I was having a conversation the other day with a dear friend when it occurred to me that perhaps our priorities change like our taste buds. Every seven years our focus shifts. The things that once seemed like such a big deal no longer hold the same kind of power. Then later on or a day later (time meshes together these days) we started talking about how we're still piecing together our paths. I had a realization this week because I often reflect on the steps that have brought me to this seat and the steps I want to take to keep pushing me forward. I recalled a blog I wrote about this life is really in its mostly simple form just ranch. I started to analyze all these things that seemed to get me upset, that got me riled up, that made me clench my jaw and squeeze these aging hands into fists. And I started to laugh. Because why do these trivial things irritate me so? There's always a bigger picture but what I understood that the focus of my bigger picture changed hues. I realized that it wasn't that a million people ask me for ranch they don't need a day. It was the way these people went about asking for that ranch. I realized that the drive I once had to be the best *insert whatever here* had very little to do with anyone else. It has always been this game to prove that I was better than I was until recently. I wanted to look in that mirror and know that whatever I did whether it was waiting tables or writing a poem or drawing a picture or being someone's friend, wife, mother that I was the absolute best at it. It was these small trivial annoyances that I thought I had to fight to become not just everyone else's best but mine as well. The bigger picture cares very little about how many orders I mess up. My bigger picture could care less if that table leaves me fifteen or twenty percent or even a hundred percent because it's just money, not my true talent. It pays my bills and those paid bills take care of my family and, for them, I do my best because that's the kind of person I want to be. I don't go out of my way for my tables or for my readers even to get a better tip or reaction. I treat people how I would want to be treated even if I get treated like gum on the bottom of their shoe. Sometimes you have to let go of what you want to get back. I do everything because my actions dictate what kind of person I am, not how quickly I turn a table.
Working in this service industry that I do there are many things about myself I have learned. And there are many small stupid things that I allow myself to get wrapped up in. I've worked in a lot of different fields and most of them feel like we get stuck in this high school mentality. Maybe that's just life. Maybe that's how we learned to find a common ground with the people around us. We point out each other's weaknesses to cover our own up. We allow ourselves to get swept up in this rage because a complete stranger thought they could determine our worth. You know what? It's stupid. I know. That's not the most eloquent way to put it but it's just that. These dumb ideas that we wrap us like a blanket are just stupid because really our bigger picture has no place for them. There are dumb things at work I let myself fall into a rabbit hole too often. Someone's not getting ice. Someone's not bringing up cups. Someone's on their phone when there are dirty tables to clean. I've tried so much in my life to be everything because I thought if I was then people couldn't live without me. So, these little things became a swarm of bees that I could never quite shake. If the place was falling apart, then it was my fault and that's just stupid. That kind of mentality has been a part of my life for much too long. There are things about this life that are all on you. Those things you have to take responsibility for. For instance, my kid's upbringing. Yeah, that's on me. What kind of beginning I gave her is on me. So, when she's an adult and she doesn't have a firm landing field, that's on me for not putting those bricks down as sturdy as I should have. But a thing like a job that I work at with many others? It's foolish to give myself that much credit. And you know what? It doesn't matter. Not because I don't care about what I do but because after many years of my own self planted self doubt I get putting all my eggs in a basket that will wear itself out is silly.
I know this blog is sounding like I just don't care anymore. Reality is I care as much as I ever did, too much, but the difference is I understand that my taste buds have changed. Listen my goal in life has never been to be the best Server in the world. I've never wanted to be the most famous Author or Artist. I've only ever just wanted to be the best I can be. I understand as a grown adult that my best doesn't always mean that I am the greater than in a lot of equations. When I struggled with this concept that I was less then, that's when I would find myself getting stuck in these ditches that would only amplify my already shaky ego. I would start to believe that someone else's faults were because of something I did. I trained that guy so if he sucks that means I suck. Simply that is not the case. It's just stupid to put someone else's hangs up on you. You can only control your actions. I can't fight a battle I have no right to be a part of but I can offer you a hand to help you move past yours. I don't have to take a bullet for every wrong thing that happens in this life anymore. When I was talking to my very dear friend, we laughed about this shift in ourselves. There was a point where we know that we tried too hard. There was a point when we realized that a lot of that hard work would never go noticed while someone else's lack of work would be what is praised. It's a stupid part of life that somehow we all have to learn to live above. We may not like it but I can't control the choices someone else makes. We looked at each other and agreed that these little irritates that once drove us crazy were no longer allowed to make us feel so enraged. Our bigger picture looked out on a much prettier horizon and that's what we would remember when we have to put three buckets of ice in that machine. We do our best. We let go of all that other stupid. And in seven years, we'll look back at our time and laugh about all this. It's still just ranch.
I saw this picture the other day of a 16 year old girl sitting on top of a Corvette. The picture looked like it was taken back in the '50s. The caption read "My mom was way cooler than I ever was." It made me smile. Then, of course, it sent my mind wandering on how much cooler my own mother probably was back in the day. You go through the pictures of your parents when you're a kid. You hear your grandparents joke back and forth with each other about the good ole days, how they met, what they used to do but as a kid? As a kid you didn't really listen to them. All you can understand in that moment that the only job your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents if you were lucky enough to know them had was all about you. To you when you're young, that's all your tiny mind will let you accept about them. Then you get older. You grow up. Maybe you meet someone and you start your own family. Or you don't and you live a life with only yourself. You start to understand that your parents are actual people but they are the people you see in front of you... not that cool 16 year old sitting on a Corvette in a bikini. You still see your father as that big, strong man that protected you. You still just see your mother as the one that kissed your boo-boos away, that will always be there to help you how to figure out how to make it better. You are still sitting at that kitchen table waiting to lick the left over frosting out of the bowl. It's nice to let yourself be in those memories, to truly surround yourself with that comfort whatever your memory is. Those memories are our foundations, the strings that taught our hearts how to beat.
But then you go back to look at those photographs as adults with all your life experiences now compiled in your head. You remember the first boy you kissed, the first girl who held your hand. You remember the first car you bought, how proud you were to have those keys in your hands. You can remember the smell of your kids when they were babies, the first family pet you had to let go. You have all this life inside of you now and you go back to those pictures. You see how goofy your father looks in his aviator glasses, how skinny he was. You never realized how beautiful your mother was when she was younger, how much life stared back at you from that old, tattered photograph that you've probably looked at a million times. For some reason, when you get older, it is like you are seeing these photographs for the first time. You never realized that your parents looked at each other like that or that they had other loves before they found each other, that they maybe will have new loves, too. You forget that once upon a time your father was a small boy who just liked to laugh. It is easy to forget that your mother once had a much harder struggle navigating through her male time era, that her mother before that had it harder than her. We tend to believe that the only life our parents ever lived was the life that we were a part of but that couldn't have been further from the truth. I find it beautiful, simply beautiful.
We get so wrapped up in our own lives. We get so side tracked by the right now that we lose track that someday we'll be those people in the pictures, those old and tattered pictures. Our kids will tell their kids our stories but we'll just be stories at that point. Our kids will have their memories of us, of all the good times that we spent together and all the bad times we just needed to get away from the other. My daughter will pull out a picture of me and smile, thinking to herself this is my mom. She'll find an older picture of me as a young girl or in high school before she was a twinkle in my eye. The older she gets, the more she'll understand that I lived an entire life before she ever existed. She'll start to have an appreciation for that part of my life that she could not be a part of. And that's what I think when I see these old pictures of my parents. I start to wonder what were they really like before life started to creep up on them. Was my mother as nervous as I sometimes find myself? Did my father laugh more? What was their life like? Did they find joy? What sadness did they overcome? Were they successful? What secrets do they keep beyond these pictures? What a beautiful mystery. I'd like to think that the girl in the bikini on the Corvette got off that car after that picture was taken. I'd like to believe that she sat in that driver's seat and took off, letting the wind blow through her hair. I'd like to picture her driving off into the sunset and having the most glorious adventure. One day we'll be that girl in that picture.. The moments we live now we'll be what stares back at us years from now. How beautiful we will then realize we've always been.