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Your waiter is probably smarter than you. It’s true.

A waiter that I trained at my last restaurant job was saving to open a non-profit that would provide guidance, mentoring, and art education to children currently within the foster care system.

He had a Masters in Education and a Masters in Non-Profit Management. Beyond the degrees, which mean little to nothing in today’s world, he was brilliant, poised, eloquent – one of those rare breeds of human that possesses both vision and the ability to realize that vision.

What was he doing waiting tables you may ask?

He was making off like a bandit. Not only was he making $$ working less than 25 hours a week (leaving plenty of time for thinking, writing, and plotting); he was also meeting key members of the community in their element. Wining and dining potential benefactors and members of the town council without actually needing to spend his own $ to do so. It was, in a way, brilliant.

He also enjoyed it. It’s difficult to explain. But waiting tables has a charm to it, a controlled chaos that is both energizing and intoxicating. It’s hard work, but it’s good work. I loved the movement of it, the dance of it. I loved, more than much else, the opportunity to meet individuals, to talk and share stories, to take part, in some way, of their evening. I loved the customers. I loved good food and good wine. I loved the freedom. I loved the $.

Perhaps I should clarify. It wasn’t or isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. But waiting tables did put me through graduate school. It has supported each endeavor and has done so while providing me with something invaluable: time. As a waitress, I decided my hours, worked shifts as I needed to and was able to take time for my passions as I desired. It’s hard work and it is thankless work, but it is perfect work for an starving artist. It puts food on the table while ensuring enough time and even an audience to the pursuit of your own artistic work.

How else could I have lived off of an adjunct’s salary while devoting countless hours to the frivolous and selfish pursuit of reading, writing, and aimless thinking about thinking? Where else would I have met so many inspiring individuals of like minds?

There is, of course, the dark side. And that is, as a waitress I have never had to take a chance on supporting myself with my art, the opportunity to face defeat, despair, doubt and ultimately to experience triumph and elation of making your passion, your career. It has been a safety net, a job that has enabled me to avoid the inevitable: taking a chance on me, believing in me and in what I do. It has allowed me to ignore my calling, deny my potential, and avoid any conversation about the world beyond wine, food, and midnight whiskey runs. I have never had to grow up, to admit that perhaps I was meant to do more, be more, live more. I have remain strangled and tempted, sacrificing what is invaluable for what is fleeting. I have given my time and my youth to the pursuit of financial security as opposed to devoting my time and life to that which is immortal – the pursuit of passion, to be poor and desperate, and of course, desperately happy and satisfied.

Today, I quit the restaurant job that has sustained me for the past year and vowed to not take another. This is it, the real deal, the moment that it shifts, that it turns. Writing is no longer a hobby. It is, in short, a matter of survival. Write or starve. Write or face eviction. Write or lose the car. Write or…well, there is nothing else. I must write and write well and forge ahead without any doubts or second guesses. I will do this. I must do this. I can do this.

I can be a teacher, a writer, and an editor. I can write a novel. I can market a novel. I can sustain myself by the bootstraps of my dreams.

I can do this. I quit the restaurant. And it feels good.

Now what?

 

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