This week I started a new job, a new chapter in my life. I wasn't necessarily unhappy where I was. I just knew that it was time for me to move on. I came home feeling more frustrated than fulfilled. To me, that was a sign that I needed to change something in my life. And let;s be real right now, I'm not getting any younger. The restaurant industry is a young person's game if you're not interested in managing or owning a place. I joked that I was going to be hobbling behind that bar with a cane. The image makes me smile but there is a reality that it was time for me to go. One of the girls said that I was like a mom to them. She's right. I was for a long time but years have gone by and I've watched all of them grow, bloom, figure out their path. I realized over the last year that they didn't need me like that anymore. It's been a strange journey watching my own daughter at the beginning of her journey and these beautiful people around me taking flight on their own. I suppose I liked being needed like that and it's probably why I held on to that place as long as I did. It was for these bright faces that looked to me when they needed me and I won't lie. I loved that feeling of being needed, of being important but we outgrow the things we lean on after awhile. We realize we have our own two feet and those two feet can take us anywhere. No cane needed.
I started this new job this week. I left the place that I had been for five years with people I had grown to love, to respect, to adore to start something new. I can sit here all day and say those wonderful people needed me and that's why I held on but it wouldn't be the full truth. I needed them, too. There was a beauty about the relationships that bloomed. There was this support, this unyielding support for each other. I guess I was afraid out of sight, out of mind. That we would somehow lose the connections that we made because I wasn't right there in front of them. And let's be very real I'm a homebody. I tend not to go out very often. I hide in coffee shop corners behind these words and that's just me. Somewhere in this last year, I started to feel my feet twitch. I started feeling restless. I wanted more, more for me. I didn't want to just sit in the corner anymore and pick up other people's crumbs off the floor. I ran into a guy I went to high school at my new job. Out of 74 people in my graduating class, I work with a classmate. Considering how small my high school was? Yeah, that's pretty bananas. I remember driving home after that first day and thinking about the me of back then and wondered if I turned out how he thought I would but then I laughed. I didn't turn out the way I thought I would. In the twitching of my feet, somehow I woke up that girl. I felt her in the words that I started writing again, in the lines I started drawing again, in the dreams I let myself dream again. I realized this new chapter wasn't because I was angry where I was or frustrated where I am or even sad about the places I will never go. It wasn't for my husband or my daughter or anyone else. This new chapter is for that girl I used to be, the one in the corner with ink stained fingers.
I haven't talked much about my new job. In a way I guess I thought it would somehow be pulled out from underneath me and then what? So, I kept it to only a few friends until it was time to share it, allowing myself time to digest all these changes. I know my blogs in the past have talked about how rough the restaurant industry is and believe you me I am not exaggerating. People can be horrible but as horrible as they can be, they can be the kindest, too. While I will miss a good number of customers, I can honestly say that it's been nice this week being away from it, too. You know I didn't get this job because I was angry. I went after this opportunity because it was time I grew up. If I am being honest, it was time I finally did the work to do what I really wanted to do, who I really wanted to be. I was damn good at serving and bar tending but it was not my destiny. I just let it be enough for too long. I realized over the last year that I could tell myself over and over again that I would just do my writing and art on the side, that it would be good enough to just dabble but when I really took a look? I understood if I didn't take a leap, I was never going to jump. I wanted a career, a career that fulfilled me and provided others joy. I wanted my work to be shared with the world, big or small. I wanted to be more than just that girl with the tattoos behind the bar, hiding the girl forever sitting in the corner. I've become someone in between those two and it's time I give me a chance. This week has been wonderful and terrifying and enlightening. I've had my moments of maybe I can't do this. I've had my triumphs of I got this. I've laid my head down at night with a peace that I haven't felt in years. I won't be needing that cane. These two feet will do just fine.
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.
I know that I can come off as a pretty sarcastic person sometimes. My humor tends to lean more towards the dark side of life. I'm quick to call someone an idiot when they behave in an idiot manner. I can be pretty closed off, a bit standoffish, not always the most approachable. I take my time with people. I wait and see what kind of person I am dealing with before I make a decision on whether or not I will invest any time in them. But here's the thing. I am one of the nicest people you will ever meet. If I decide that you (not to sound callous) worth my time, I 100% got your back and will continue to have your back even if I get screwed over at the end of the day. Maybe it's a Taurus trait. Maybe I'm just kind of a sucker. It doesn't matter. My path has landed me where I am right now. I don't want to be any other way, not if that means I have to lose all the lessons I've collected along my way. And at times, I know that I pay the price for people who wouldn't pay the same amount for me. I get it but kindness isn't a commodity. I'm this kind for you so you will be this kind back to me. Sometimes being kind to someone is just about being a decent human being, not about what we get back in return.
Lately the energy that I have found myself in has been suffocating. I find it hard to breathe, to see through the heavy air of just bad vibes. It's this electricity that runs sits in the air and you can't escape from it. You do your best to keep your distance from it but it still seeps into your pores while you're not paying attention. I do my best to keep it at bay. And I tell you what, at the beginning of the week, I do great... but by Friday the heaviness comes out of nowhere and knocks me on my ass. I come home feeling deflated, defeated. It feels like being a kind, compassionate person is something horrible. It would be so much easier to just treat the people around me like the way I've been treated... but what good does that do? You know working in the service industry leaves you with a lot of questions about the general good of the human race. My day consists of people talking to me like I am an idiot, of people demanding some sort of special treatment, of people yelling at me about things I just can't control. And then after all of that bull, I get tipped a 5% tip. It's cool. I get the nature of this beast. I'm doing what I can to move my life in a more positive trajectory. Until then, I have to fight for air. I think to myself wouldn't it be so much easier if I was just as ugly to them as they are to me? Wouldn't it feel great to tell someone to take that ranch and shove it where the sun don't shine? Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to stand up for myself without losing my income? But this is what I have come to understand, that the same sort of behavior falls on deaf ears. I have come to understand by allowing myself to become just as cruel as the world around me sometimes feel I would be losing who I have worked hard to become. I'm not going to be mean to you because you are mean to me. I can't. I won't.
I feel like what we forget sometimes is that we control how we're going to behave, how we're going to react to certain situations. I feel like we've forgotten how to take the lesson from the things we encounter to make it better the next time around. Something horrible happens and we automatically try to find whose at fault. Someone does something hurtful to us and our first reaction is to condemn that person from the start. We've forgotten how to take accountability for our own cruelty, letting the circumstances of our surroundings dictate what kind of people we are going to be. The other day someone asked me for something and I refused, not because I didn't want to do this but because I knew if I did it would be harmful to them. I didn't know this person from Adam. I had no investment in their life, in their future, in the consequences that would come of it. I just knew that I would hope that someone would do the same for me if they knew it would be harmful to me. For as distant as I can be from people, my heart feels too much for everyone. It's the reason why sometimes I can't show any emotion. Even a little is too much. I'm not being cruel. I'm just not always showing you how the world around me can effect me so deeply.
We feel ourselves fall down the rabbit hole sometimes. At times there is nothing we can do catch ourselves. So, we say ugly things and we do terrible things and we make questionable choices. We get so wrapped up in our own pride, in our own hurt, in our own selves that we forget that the person next to us is fighting a battle, too. We are quick to throw judgement on people we don't know because of this or that, because we lack the ability to put ourselves in their shoes. We're so blinded by our own turmoil we just assume that's the only thing that matters. I feel that energy, that black hole that it's so easy to get swallowed into. It's easier to give up, to give in, to fall into someone else's bad behavior. At points, I've seen myself behave in a way that I know is not me. I disappoint myself when I forget my kindness because that's not who I am. I disappoint myself when I forget to put myself in someone else's shoes before I react to maybe them having a bad day. I disappoint myself when I lose the fact that everyone around me is a human being and for that, for just that, they deserve my respect even if they do nothing to earn it. I will break my own heart to put yours back together. And maybe that's not the best quality to have because I know how much it costs me but I wouldn't trade my kindness for anything. We've forgotten how incredibly beautiful we can be to each other but maybe we can start to remember. Be kind because it's the right thing to do. Kindness may make you vulnerable but that vulnerability is the most beautiful part of being human.
Sometimes I don't realize how much life I have lived until a situation happens. I don't get how far I have come as a person until I see the way I react. In my younger days, I was full of spit and vinegar. I feel like I enjoyed the drama, the negative words that flew my way because it somehow made me feel alive. If you did me wrong, I was very quick to do you wrong right back. I didn't understand then how toxic my own behavior was. I felt like if I was misused, insulted, thrown to the side that it was fair for me to do the same thing back to you. I was very quick to cut people out of my life. It was self preservation. You only had one chance with me and then we were done. Then I got older. I had a child, who without her knowledge, taught me what it meant to be compassionate. I met a man who made me see that the world was full of so many lovely things, people. I had just cut it all off because it was easier to feel nothing than to feel something. I've said this before and I'll say it again I love getting older. Where I was once terrified of the wrinkles that may form on this skin, I now welcome each one that appears when I look in the mirror every morning. These wrinkles are a mark of each beautiful day I have been lucky enough to live even the hard ones. Lately I feel like I have been learning something new about myself every day. Sometimes it's just dumb little nuances that I didn't realize I had. And other times are these moments that come from left field.
I am a reflective person. I enjoy observing the world around me. This week has been no different. Every day we are presented with choices. We are given these scenarios and the power to react to them in whatever way we choose. Lately I've been feeling a lot of negative energy around me. I don't do so well with that kind of energy. It makes me feel dizzy, helpless, frustrated. I allow the dark part of the universe to blur my otherwise sunny vision. Earlier this week a situation was presented to me. I was insulted, belittled, and put in a real bad position. The details of it are unimportant. I had a decision to make. Which way would I react? Do I fight back spewing as much toxic energy right back? Or do I simply choose to walk away? My reaction surprised me. It showed me how much growth I have experienced since my more youthful days. I chose to walk away, to not fight back because the energy that I would have given back wasn't worth who I have become. You get to an age where you can identify which battles are worth fighting, which relationships are worth keeping. You understand that not everyone is good for you and you accept that sometimes you have to move on from them.
There have been times in my life where I thought my emotions were a detriment to me so I wouldn't allow them. I wouldn't allow them to even myself. They seemed like too much. Then I became someone's mother. And then I became someone's wife. I realized that the more vulnerable side of me needed as much love and care. I learned by sharing even these words with the world wasn't a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. I learned that when someone does me wrong it does not mean that I return that wrong with another. So, I learned to be kind, compassionate, honest, caring. I realized that to be the best version of myself was to give of myself as openly and freely as I could. I realized that people deserved second chances, sometimes even thirds. Over the years I have become softer, more forgiving, more willing to give the benefit of my doubt. Living my life this way has been more rewarding even if I still get rocks thrown at me just the same. I understand now, however, that how I retaliate to those rocks doesn't mean I have to throw a grenade.
Here is one of the greatest things about being adult. You are in control of your own self. You can choose your company (mostly). You can choose your environment (mostly). You have the power to direct your own course and the ability to decide your own behavior. And if you screw up, you can address how to come to a conclusion that doesn't cause harm. You realize that not everyone has your best interests at heart and that's OK. We are all on our journeys but whatever energy they throw at you, you are the one who decides what to give back. I didn't know how far I have come until I was faced with a toxic situation this week. I didn't know that I somehow gained the ability to just walk away as simply as I did. I realize that my own tendencies to cut off the world, the people are still very much in my DNA and that's OK, too. Old behaviors never really go away. We just learn to keep them at bay. I think having that ability to protect myself is just as important as sitting here being vulnerable and writing these words. The true sign of growth is how you choose to use your tools. This week I understood that I don't have to let the negative energy swallow me. I can choose to walk away from it even if that means I lose things along the way. At the end of the day are the negative things I lose worth losing myself? I will no longer entertain energy that is toxic to me. I will no longer feed that beast. The energy I give back to the world is of my own choosing. Walking away from something, from someone, from somewhere that is bad for you is not a sign of weakness. It is sometimes the best choice, the strongest decision you can make for yourself. No apologies needed.
Over the last few weeks I've come to a lot of realizations, about the people around me, about my own path, about what I have chosen to surround myself with. There was a time in my life where I was so angry that I shut the world off but over time I realized that was not the way to live one's life. So I changed. I made the choice to allow people into my life, my thoughts. I started sharing my words and my pictures and my creations to show people the inner workings of this beautiful, chaotic head of mine. I started to realize that communicating with the people around me was just as important to me as it was to them. When someone hurts my feelings, I should share that with them instead of bottling it up. When someone does something to make me smile, I should share that with them. When someone is kind to me, I should say thank you. I've grown leaps and bounds with the way I interact with other people since my early twenties. I feel proud of myself and I am no longer ashamed to give myself a few props here and there. Lately, however, I've noticed I've started to keep things to myself more than I should. I allow the negative environment I find myself in to seep into me like a teabag in boiling water. And why? Because I feel like even if I form the words, no one would hear them enough to fix the problem. What a defeatist attitude, right? But what battles are worth fighting? There's been a lot of soul searching lately, a lot of decisions about what to do next, and I'm happy to say that my direction has been found again. Sometimes I think we lose sight of how important it is to communicate not just with each other but with ourselves, too. When I allowed myself to push the distractions of what was directly in front of me, I was able to hear what was waiting for me.
I decided to go back to school a few weeks ago starting in Spring. Lately my current environment has become unwelcoming. I cry in the car on my way home at time. I crawl into a shell while I'm there just to avoid feeling anything really. This feeling of being stuck overwhelms me. And the anger I feel when I give my best but my best gets met with passive aggressive comments starts to boil over but my drive to take care of my family keeps it at bay. I was sitting on the couch watching my husband play Fortnite when I had this Aha! moment. I was looking at the backgrounds, the way the avatars were moving, how fluid everything felt. I thought I would love to do that. I would love to take my already creative tendencies and put them towards making something lovely. In the back of my head there was always this plan for me to go back to school but I think I just didn't know what for. I didn't want to invest the money unless it was into a future that I was positive about. The joy of being an adult, of living so much life is figuring out who, what you really want to be. At 39 years old, I finally figured out at least my career. I turned to my husband and said I want to go back to school. I want to earn a degree that is actually going to give me a career, not just a job, not just something to pay my bills. I want a career. And please before everyone jumps on me I will say this. The service industry if you want it to be can be a rewarding career. It has its values and its lessons and its rewards. By no means am I throwing shade at the brilliant people that do that for a living. I just know, for me, it was never supposed to be something that was the rest of my life. It was something I finally allowed myself to admit.
I look at my kid who is about to start her last year in high school. She has her whole life in front of her. She has so much time that right now she won't realize right now is going to fly by in a wink but she has right now. I feel her eagerness when she looks at me, the way her wings twitch even though she hasn't quite figured out how they work. Her youth inspires me. This blooming life that I get the privilige to watch take off moves me to start my own flight. I laugh at the way maybe I did things a little backwards. These things that I am now brave enough to try are the things that most people do in their late teens and twenties. In way, though, I feel like this way is better for me. I gave my daughter my youth and there is not a single part of me that regrets that choice. She's almost on her own now, knowing that my role in her life is about to change. So what then do I do with myself now? Keep tending bar? Keep bringing the ranch that woman desperately needs? Continue to feel the cartilidge in my joints slip away? Continue to feel like it's just about getting through the day? And I can't. My daughter said to me the other day that I am much softer than I was when she was a kid. She's right. I haven't had to fight for survival as hard since I found a partner in my husband. I haven't found it necessary to fight as many battles either. But in that loss of fight in me I think I forgot the value of that part of me. I don't have it in me anymore to rage over things that don't matter but I want to find that spark again to battle for the things that do. Sometimes I feel myself screaming inside but I drown her out. Maybe I should hear out now and again. It's time to listen. It's time to move. It's time to change.
It takes us years to understand the inner workings of ourselves. It makes sense that the older you get, the more you reflect on. Is it because you have more things to reflect upon? Because you've lived that much more life? Isn't that relative though? We all live such different lives, experiencing different things, fighting different battles at different levels. Comparing one life to the other is apples and oranges. I work with a lot of younger people. Sometimes I have a tendency to try to teach them little things that could make their lives easier simply because I've already gone through it. Sometimes my unasked for advice is appreciated but I don't get angry when they look at me and dig their heels down deeper. I can look back at being that young and remember how I wanted to tell all those older people to save their breath. After all, I knew everything, right? Of course I knew nothing. In a way I sort of miss that kind of ignorance (but believe me not enough to relive my twenties). We watch the people around us, recognizing similar plights that we have faced. Instantly we want to try to shield someone else from the hardships that we went through and you can't. I tried to tell someone the other day how to do something easier and their response to me was a bit on the ugly side. I stepped back. I thought about my response. Then I just walked away, realizing how much I've changed over the years. The fiery, younger version of me would have spat back that they were ungrateful and nasty but this older version? I shrugged and wished them the best, knowing that some lessons in life we embrace at our own time in our own way. If I could say anything to that younger version of me? I would tell her to listen. There is a lot of wisdom in the words we are too stubborn to hear.
My natural tendency to mother people has often blinded me to my own needs. Over the last year, I have let myself explore parts of myself that I would run away from. I believe that as we get older, the more we need to embrace about ourselves. Hey, I'm not getting any younger and I still have a lot of things in this life I want to do but in order to do them I need to be honest with myself. I need to understand why the anxiety attacks when it does, the reasons behind the triggers. And once I understand them, I need to learn to let them go. I'm quick to let myself get overwhelmed at times but I know that's not really me. It's just over the last few years I've allowed other people to spark flames that should have never been embers. I get so concerned about what goes on around me that I forget to take a look at myself at what I'm doing. And I guess because there are so many younger people around me these days it's been sort of an eye opener. Its forced to me to evaluate my own behavior. I'm not saying that I am a bad person or that my behavior causes need for concern. These days I work my shift and go home to my family because honestly I'm not a twenty something anymore. Sure, I like a beer now and again. I enjoy having a good time but recently my priorities have become clearer. I have accepted that because my priorities have shifted where I put my energy has shifted as well. I want to help the people around me. If I can save someone from making the same mistakes I have made, absolutely I want to be a helping hand... but I get that words are only useful when someone wants to listen. It took me years to understand that. I still struggle but I understand the beauty in now more than ever.
I wish I didn't get so frustrated still but raising my daughter has given me the most important lessons in this life. Being someone's mother is such a gift. I never want to take this role for granted. She will be eighteen this year, flabbergasted that so many years went by so quickly. And if I really sit down and think about it, I understand why sometimes I fuss over the people around me. My nest will be empty soon. While I have my cats, that tiny baby girl will be out there in the world without me. So, I look at these kids around me and my motherly instincts go on high alert. I suppose, in a way, it stems from my daughter. As a parent, you learn to put your needs to the side. As a parent, you learn that you do what you need to do no matter what that entails because that child depends on you for everything. That need doesn't go away because they get older. That need just changes as they get older. I look back to my own mother who watched me fail and break and fail and break over and over again. How I must've broken her heart time and time again... but she never gave up on me. When I sit down and really look inside myself, I understand why so often I give people so many chances. I understand why I offer my hand even if I know that disappointment is what it will be filled with. I used to get angry about it. It used to break my heart. I would rather someone outright hurt me than disappointment me. I would try to help but it would just be met with such disdain and then I would be crushed. Raising a teenage daughter toughens you up. Over the last few years, she has helped me understand that sometimes we just have to let people fail. Sometimes it is the only way life is taught.
I am in my last year of my thirties. I once thought that it would be horrible to be so old. Now I just laugh. My thirties have been some of the best, most eye opening years of my life. I have lost in my thirties but there hasn't been much tragedy during this decade. So much happened in my late teens and twenties that I didn't have time to stop and think about what was really going on around me. I was learning what I was made of, what I wasn't made of, what kind of person I wanted to be. I was angry and sad and depressed and lost and just a giant mess. But my thirties? My thirties I started to understand that who I wanted to be was going to take work. Then I accepted that I may never become that person and that was OK. Whoever I became was going to be just as wonderful. You take all the newness of being an adult away and you are left with just you. You've learned how to pay your bills (mostly). You've learned what kind of people you want in your life and you know how to get rid of the toxic ones that try to stick around. You know what you stand for. You get up quicker when you get knocked down. The best lesson I have learned is that I will always be a work in progress. It's perfectly acceptable to reset, to readjust, to start over however many times I need to. And I get that it's time that taught me these lessons. My twenty year old self would have told me to bug off and I get it. I'm not mad about it. Words only have meaning if you allow yourself to hear them. Some words just become easier to hear the older you become.
Sometimes these blogs are born out of a couple of days of a sentence that pops in my head. I don't necessarily know where they are going to go from that seed but, over time, they start to come to fruition. Wednesday there was a Teacher's Rally (and they deserve every single thing they were rallying for). We were caught so very unprepared at work for the rush of red that came in on us like a tidal wave. We saw it coming and could do nothing to get out of its way. I think everyone lost their minds that day. In the middle of the worse chaos I have ever seen at that place, I fell right on my ass. I busted my elbow and my knee and hurt my hip and got right back up. We were getting the crap kicked out of us so hard I did not have time to figure out if anything was broken. I did not have a second to assess my own well being because people needed their beers for the love of green apples! So, I fell. The place got quiet. I bounced right back up and the room cheered for me... and thought to myself I will deal with the pain later. It was in that sentence that I learned something about myself that I guess I just didn't want to accept. When something hard happens in my life, that's exactly what I do. I get through the moment. I'll deal with the pain later because later will be easier, right? Not at all. I remember sitting on that bar floor, cried one tiny yelp, and told myself, "Get the bleep up, Jes." And I did. I did regardless that my elbow was on fire. I did knowing that I would be in more pain later that day. I did because it's just what I do.
That sentence has been ringing through my head all week. So, I let it gestate. I let it bake. I analyzed myself, my past. My world fell apart when I was a teenager but I had to get back up and move on. I would deal all of it later. I got pregnant on purpose because I needed someone to love me though I had no idea how to do it. I would figure it out later. I married my first husband, a man who never once really respected me but I would deal that later. I lost my father and went back to work right away because I had to just get through those moments. I would deal with his loss later. I lost my dog but I just had to get through those first moments. I would miss her later. I let all of these things swirl around my head like tiny tornadoes and allowing the lessons that were presenting themselves to me do their reconstruction, letting them sink in. Yesterday was my birthday. Maybe that's why I allowed myself to finally see these things about myself. I turned 39 years old. I turned 39 years old and I'm still under construction. So often I push through things that I need to take the time to deal with. And I make up all these excuses of why what I'm feeling doesn't matter. He needs me. She wants me. That girl is going to die without her ranch. It's my own doing. Sometimes I just don't want to deal. Sometimes I just want to fall and stay there, to not fix the parts of me that I know are broken. I've picked up so many of my pieces over the years. I've got buckets hidden away like a hoarder with the ghosts that sit at the edge of my bed at night. I push through all of it because it is easier to skim a page than to figure out the real meaning of any of it.
These last few weeks I've had a lot on my mind. Where am I in this life? Where do I go in the next? What exactly is going to make me happy? Perhaps it is a mid life crisis. Who knows? I think I go through one every three years honestly. As much as all this self reflection hurts at times, I never want to live my life blindly. I want to understand and learn and reset as many times as I need to. Losing my father, changed me. I know that may sound a bit dramatic but losing him allowed me to see myself in a way that I couldn't before. When he passed, I saw, not just saw. I accepted that someone could have so much unconditional hope in me. I guess in a way I started to feel that way about myself. It was like losing him gave me permission to be brave in the ways I ran away from before. It gave me permission to truly learn who I was, not who I wanted people to think I was. There was this quote by Alexander Pope that has often been a theme I have lived by for years. "Act well your part: there all the honor lies." So I spent a lot of my life playing this part, not exactly who I knew I was because I thought that was what I supposed to do. I fall. I get back up. Time and time again I get back up. I don't have time to mourn or cry or fail. I get back up and deal with the pain on my own terms behind doors that no one can break through. Time and time again I hide because I've always felt like that's the part people wanted me to play. The older I get, the more I realize sometimes it would be nice to let myself break for a minute. It would be nice to deal with the hurt while I'm shattered because dealing with them after I've healed is like breaking a bone that's healed wrong. Writing this blog today makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and I'm tempted to erase the whole thing... but I always want to write from the most honest place I can. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeve. Mine resides in these words. Part of growing and learning who we are is facing the parts of us that don't always work. I will always get back up but I am starting to learn that I am allowed to take a minute to heal, too.
I had this dream last night where I was super stressed out about something that didn't really matter anyway. I'm not a big believer that dreams mean anything but maybe there is something to it. Our brains are a wondrous beauty, full of so much that we don't use and don't understand. Why wouldn't our subconsciousness being try to tell our stubborn wake minds what's wrong? Yeah, I know, most times dreams are just dumb. I can't tell you how many nights I dream about not being able to find the tea urns at work or how my entire section disappears. They're dumb... but then last night's dream happened and maybe I should take a closer look. Putting it into some sort of context does make it seem like it could mean something but doesn't everything? I won't go into the details of it. Let's be honest. We all hate when someone is telling us about their dreams (not that we'll admit that). It really was me worrying about something that turned out didn't matter at all. I think about ranch and how I joke that this life is just a bunch of unnecessary ranch. Why waste our precious energy on this stuff? But sometimes we do. It's not wrong, it just doesn't get us anywhere. Yesterday I was standing behind my bar, watching the day play out, already knowing how it was going to roll (not great), and I just started chuckling to myself. I realized in that moment how hard I try for things that ultimately are just ranch. So, when the man got a little saucy with me, I just smiled, knowing that the three second wait that he had to endure for me to pour that beer wasn't going to determine my worth. It just doesn't. And I can run around all day, stressing myself out because there is no tea in the urn. I can throw racks across the back, making myself angry because I feel like I'm all alone on that floor. I can walk around in a sour mood all night, wallowing in the frustration, knowing it won't ever really change... but I'm so tired of feeling the weight of a world that will never appreciate it on my shoulders.
I remember in this dream last night I started to laugh at the people around me. Who they were? I don't know and it doesn't matter. They all looked at me, not understanding why I was laughing. I just kept laughing, stopping what I was doing, and started walking away. I guess my dream was, in a way, mimicking the thoughts I was having during the day. Maybe I'm finally having a mid life crisis. My birthday is a matter of days away. I suppose in a way I'm contemplating my plot in life. Is this where I want to be? Is that where I want to go? Do I really want to keep working for the tips? Or do I want to find a nice office job and slowly fade away? I don't know. I want to write and draw and laugh and just be happy. I want to get up in the morning not dreading what's to come, preparing myself to be treated like human walking poo. I don't mean to sound so melodramatic. My husband tells me every day that I have a spot with him if I want it. I just don't know if trading in one thing I settle for is worth another thing I would be settling for. These words "at my age" go through my head and I want to straggle them right out of me. I know that age doesn't matter. I know life doesn't work like that. So why does that statement haunt me so? Yesterday I was talking to one of my bar guests, a kind woman, the kind of customer that makes this industry worth it. It made me realize why I keep beating my head against this wall though I feel the bruises more distinctly these days. At my age, I have relationships and a family and I'm good at what I do, getting better at what I want to do. And I realize perhaps that dream last night was telling me just that. All this other stupid stuff I cloud my brain with is just that, clouds. Clouds pass.
The truth of the matter is we're all perfectly imperfect works in progress that may never be complete. I may look in the mirror in five years and still be like, "what the hell, Jes?" and you know what? That will be all right. I think what is important is that we learn what things are important to fret about and what things are just ranch to toss in the trash. I had this customer the other day who ordered four ranches (yes four ranches) for herself. While I was annoyed to have to go get her four more ranches, I laughed at myself for that annoyance because who cares? The girl likes her ranch and, by god, she certainly enjoyed every single drop of that ranch, too. What I'm trying to say is that so much of our existence gets wrapped up in these dumb things that make us miserable. I don't want to be miserable any more. I don't want to spend my days worrying about what he's not doing or what she is doing or whatever because it doesn't matter. I get so wrapped up in what other people think of me when there was a time in my life I really didn't care all that much. I am kinder sometimes than I want to be. I shut my mouth too tightly when someone hurts my feelings. I turn the other cheek way more than I should. And I do too much for people who take advantage of it... and I get it.... and I'm tired... As I was talking to this customer the other day, she reminded me that I need to get back to me, this funny and smart and confident girl that I used to be, and (pardon my french) fuck the rest. When I go home at night, I have a husband who loves me and I have a daughter who will love me again (once we're past these teenage years). I have a hand full of friends that will be there the minute I call them. I have a strong, brave mother who believes in me and siblings that support me without question. I have my hopes and dreams and my compassion that pushes me forward. All this other stuff? Yeah, it's just ranch that gets thrown in the trash anyway. Over the last few weeks, I allowed things and events and people dictate my behavior because I thought it was the only thing that mattered. And this week what I realized in all those things that didn't matter, I forgot the one thing that does. I matter, too. At my age, I'm still learning that lesson.