“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
For years I bitched and moaned about how I wanted to finally quit waitressing and get a real job. I fantasized about waking up early with purpose, listening to talk radio on my morning commute, having a fancy job title, and wearing cute outfits to work each day. Much better than wearing clothes infused with french fry grease, with pasta sauce dripping off my no-slip shoes, and being subservient to a bunch of asshole costumers. I mean I have a college education, I’m better than this – right?
After many attempts, I finally landed a great job as a Production Coordinator at a new company. How cool does that sound? Production Coordinator, ahh. I could feel my mom getting prouder by the moment.
The first week of my new job was great! I drank my coffee out of a travel mug, attended early morning meetings, contributed my thoughts on pressing issues, and came home at the end of the day feeling as if I’d accomplished something.
Then, I ran out of cute outfits and realized- hey wait a minute… this actually sucks ass.
I work a minimum of nine hours a day, usually more. I never see my family anymore and when I do I’m too tired to have any fun, and I’m not sure but I think I’m starting to get Secretary Spread (a.k.a. a fat ass!). Not only does my butt hurt, but my creativity has been sucked out of me. I’m suppose to be a writer, how can I write when I have three hours of time to myself before bed and the idea of any more sitting makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and die?
Not only is my new job draining and a giant time-suck, but now I have to go through life like everyone else. No more grocery shopping on Wednesday mornings and yoga in the afternoons. I went to the mall on Saturday and it took three Beyoncé songs just to find a parking spot!
This is what normal people do on the weekends? Grocery shop, laundry, and traffic? I always thought they went out on their boats and partied. Isn’t that why everyone’s always talking about how great it is that Friday’s almost here? Why are they so excited about the weekend if all they’re doing is running errands in the worst traffic possible?
Okay, so there were tons of cons to working this job: the mall on Saturdays, Secretary Ass, creativity sucking, and not to mention– I really missed my dog. Was waitressing really as bad as I’d made it out to be all those years?
I had a friend who quit acting, and thus, quit waitressing too– to become a scientist. She came into the bar I worked out several years later and told me she made more money when she worked with me at The Cheesecake Factory than she does as a scientist.
A mother fucking scientist!
Not only was the money better waiting tables, but I made it in one-third of the time than I did at my new job. Sure as a waitress I always worked weekends and missed parties, but I had time to be creative, see my friends (my waiter friends anyway), go on dates with my boyfriend and play with my dog– I had a life.
I was starting to realize that I’d been lucky all along. I actually loved my life the way it was- I was just too hung up on what I thought my life should look like at 30-something to enjoy what was right in front of me. Life’s too short… if I drop dead next week wouldn’t I be happier knowing that I’d only spent twenty hours a week at work rather than fifty?
So I did the only thing I could think of, I went crawling back with my tail between my legs and asked my restaurant boss if I could have my job back– the same job I’d quit a mere two weeks ago. It was a truly humbling experience. Luckily I hadn’t flipped everyone off and said, ‘F%$# You!’ when I originally quit. (two weeks notice is your friend, people). And, I’m a pretty good waitress– a touch snarky, but fast on my feet– so they took me back with open-ish arms.
The following day I went in to my ‘real job’ and sat at the morning meeting one last time as I doodled in my notebook ‘Last Day!’ and pretended to care about what my boss was saying. At the end of the day I quit a job for the second time in 2015. (Yes, I realize it’s still January.) I’m getting pretty good at this– also there’s no greater feeling than quitting a job you don’t like and celebrating afterwards with margaritas.
Even though I knew it was ego that had lead me down a path of unhappiness in the first place, I was still nervous to tell my friends and family that I’d just quit my fancy job before the end of the first pay period and I was going back to the same restaurant job I’d bitched about for the past four years. I was sure they’d think I was just being a whiny irresponsible baby, afraid of the real world, (which is only partially true) and equally afraid that my poor mom would die of emotional embarrassment when she had to tell people that her daughter, a college graduate, is back at it, cleaning up other people’s slop. As I braced myself for their criticism, I was stunned and overwhelmed by all their love and support. Every single one of them encouraged my decision to quit my ‘real job,’ pursue my art, and be happy. ‘Life’s too short.’
So now I’m going back to those dreaded no-slip safety shoes that I loathe and sucking up to dumb people who pronounce it “Mer-Lot”… only this time I’m okay with it. I realize that even though I’m covered in grease and ugly clothes, I get to go home at the end of the night and be with my family. I can write all day long and do my grocery shopping during non-peak times. I am truly thankful for this. Do I plan on waiting tables forever? Absolutely not. My feet can only take so much, but by doing it a while longer, I can give myself the time needed to let my passions lead me where I’m suppose to go. From now on, the grass is no longer greener on the other side, because I’m watering it on my side now.
Upon turning 30 years old recently, I dusted off a handful of journals that I’d used to document my 20s. Instead of strolling down memory lane as I had intended for this birthday tradition, I quickly tossed the first one aside after a few depressing entries realizing that there’s no reason to relive the heavy, pain-stricken moments that I deemed worthy of documenting that now defined my college-era memories.
I always think of my journals as a sort-of letter to my future self. But on my 30th, I felt it was more fitting to write a letter that I wish I could have received at 20, some guidance and glimmer of hope that my life would be “okay” from my future self. So here it goes.
It’s you, 10 years from now.
Great shoes, by the way. You are so much cuter than you think.
I’m writing to tell you about some of fabulous things you have to look forward to in life, because you seem pretty burdened by your troubled love affairs, insurmountable insecurity and dysfunctional family situation right now. I’ll admit– you’ve faced a little too much responsibility and emotional turmoil as you’ve struggled through your teen years. And, although college has not been full of the wild, reckless, carefree adventures you were hoping, I promise you’ll make up for the lack of party invites by tenfold in the coming years.
During the next decade you will manage to …
somehow travel to Mexico, Ireland, Jamaica, Chicago, Vegas, Virginia, New York, Texas, Seattle and Bali despite your lack of financial stability or ability to budget or pre-plan; you will … also
jump out of an airplane,
host an ‘80s themed roller skating birthday party,
break a suitcase while tumbling down an escalator at the airport in a drunken stupor (on a work trip),
total a car,
see your photo and name in print often,
go on road trips and cruises,
start a career and then abandon it,
tattoo your body with a coy fish of ridiculous proportion,
meet celebrities you admire,
ride in an ambulance,
adopt a Shih Tzu,
live in 15 different homes including two high rise apartments and one house with people you’d never met in a
frightening vibrant East L.A. neighborhood; you will …
miss a few flights,
sleep with a couple of virgins,
fight with a few friends,
dance on few stages,
drive a convertible,
pet an elephant,
play beer pong and poker, and
take the train to work. You will also…
be experimental with your fashion and hair,
experience a few dating misadventures and
a couple of really good love stories. You will learn how to…
sneak your way into the VIP section of a Vegas nightclub,
talk to strangers,
work a room,
get out of a gym membership (a feat worthy of writing to you about),
close a sale,
ask for a raise,
lease an apartment,
get fired gracefully, and
buy a car.
You will come to finally understand
how business, taxes and the government work,
how to stand up for yourself at work and in love,
how to let go of relationships that just aren’t working,
that even if you can’t pay all of your bills, that you should always scrounge up enough to cover your car insurance and your rent, and
that there is absolutely no excuse to miss a court date for minor traffic violations
You will come to terms with the fact that despite the physical evidence, you cannot afford the wardrobe you maintain.
You will help to plan
a high school reunion.
You will experience the heartache and chaotic aftermath
that follow death,
including the times that follow the loss of
your uncle and
You will have moments
when you feel as if despair and sorrow
are your only companions,
but the pain of life will compel you
to explore new spiritual philosophies,
and also, therapy.
You will work so hard
and feel underpaid most of the time.
You will be humbled by moments
when all you can afford is a bag of rice
to get you through a week’s worth of dinners,
while reflecting upon the moments
when you dropped $100
on single meals.
Even though you will spend many moments
accompanied by fear,
you will find that the universe tends to provide for and guide you
even in the most hopeless of circumstances.
You will learn that just because a job may promise
a lucrative income,
if it doesn’t make your soul sing,
It’s not worth doing.
Your desire to explore the world will never leave you
and your decision to move outside of your home state
and comfort zone
will be right choice.
No matter how hard you try,
your career path will always lead you
back to the things that do make your soul sing–
writing and human rights issues.
Finally, (and maybe you should sit down for this one), more than one psychic will tell you that you will be a mother and they are correct. Don’t worry, when this moment comes, you will be ready for it and you will accept the responsibility with an open, joyful heart full of gratitude and awe.
Also, some advice:
Take note that you spend too much time worrying. Some of your most productive work will be directly correlated with the nights that you let loose during late night happy hours at that one bar.
When it comes to big decisions, trust your instincts.
Try to keep in mind that you really can’t change a person, and it’s not your place to try and help them change. This applies to both friendships and relationships. And also your friends’ relationships. Try not to judge your friend for going back to Mr. or Mrs. Wrong over and over again for they are marching on their own path and experiencing their own life lessons. You are seriously not the authority on healthy dating.
You will enjoy the next 10 years more if you realize now that you spread yourself too thin. By 30, you will realize that if there is any habit you wish you could have changed sooner, it’s your tendency to flake out on plans because you’ve overcommitted yourself on such a regular basis that you cease to enjoy your free time.
Also, beware of the habit that the editors of Self Magazine will cleverly dub the “comparathon” in which you set your imaginary bar for success against the accomplishments of your peers, friends, acquaintances, and friends of acquaintances …(Facebook hasn’t yet been invented, but you’ll understand soon enough). Remember, there is no age at which you should have been, done or accomplished anything at all. Your perceived lack of success is grossly out of proportion with reality, and 10 years from now, you will finally realize how far you’ve come, and how much time and opportunity you actually had. Try to start believing in yourself soon and know that it’s okay to feel unsure about what to do with the “rest of your life” at 23 (ya friggin’ perfectionist).
Keep in mind that there are a few things still left to accomplish by the time you turn 30, so don’t feel like you need to cram it all into the next decade. Like (re)investing in a 401k for starters. And, do enjoy those irresponsible, adventurous and, yes, tumultuous moments reserved for one’s 20s. (There is a deadline for which it is socially acceptable to dress like this for Halloween.)
Good luck and enjoy the aforementioned moments rather than the ones you spent time scrawling into the pages of your journal.