Sometimes the most valuable lessons we learn in life are those we have to work hardest to understand. I learnt a lot from getting my heart broken multiple times, being in an earthquake and moving to a new country alone. These situations were trying, but like any major event in life, good or bad, I wouldn’t be the same person without having been through those experiences.
It is easy to preach about life lessons when your heart is being ripped into bits like grated cheese and you can’t help transforming into a new person, but what about the more gradual painful experiences we go through every day, such as working in hospitality? Chortle as you may those of you who haven’t worked in this profession, but my heart goes out to every person confined to a cafe, restaurant or bar while the seasons change outside at the speed of the deathly tick of the clock inside.
After one of those days when every customer seems to stare at your innards and judge your insecurities, when every coffee you make looks like the murky foaming water that swirls down the plug when you’re washing out brown hair dye, when every table you clear seems to be the promise of a half-decent future wiped away and thrown into dirty dishwater, I decided that it was time to focus on all the GOOD things about working in hospitality (so I don’t accidentally let my oil burner get out of control and consume this sad food-stained life I live).
1. The people you work with.
If your situation isn’t too dire, hopefully you share your misery with some cool people. The interesting thing about your work friends is that you’re thrown into the cooking pot with them when your lives probably would have never intertwined if you didn’t get hired at your current place of monotony. It’s ironic that these people usually end up being your closest friends because you spend all of your time with them, and you consequently figure out that you actually have a lot in common (even if it involves lengthy discussions about what a flat white really is).
2. You learn to put up with challenging people.
It’s not so much the customers who come into mind, as all I have to do is direct the biggest smile I can muster at them (reverse psychology – it works!) and the most I’ll hear from them again is a 2 star rating on Trip Advisor. No, your boss is someone who you must continually keep up a facade around, which usually withers to an I-despise-you-but-you-give-me-money smile. I can say that I’ve become quite good at acting. Maybe this is how Meryl started her career. I’ve also learnt that money is the most important thing in some people’s lives, and this in turn makes me realise how unimportant money is in the grand scheme of things.
3. You learn to deal with stress.
While “taking out the rubbish”, i.e. smoking a cigarette by the bins, is a quick escape from a stressful situation, you can’t do this every time someone complains about their food or coffee or there’s feces on the bathroom floor. Yup. You have to deal with things, bitch about it for a little while, then move on. Coping with the height of lunchtime squalor helps me to appreciate all of the moments in my life which aren’t that frantic, which is about 98%. So technically I appreciate life 98% more!
4. You make money.
While it makes you ponder (very regularly) whether you’d be happier living as a hippie off the grid, growing your own vegetables and giving the finger to money and society, a job in hospitality does indeed provide you with financial rewards, even if you are getting the minimum wage and you barely work enough hours. There are many people out there who are unable to get a job, for one reason or another, so no matter how excruciating it is to step through that doorway most mornings, we employed people are at least this advantaged and should be thankful for it.
5. It teaches you to value your time not at work.
That scintilla of time when you take your first step away at the end of a shift is one of the most life-affirming feelings I’ve had. I appreciate not being at work so much that I hyper-appreciate the other things in life (especially my bed). And when I do get to see those people I chose to be my friends, or that special someone, or my cat or my hot water bottle or whoever or whatever it is I want in my life, I think GODDAMN IT, I’M THE LUCKIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD. And I forget about work for a while. And then I go back the next day, then I leave, and that’s the cycle of life and we will all die one day so lets focus on the GOOD things in life and the GOOD things about hospitality. Otherwise we won’t make it through.