I waitressed for several years. Through college, through grad school. And I enjoyed it thoroughly. I loved how the time went by so fast, no watch-looking necessary. I loved how it was always new. I loved the free food. I loved the little family the staff created. I loved that I never, ever had to take this uncomplicated work home with me. I chatting away with all of my customers. I loved the flirt of it. (I was voted biggest flirt in high school, you know.)
À la Bull Durham: You seat the people, you feed the people, you get paid by the people. Sometimes they’re easy, sometimes they’re assholes, sometimes they sexually harass you. It’s really just like baseball.
Wearing the hideous uniform of the three restaurants I slung food at, I showed up all bright and shiny and new on my first day—wishing and praying for it to be my 30th.
The road to weakness
You see, I don’t like not knowing. It’s extraordinarily uncomfortable for me. The minute I’m somewhere new, I long for familiarity. I want to know where the coffee lives, how the chef likes you to place special orders, what time you can finally eat or sit down, how to use the archaic cash register.
In my mind, sadly, the ‘not knowing’ equals stupidity which then brings me quickly to weakness. And I don’t like weakness. (Mind you, I don’t feel this way about You not knowing something—this is personal cruelty only.)
But, what can you do? There is literally no way around the not knowing. So…I would:
- Watch, listen and learn with a vengeance.
- Hide my self-dismay.
- Crack jokes about how the door into the kitchen bashed me on the ass at least 12 times.
- Find the things I knew how to do and do those.
- Ask questions to get essential info.
- Just get through it, nose down and eyes high—knowing it won’t last forever. Nothing does.
I just started a new project (as in a whole new, insanely exciting medium). And it hit me, square in that vulgar place in my brain that hates starting something new, that I somehow put myself into a career where I have new moments constantly. CONSTANTLY! CONSTANTLY!
New clients, new projects, new deadlines, new terminologies, new industries, new technologies, new writing styles. New, new, new, new, new, new, new. (BTW, that was said as only Anthony can say things, for all of you SATC (TV, not movie) fans.)
Fascinating. Like someone terrified of blood deciding to go to med school. (And then being shocked to find that there’s talk or sight of blood most days.)
So…what, exactly, is wrong with me? Does it seem odd? Or does it make total sense.
There’s this quote in my new favorite book ever, Born to Run. Background: McDougall is talking about a woman who discovered that literally all she wanted to do was run (naked, mind you, in just her shoes, through the backcountry of Idaho the summer she came to volunteer, mid-college and mid-eating disorder). Here’s the quote:
…Jenni has been hard-core ever since, running long miles even when Idaho is blanketed by snow. Maybe she’s self-medicating against deep-seated problems, but maybe (to paraphrase Bill Clinton) there was never anything wrong with Jenni that couldn’t be fixed by what’s right with Jenni…
I pile on more work than one human should be able to do because I actually can do it. I abhor weakness because I have a deep well of strength. I put myself into discomfort because I’m very good at finding my way out.
Huh. Yeah. Maybe we are all our own antidotes.
Image credit: Steve Snodgrass
Join the discussion 10 Comments
It’s the curmudgeon from Down Under again. Worse still, I’m about to take an outrageous liberty.
Without first seeking your permission, I’m sending you separately an eBook of mine on Change Management. But it’s relatively short and it’s free so my conscience is a little less unclear.
Of course, it’s really all your fault. You keep writing such interesting stuff. I’ve recently culled a number of blogs that had become just plain dull. There really is a limit to fruitful discussion about wedding the creative spirit to the commercial imperative……… for me anyway. “Dull” is something your blog aint
make sure you have fun
Leon, I really adore you. Can’t wait to get the book. Thank you.
I first read this sentence: “And it hit me, square in that vulgar place” incorrectly and thought it said, “And it hit me, square in that vulva place…”
So true that we are our own antidote. Last couple lines were deep, beautiful and so true.
Of course you did.
And thank you. That quote really is amazing.
And I’m so glad you’re back!
I once had a coach who said if I treated others the way I treated myself, I’d have no friends. An eyeopener for sure, and I sometimes still forget and head into “personal cruelty only”.
This post, really your whole “thing” here at writingroads, is what is right with blogging. I appreciate the point-through-narrative cadence of your blog.
And of course, I identify with Jenni. Except for the bit about running, which has always seemed like a terrible idea.
Ha! Ryan. Running really is wonderful. You just need the right shoes. Thank you for your comments on my ‘thing’. I love your writing over at Ream of Paper as well.
Personal cruelty… no comment, 5th amendment, etc.
I can completely relate to this. I am taking on quite a few new clients now too and it is definitely a sense of lost control. I find myself holding my breath when I hit ‘send’ to submit my latest article.
Thanks for this post, Julie. I needed to know that someone else rents a room in the same motel as me. I recently recognized that I perpetually keep myself uncomfortable on many levels. I won’t go into psychoanalyzing myself here, but I’ll just say that I think it’s because deep inside I know that discomfort is a catalyst for personal and professional growth, but also I think it has to do with fearing what will happen to me if I let myself get *really* comfortable anywhere, with anything, and especially in my own body and mind.
Good stuff here. I like how you go deep, right to the core.