Wednesday, September 19, 2012

These Places and These Faces Are Getting Old

I usually blog about big events in my life almost immediately, but this time I've waited a few days to let the dust settle. On this past Sunday I put my two week notice in at Casa Bueno. This is huge for me.

I've worked at Casa Bueno for five years. During those five years I've gone from a waitress to a trainer, from a trainer to a bartender and from a bartender to a supervisor. The restaurant business itself has changes because to the recession we're in. I've gone from working in a restaurant that was so busy I made enough money I didn't feel the change in income from working in offices to being much slower. Its picked up in the last year or so, but its still not what it was. The store itself has changed too. Its had a turnover of about a hundred employees. The company has gotten new leadership and there's been some significant change to he menu and some of the policies. Some of those are pretty recent, or ongoing. That isn't why I'm leaving, though.

In the last five years I have also changed. I've gone from being a young woman to just a plain woman. I'm in my thirties now, and while thirty doesn't seem like that much of a change from twenty four or twenty five, in terms of ability and relatability to my coworkers, its startling. I've also gone from being a person who drinks and goes out frequently to one who stays home more. I've gotten married. I've become much more active in my religion. I've certainly mellowed out. If you had asked some of my coworkers five years ago the words "high strung" and "bitch" would have been likely to have been used. Now I'm not so sure what they would say. Some, I think, would call me controlling or demanding. Some would call me friend. Some would definitely see me as a pain in the ass. I am definitely more out of touch with my coworkers than I was five years ago. This is not something I have done on purpose, but more a result of me growing up, and them staying young. I don't fault them or myself for this, I am simply different from who they are. Again, possible reasons a person might leave, and definitely something to consider, but not the reason I am leaving.

I am, simply put, very tired. My health, as most of you who follow me on Facebook would be able to tell right away, is not what I would like it to be. I have a heavy suspicion that the last two months working with our new seafood specialties has contributed to this. Let's face it, I'm allergic to fish and being around it grilled in open air and serving it more frequently, it being in the plates and in the air and on my hands has left me in what is no doubt a mild state of allergic reaction for the last couple of months. My headaches, which had been getting better, are making a comeback with a strength that sometimes frightens me and with a frequency that is becoming almost debilitating. I am tired all the time. I am losing my hair. Not a lot of it, but enough to let me know that its not normal hair loss, and certainly not healthy. A couple of months ago I took a stress test and my stress levels were off the charts. A good portion of that had to do with my work situation. These are, indeed, good reasons to need a break.

It is more than that, though. Working as a waitress is to subject yourself to variable income. Nothing is ever certain. And you have to depend on the kindness and generosity of others to make ends meet. That's hard. It requires you to be always upbeat, always polite, always attentive. In the restaurant world there is no room for a personal life, problems must be left at the door. You cannot let the person you are effect the person your guests, and even your coworkers, see you as. Emotionally, this is extremely taxing. It is especially difficult for me, seeing as how I do wear my heart on my sleeve and am incapable of sugar coating anything. It makes life hard with regards to my coworkers. On top of that, being the age I am, I am growing tired of working with people who are younger than me. Its not that they aren't good people, some of them are, but they are younger than me. Their energy effects me differently. Sometimes their life outlooks irritate me. I don't live in the same world they do, plain and simple.

The politics of restaurant work also wear me out. By the time I made my entry back into food service I had been playing at office politics for about seven years. I'm good at that. The trick is to do your job right, keep your mouth shut, your head down and your back to the wall. Listen to everything, speak little. Learn your coworkers and do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Wait and be patient. Work hard. Its not the same in restaurants. In food service doing your job well makes you a target. People will see the little mistakes you make and make them larger, will point them out, will hound you for them. Mistakes not caught in time, or sometimes just made, will cost the company money and most of the time you as well. You are in constant wariness. You compete for shifts, for good positions. When you attain a position of responsibility you must constantly fight for it. You must work harder, every day, than you did before. And you must do all of these things with people who are (in my case, anyway) ten years or more younger than you. Most of them have less scruples. All of them love gossip, drama and watching the circus unfold around them. To watch someone fall from grace is a treat, and if you want to keep your job, it had better not be you.

Restaurants being what they are bring in a pretty diverse population of workers. Its certain that you will work with people wildly different from you. They will have different lifestyles and ideas. There will be people who don't like you, who will actively wish you ill. But still, to get the job done, you must work with them anyway. This is very hard. For me, to ask help of someone I know wants me gone, or to help someone I know was badmouthing me to my boss the day before is almost intolerable. It must be done, though. I've always said to my trainees, there will be people you don't like that you have to work with. Be good to them anyway. Its the only way you keep your head above water. Its the truth. Its also the truth that most of my coworkers would be hard pressed to tell me who it is I do and don't like, truly. I've played my part very well. And I am tired of the play.

I am tired. Tired of the physically demanding work. I am tired of the games. I am tired of the gossip. I am tired of having to be cheerful all the time. You know me. I am a happy person, but relentless cheer is grating on the best of personalities, and mine isn't the best. We know that. Beyond that, outside of work I have a lot on my plate. With my family things have been changing and its difficult to handle. With the coven I am always busy, there is always something to do or to plan. My friends have changed too, I have gained some new ones and lost a few old ones. That's life, and you move on from there, but its been taxing nonetheless. I have two relationships to maintain. My wife is finishing school and preparing to enter a new career. I am going to go back to school soon too, and that has to be considered.

So I am taking a break. I am fortunate to have my lovely partners, they are willing to support me while I rest and pull myself back together. They are hard workers who are able to help while I am not. They don't judge me. Instead, they have encouraged me every step of the way, doing everything they can to let me know they are proud of my decision and that they want me to be healthy and happy. I am very blessed. I will go back to work eventually. It will probably be something easy. I may look at some of the local book or craft stores and see if they need help. I might look and see if there's an office that wants someone to man the phones. I can do those things at little cost to my health, and I can enjoy them. I can also go back to school and prepare to have a career that I want to do. Something that will give me joy and a sense of fulfillment.

I will say this, I've learned a lot from my time in restaurants. I have learned that trust is something more important to me than even I had thought. I have also learned that until they give you reason to, people really aren't a very trustworthy bunch. Sometimes even the people who profess to love you will hurt you to get ahead. I've learned that people can be very good. I've learned that good people can sometimes do incredibly stupid things to ruin their lives. I've seen it in action now. Its terrifying to watch. I've learned that hard work and honesty only get you so far. I've learned that no matter how much you give of yourself, someone will always want more. I've learned that sometimes when you get what you want you don't really want it at all. I've seen firsthand that respect is something that has to be earned on a minute to minute basis and that people, after all, really do want to think the worst of you. Those things may sound jaded, but they're the truth. I'm not bitter, I'm not angry. Its not in me to be like that. I am, as I said, very tired.

I was talking to Flyguy the other day (one of the very wonderful things to come out of Casa Bueno - my relationship with Flyguy) and I told him that I realized not too long ago that he was one of the very few reasons I ever looked forward to work. It was easier to get up and face the day knowing he was there. Knowing that he would be at my back. Knowing that whatever anyone said or did, he would catch me if I needed him to. Then I realized that he loves me and that I can have those things, I can have my wonderful friendship with him without having to be at Casa. He laughed at me, as though that should have been obvious, and then gave me a big hug and told me I was right. He's not going anywhere. As for my other friends at Casa, we'll see. I've seen people come and go for so long, I know for a fact now that people who are willing to spend time with you when you work somewhere may not be willing to do so once you are not a part of their work lives. I've lost a few people that way, people I would have liked to have kept in my life. But, as they go, there are always more. I sincerely hope that I will find that the people who profess to love and respect me truly do, and that I will still see them and spend time with them. If not, at this point, I think I have no illusions. I am thankful for the acquaintance/friendship of many of my coworkers, but I've simply not got the strength to keep on just to maintain those ties. Its not worth it.

So, here I am, after five years, saying very manfully that I am a weak person. I am not strong enough for the vocation I have worked in for so long. I don't have the energy to keep up. I am paying my debts of honor, and withdrawing from the stage. Its the best I can do. At one time I would have valued myself less for having to do this. At one time I would have been ashamed. Now I am simply proud that I have learned that I must put myself first. I used to worry because I thought all there is in life is advancement, success, and money. I know better now. The best things in my life may be tangible- but its not money- its the people I hold in my arms at the end of a long day, or when they come into my home. It is the tools of my craft that give me such joy. It is the blankets I wrap myself in and the tea I drink when I have been drained of every other type of warmth. I will not give those things up for the world.

As for the world I live in now, its about to change again. I look forward to it very much.

Thanks for being with me through all of this.

1 comment:

  1. You've made a truly difficult decision, and you're not weak for doing what you need to do. On the contrary, you're extremely strong. I'm proud of you.

    You're lucky to have the partners you have. Randy is the exact same way. I had to take time off for the same reasons you are now. Though I felt guilty (and sometimes still do) for taking the time, it was the right thing, and Randy wouldn't have it any other way.

    May you heal physically, mentally, and emotionally; your spirituality seems strong, as does your support system. I wish you joy, and will be here. *hug*