aren't we all just trying to make something out of ourselves? I find that every time I am feeling down or beaten up or wanting to give up, the song "Hold On" comes on, telling me to just hang on for one more day. Something better is coming around the next bend. There have been moments when it's hard to believe, it's hard to hold on that maybe I'll get a win but it does happen. I got some really good news today (which will be shared at a later date) and, of course, one of the first songs that comes on this morning was "Hold On". I smiled to myself because it felt like the cosmos were smiling down on me. I know. It sounds strange but for whatever reason when this song plays, it reminds me that my hard work is not for nothing. It's for everything. And though I may not see a pay off for a long time for the blood, sweat, and tears that I give, eventually life does come around and cuts you a break. I got a win this morning, a well deserved win.
It's so easy to think things won't go your way. It's easy to fall into that rabbit hole that you will never win, never get what you want, that you will work until your bones shatter and never see anything for it. It is so easy to give up and settle into a life that is fine, just fine but not really fulfilling. I have thought for a long time that my plight in life was to be a work horse. Work hard. Provide for my family. Do little things that make me happy but my happiness wasn't really all that important. The majority of my life has been spent putting everyone else first. My husband laid down the other night next to me and said in his sweet way, "I hope you realize one day how special you are." It is because of this man I've had this sort of awakening about my own self worth. In those simple sentences, I start to comprehend that I am worth more than just a job that pays the bills, just a house that covers our heads, just a person that gets by. I was driving over to my favorite coffee shop this morning and I started thinking about the girl I used to be that was filled with all these amazing dreams, how many of them I will never be able to make true for her but there are some that I still can. I thought about sitting down with her with that Wilson Phillips song playing in our background and I imagined how happy she would be for us that we finally found the courage to try. I just had to breathe. I just had to get through one day and bide my time. I had to do the work in order to get to this point right now. All the moments of self doubt were for something. All the struggle taught me how to keep moving forward. And when I crumbled? Those broken pieces somehow encouraged me to keep going. I just had to hold on for one more day.
I don't know what tomorrow will bring but I know that I am excited for all the things that may come. I am not scared to fail, not as much as I used to be anyway. The thought of failing once paralyzed me but it wasn't failing other people. Sure, I didn't like the idea of failing other people but failing me was always the biggest obstacle I could never get over. I have such high standards for myself. For as low as my self esteem can be, I expect great things out of myself. If I disappoint you? Don't worry. I'll punish myself enough for disappointing me. I've learned over the years, however, that failing is the biggest success. So, we didn't get what we wanted but we tried. I didn't reach the goal I aimed for but I tried. And there is a certain amount of pride in just the simple act of getting back up. Lately I have felt like I have just been holding on, not necessarily moving forwards or backwards, just holding on. I initially thought that was not good enough, that I could do better... but when I sat down and took a look at myself I saw how tired I was, how exhausted I felt, how beaten up I had gotten. I realized that holding on, just holding on was the bravest thing I could do at least for those moments. My life is filled with good intentions but sometimes my intentions drown in other's best interests. And that's OK. Waking up this morning, I felt more hopeful than I have in a while. I am excited to swim rather than just tread water. While sometimes we just have to hold on, there comes a time to release, too.
And if you are a Wilson Phillips fan, you'll get that last line.
I was sitting after work with a few good friends Saturday night. We had all just gotten off a very hard day and were blowing off some steam. In the service industry, you need to decompress after you've been running around all day, making sure every person around is taken care of and having a good time. You need to let yourself sit for a moment or two in the company of people who were down in the trenches with you. There is a comfort in looking at each other and smiling, breathing and knowing that we all made it at the end of the day. You've just spent up to fifteen hours running around like a maniac. You're hair is disheveled. You're sweaty and smell like balsamic. These moments are sometimes what make working in this industry worth it. It's not the people you wait on. It's not the beer you bring. It's not the compliments that you may or may not receive. It's sitting down next to that amazing person you work with and laughing about how dumb the day was. The one thing we all look forward to at the start of the day is the end of the day when we can just be people. And as I was sitting there, sipping on my beer, just enjoying that quiet moment in our frustrated laughter, a coworker looked at me and said I was the most intimidating, kind person he had ever met. I thought about it for a moment, not knowing initially if that was a compliment, I realized it was probably one of the nicest things I've heard said to me in awhile.
Lately I've been hearing some pretty horrible things that have been said behind my back. So to hear that made me smile. I haven't always been the kindest person. I've judged. I've brushed off. I've said some pretty nasty things to some very undeserving people. I can take responsibility for every not so nice thing I have done. I can genuinely say that I feel terrible for all the harm that I have caused people because I am not a cruel person at the core of me... but sometimes I lashed out first in order to protect myself. I've said this before but when my daughter was small and I was alone, I was especially walled off. So many times in my life I was done dirty and it gets to you after awhile. I thought that if I stood my ground without compassion for anyone else, no one would be able to hurt me... but life has a funny way of teaching you things. I thought about those words Saturday night and I thought about where I have come from, where I have been, who I have been. I guess in those words I realized that I finally found my balance between being cruel and allowing myself to be kind. I once thought that being vulnerable with people even with the people that meant something meant that I was weak. Someone told me that not too long ago, too. I thought that if I showed you my cards, who I really was, it would somehow be used against me and trampled I would get. You would then know how to hurt me. I was so tired of being hurt that I just didn't want to allow it anymore. I didn't even want to give you a chance. So, extreme I went and I gave nothing. It left me in a lonely place, a very dark, lonely place. And I realized as terrifying as it was for me to try, I was the sort of person that needed to try.
I will be celebrating ten years with my husband in October. We were having coffee this morning and I started talking about those words that were so kindly said to me. As I was looking at him, I realized that a large part of this balance I have learned is because of him. He is so much kinder than me. His heart sometimes is so large that I feel like mine is not enough which I know is silly. Somewhere in these ten years, he has taught me how to have faith in humanity again though humans drive me absolute bananas. When I come home upset because someone misunderstood my intentions, he looks at me with that crooked smile and reminds me how beautiful my soul truly is. I think that with him I've understood how brave kindness is, how incredibly strong my compassion makes me as a person. It does not make me weak to feel for the people around me but I always seem to forget that I am just as deserving of that same kindness. So, for a long time, I allowed people to walk all over me in fear of becoming that walled off person again. With him, I learned how to balance both. I didn't realize I had until I was described the way my friend described me Saturday night. And as I sat with him and the rest of these dear people, I understood that I am closer to becoming who I have always wanted to be, closer than I have been before. It's not because I have changed it's because life has changed around me. I got older and I guess I learned how to pivot without knowing it.
These last few weeks have been on the rougher side. I have been talked badly of. My character has been put into question. Friendships have been tested. I have worked so many hours and haven't had a lot of time to sit down and digest, really digest, my feelings. I realize that so many times in our lives we are faced with decisions, choices of our own behaviors. Do we strike out? Do we step back? Do settle into the oblivion, pretending like none of it happened at all? I thought about the tough I used to be, the mean that used to sit in me like a poisonous venom. I thought about the tenderness of me that once used to scare me more than anything else in this life, so scared that I would shatter at a kind gesture. It all sort of came together Saturday night in those words. All I want to be in this world is a good person, a good mother and wife, a good friend. I want to love my family and take care of them with everything I got. I want to make the best decisions that will be good for not just me but for the people around me. I want to be more than enough for my own standards... but I also understand there is a line I have to draw even if it terrifies me to pull out my pen. I understand now more than ever that you can be kind but still firm. You can help the people around you and still take care of yourself. You don't have to wall yourself off. And you don't have to lay your heart on the chopping block to appease the pitchforks. You are not a monster for being true to who you are. I was told once that my kindness made me weak. So, I stood up for myself, for my family and this week was called out for it. And here's the thing, the older version of me would have retaliated and the kindest version of me would have caved but I can't be either of those things anymore. There is a place in the middle, a place where you can love yourself and love everyone around you just the same. We don't have to choose. We just have to learn how to balance them both.