Monday, March 18, 2013

Climbing Ladders

I debated about talking about this on the blog.  I decided a long time ago that I really wasn't going to talk about work on the internet.  That means Facebook and this space.  This decision was originally made because I was really unhappy at work and there was a lot of work drama that was crossing over into my personal life, and if there's one thing I've learned, it's that the internet only exacerbates drama.

I've mentioned a couple times that I've been part of a total turn-around in my work life and I am SO. DANG. HAPPY!  Basically, my old manager and mentor got a promotion and is now the proprietor of her own store, and I transferred to said store in order to keep learning from her and be more utilized in my position (I split my time between being a bartender and assistant manager).  I feel like I have a voice at work, that I have ideas - good ones!  In the last two months, we've been movin' and shakin' in this restaurant, and it's not even close to the store I walked into two months ago.  I wake up every day super excited to go to work.

I never expected to fall in love with the restaurant industry.  I went to college for music, and fully expected to do that for the rest of my life.  I've been playing music since I was nine years old (holy crap, that's almost seventeen years now!), and when I graduated high school, decided to major in music because it was the only thing I knew how to do.  And because my mom thought it was a pretty terrible idea.  You were right, Mom.  You were right.

I threw myself into school.  Between classes, lessons, private practice sessions, rehearsals, performances, etc., I was pulling 14-hour days.  I burned out in about 2.5 years.  I got really depressed about school.  I saw all my friends developing into amazing musicians, and I didn't even have the energy to lift a drum stick.  I was overwhelmed by guilt about my lack of desire to succeed.  But I plugged away, determined to earn a forty-thousand dollar piece of paper.  It took me seven years, but I did it.  I'm not really sure how or why, but I'm glad I did it.  

During this time, one of my fraternity sisters was serving at a restaurant.  I was twenty years old, needed a job, and had some experience in the food industry.  She suggested I come in and fill out an application, and the next day I was sitting in an interview.  I quickly became "the hostess with the mostest" (okay, I may have given myself that title), and about six months later, started waiting tables.  

I was never really into work.  I was just giving people shrimp and beer in an effort to pay my rent.  I felt better than the "lifers," the people who had been waiting tables for ten years.  I was getting a degree.  I was getting out of this place.  This place kind of sucked, and I didn't want to stay here.  I was going to be a famous concert percussionist.  I had a pretty shitty attitude when I walked in the door every day.

I'm not really sure when the change happened.  I think it was about six months after I started bartending.  All of a sudden, I found myself lying in bed at night thinking about ways things could be run smoother, more efficiently.  I started taking new servers under my wing.  I got interested in the mechanics of running a restaurant.  I became passionate about this company's culture.  I started noticing how other restaurants ran when I went out to eat.  I started making mental lists of things I would do differently or the same.  I started to get passionate about this fast-paced, stressful, ever-evolving world.

I owe a lot of this to Ryan.  He went into the blue collar world straight out of high school, and like most people who don't have a degree, they see it as this magical piece of paper who opens up a glowing gate to six figure salaries (Ha! If only they worked that way!).  At the beginning of our relationship, he was constantly pushing me to go to class.  To write that paper.  To get my ass off the couch and practice.  He was also constantly saying things like "You're too good/smart/talented to bartend and wait tables for the rest of your life."  "When are they going to make you a manager in that place?"  "All you do is talk about work."

Slowly, an idea started to take form in the back of my mind.  I kept it quiet for a good six months.  For those of you who know me in real life, you know how many times I changed my career goals during those long seven years of academia.  I just didn't know what I wanted to do.  My whole life, I was good at everything, but not GREAT at any one thing.  I was adrift in a world of opportunity.

For six months, I guarded this little idea.  I held it close.  I didn't even tell Ryan about it until about a week before I approached my manager.  "I've been thinking about this for a while now, and I want to take my key test."  That sentence has changed my life.  It was an affirmation to others as well as to myself that I had finally figured out what I want to do with my life.  "I want to own my own restaurant."  I want to spend fifty hours a week on my feet, tearing my hair out, babysitting hostesses.  I want to crunch numbers until one in the morning.  I want to get others as excited about wine and basil as I am.  I want to do this.

Fast forward five years from that first interview.  On Thursday, I sat across a table from my boss's boss and talked.  I talked about my strengths, my weaknesses, my hobbies.  I talked about my goals - "I want to be ready to take my manager test in a year."  We talked about all the things I was learning and working on.  We talked about the unique demands of this career.  All the late nights, long days, and stress.  And then, I head the words "I want you to take your test in six months.  I know it's not a year, but I think you can do it."

What the what!?  I feel like I got smacked with a big old dose of happy.  Four days later and it still feels surreal.  I feel like that little idea that I planted and loved and nurtured and guarded has suddenly bloomed.  And the possibilities it implies are endless.

And so I'm plunging head-first into schedule writing, profit and loss charts, customer satisfaction scores, and every other myriad and minute detail that goes into this.  For the next six months, I am going to learn everything that I can.  I have six months, and then, hopefully, I take the next step toward my passion.  Toward what I have finally realized what it is I am meant to do.


  1. This post hits HOME with me for sure.
    Especially this part, " I just didn't know what I wanted to do. My whole life, I was good at everything, but not GREAT at any one thing. I was adrift in a world of opportunity."

    I've gotten a lot of slack for changing my career goals so much, but I could care less. I want to do what I was meant to do. NO settling for me.

    You go girl. This is awesome!

    1. Thank you! For so long I felt like such a screw up because I had no direction or idea what I wanted to do, especially when all of my friends were settling into careers. It feels good to get it figured out, doesn't it? :)