Tonight is my fifth night of work and I have one more to go until I have a day off. Yes, usually my only day off is Wednesday. And, while I do at times feel like I am going crazy, the fact that my shifts are no more than six hours long, makes working six nights in a row tolerable. But that’s not the only factor that keeps me sane after working a stretch of nights and with only one free day before the cycle repeats. I start my workday in the afternoon. I don’t ever have to set an alarm. My eight a.m. sifting through client and coworker emails/forwards is a 4:00 p.m. start of rolling silverware up into white cloth napkins while talking to my coworkers about what they did last night. Taking 20 minutes to funnel salt and pepper into shakers and preparing the garnish line back in a sauna of a kitchen isn’t as annoying as a Friday afternoon two-hour conference room session that keeps you at the office after 5:00 p.m. My fifteen minutes in the bar going over menu changes is your boring start of the week meeting that sings you back to sleep. Your expensive coffee break is free to me, and the muffin top you form from sitting at a desk all day, won’t happen as I run circles around the restaurant for six hours straight.
Yes, this is what I’m doing with my college degree. I’m a server. A waitress. I’m a dining host that fills your water, brings you glasses of wine, keeps your children happy with crayons, makes your food come out just the way you want it, and most importantly, I make sure that your $100+ dining out experience is everything you wanted it to be.
I enjoy working as a server. Is this something that I want to do for the rest of my life? Probably not. The truth is that I am part of a new culture that doesn’t define life in the traditional sense. I’m not looking to own a house anytime soon, my engagement has been over two years long, and my fiancé and I do not plan to have children anytime soon, if at all. I don’t agree with the idea of only being allotted two weeks of vacation a year from work, and I definitely cannot agree with spending 50+ hours a week in a secluded office or cubicle to only bring home $13 an hour. Most importantly, I’m part of a culture that does not define my life by what career I have locked in, and I definitely don’t define it by where I am working. I want to live my life – not work my life at a job that I dread going to five days a week for the next 25 years!
At the moment, in this particular year of my life, I have chosen to be a server. I enjoy the perks of this profession while I’m still in my youth. I enjoy the flexibility, the cash I take home every night, the fast-pace of the job and the ability to be around people instead of alone in my freezing air conditioned office burning my pupils staring at a computer for nine hours a day. I enjoy having all day to do whatever the hell I want, whether it’s sleep in, go to the pool while you’re all at work and your kids are at daycare, read a book, or start a new hobby. I like that I can put on a uniform every day instead of ironing out a weeks worth of clothes. Grocery shopping is much more pleasant at 11:00 am and I’m only dodging grandmas and not your entire string of children screaming over fruit roll-ups.
Of course there are many more reasons why I enjoy working as a server. But, I think the best thing about being one, is that because my brain is not mush from writing other people’s not-so-hot ideas for a living, I get to challenge myself in my own personal interests. I don’t come home exhausted from writing garbage all day long and instantly flip on the television to the latest reality TV show passing out in uncomfortable trousers and puckering button-up collared shirt. I come home energized, wanting to do something, yearning to create something of my own and even better, I have the time to do it!
Yet even though I am able to pay my own bills and put a roof over my head with this choice of work I have made, I am still constantly criticized and ridiculed about my decisions. The most common question and statement I am slandered with are:
“So what do you want to do? Have you been applying for real jobs?”
“At some point in your life, some point very soon, you need to figure your life out and find a career.”
And this doesn’t even compare to the crap I’ve listened to about my “poor choice of a college degree” opinions, and how had I chosen a “real degree” maybe I’d have a “real job.” I mean, what WAS I thinking when I decided to go to school for Fiction Writing?! I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I told myself that I wanted to study and master something that I really loved, something that I was passionate about, and that just happens to be creative writing. So I did that. And I’m proud of it. I went to college, I succeeded and graduated, yet I still have to listen to bullshit from strangers and family on a regular basis.
Most of the time, hearing these remarks is a blow to the chest. It’s that horrible heavy knot in your queasy stomach after the teacher shot down your idea. These interrogating assumptions tend to be degrading. They question what I’m doing with my life, which is my own personal decision. If I am shooting heroin or stealing from a department store or something of the like, please God, and please family and dear friends, do seek me out to find me help with my life. But I’m not. I’m merely choosing this type of work over another for the time being.
And when you ask me, “Do you regret going to school for that?” No. No, I don’t. Even though, on a monthly basis, I curse my student loans, I’m still happy and proud of my decision. If only everyone else would show that support. When people who are close to me mock my personal life decisions I realize that they still must not understand who I am. And every time I hear it, I am a broken record explaining over and over why I’m not spending 100% of my free time trying to find a “real” job. With some people, I’ve had lengthy discussions about this several times!
And what they are referring to by a “real job” strictly means a job that I report to from 8:00am-5:00pm, Monday through Friday, that gives me health benefits that I pay too much for and I have to wear business casual clothes. To them, that is growing up, that is having a “real job” and that is success. Well, my personal idea of success is different than yours. Get over it, already! My views on life are my own, so go enjoy your life while I enjoy mine!
What’s funny to me about this entire thing is that my father, who was born in 1943, taught me from a young age that a job is a job. He taught me that all work is honorable, and to work hard. This almost 70-year-old man who should be clumped together with all of the other older generations that judge me on my decisions and define their happiness by the job they have, the house they own, and the car they drive. But he’s not. I’m lucky to have parents who are proud of my accomplishments so far, have faith in my goals I’ve set and care about my happiness and health above all.
In my past, I’ve spent over almost four years in an office. Tried a law firm, worked for a magazine and finally for a tech company as a Copywriter, and never once was I happy about the lifestyle it allowed me to live. I lost friends, I gained weight and I was far from happy or satisfied. Yes, some time in the future I may do something different for work, but for this moment in my life, I’m enjoying what I’m doing with my college degree. I’m enjoying these post-college years where I’m still figuring out who I am and what I want. If that means I wear an apron around my waist and help you choose between Chicken Spedini or Bistecca Modiga, well, I’m there for you and your appetite, knowing that I’m not going to retire doing this, and I’ll be sleeping in while you’re chugging coffee at 8:00 a.m. the next day.