I don’t have much time–any time really–to write a post today, but I am. I should be studying the menus of a very popular restaurant franchise at which I am currently in training to be a server. I’m nearing 28-years-old and I have managed to lock down a part-time, minimum wage serving job geared toward high-schoolers.
And I’m terrified to death of 4 p.m. I’m dreading it. I’m wearing a perpetual grimace at the idea of clocking in today.
I better make it clear that this isn’t going to turn into a ‘Occupy Something’ post. I’m probably not part of a 99% of anything. Just the opposite in fact. It’s jobs like these that make me feel part of nothing at all.
I’m by far the oldest server at this restaurant. I can’t remember what goes in the signature margarita. If someone asks me–and they will–what’s in my favorite menu item, I will freeze up no matter how much the answer is ingrained in my memory. I have trouble with the video training program and I suck at the tests. Seemingly, every 17-year-old there aced these tests without batting an eyelash. My excellent college GPA aside, it appears I have a learning disability when it comes to corporate restaurant quizzes.
So I find myself stuck in a place between two walks of life: my coworkers that apparently have no fear in the world of their industry and where I should be at, socioeconomically speaking. I am part of neither group.
I published a novella this week. I’m rather surprised to find myself this distraught over a part-time serving gig. It’s frustrating and embarrassing, in the face of my writing accomplishment, to be so honestly afraid of failure.
Last night, at the beginning of my shadowing shift, I was told that I would never be given a specific shift. It was too busy, too large of a section, and only reserved for veterans.
Later, I was told that would be my first shift on my own. Not because anyone thought I would excel in that position–but because of a scheduling error.
I feel that any other human being on the planet would be honored to take such a shift. They should be so lucky to be granted this Lloyd Dobler “Dare to be great” opportunity to really shine. To most of those high-schoolers, it probably seems like a promotion! Yes! Jump right in! It’s invigorating, isn’t it?
No. I find it terrifying. I woke up several times last night and it was the first thought in my head. That’s right, I lost sleep over this.
I’m being handed a situation that I am 100% sure I will fail at. I’m going to show up to this Shift From Hell, be destroyed, and then my manager is going to look at me and shake his head and say “We were really expecting more.” Or just flat-out fire me on the spot.
This deep-seated assumption that I cannot succeed at an assigned task has plagued me for a long time. It came and went with certain situations all my life. At the end of my senior year of college, I was sure it was cured. I was rock star staff writer for my campus newspaper. I was critically-acclaimed sensation in all my creative writing classes–all my professors were sure I was going straight to the top! I felt untouchable. Can’t be contained.
But then the day after graduation happened. I took a job at Cold Stone. While my friends got married and found desk jobs and salaries, I accepted an Assistant Manager position. Well my peers racked up savings accounts and 401ks, I banged my head against the wall trying to think of ways to more efficiently mop the lobby.
But I always kept writing.
Write, write, write! That’s what will save you. That’s your real career.
But, even in the wake of my book release, I woke up today embarrassed of who I have become. I am a joke. A nobody. The one person in my graduating class that everyone is definitely more successful than.
I have quite literally failed at life. There’s no picking up the pieces anymore. No time to catch up. I have run my once prospect-filled life right into the ground. Nobody is going to give a 28-year-old server of mediocre status a career.
And truthfully? I no longer believe I could do the job. Whatever it is. My confidence–my hope–my belief in things being okay–has completely left me. I am a phoenix that will never rise from the ashes.
I’m there, of course, in the ashes. But it’s my new home. Ashes settle. That’s what they do.
That’s what I do.