What we've termed "quarterlife crisis"
Today was the first actual busy day at the bar. On Monday, I split four tables with another waitress, so naturally today I worked alone when the owner knew ahead of time that we had a 20-top of 30something women, which are perhaps my least favorite customers. (I was a women's studies minor, I subscribed to Bitch, get off my ass). When they come in alone they will always get burgers and fries, but when a whole parade of them marches in you can count on 20 spinach salads with fat free ranch, and specified lemons for each water. I swear women try harder to look like they're dieting in front of one another than they even do with men. There's a lawyer across the street who has been meeting the same girl at the bar every day for a week or so now and yesterday she ordered a pork tenderloin as big as her head (I live dangerously close to Iowa). I wanted to shake her hand.
To be fair, the bartender and the owner tackled the bigass table while I juggled the dozen or so smaller ones that arrived NONSTOP from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. I know I shouldn't bitch because it's money momma needs for a haircut and a car payment (also knowm as my one-stop credit shop).
I dealt with a little of everyone today: a man who complained that his ketchup was too thin, a hatchet-faced man who felt the need to tell me "we're in kind of a hurry," a child molester in a Hawaiian shirt.
We get a lot of suits because we're downtown and most of them are very polite, but occasionally you'll get one who talks to you like you were born to lick his smelly anus. Thar occurred today when, for the first time, a dickwad came in who was pretentious enough to ask for the portobello burger with no bun ("I'm on Atkins," he tells me.) He says "Tell you what..can I just get an extra portobello mushroom with that? You can do that, can't you? Thanks." Returns to conversation with woman who will pay for both meals. Yeah, I can do that, motherfucker, but it will cost you. He also tried to pull the gender assumption card when I started handing him the iced tea and her the diet Pepsi (someone else had taken their drink order). The fact is, like most humans, I have two hands. I put the pop in one and the tea in the other and walked over to their table, then ASKED whose fucking beverage was whose. "Bet you thought it was the other way around!" What goddamn difference does it make to me? The point is I touched both of your straws with my dirty (ketchup, bleach, snot, sweat) hands. And those mushrooms grow in the dumpster. Fuck you.
I have a deep, clawing fear of my life becoming a cliche, but sometimes it seems so unavoidable. Maybe because our lives can only truly follow a handful of paths and we've thought of names for all of them.
My previous cliche was the cliche of natural privileged ascent. The suburbs-college-job-living alone and being bored all the time ladder that we were all taught to climb, well on my way to a lot less partying overall and a lonely death in 50-60 years.
I am now in the cliche of the quarterlife crisis, a concept documented by more famous 20-somethings than myself (i.e. John Mayer and "Scrubs" star Zach Braff, who wrote/directed Garden State, as we all know, the seminal Gen Y film). But something tells me both of those individuals are a bit less conflicted than they were when they wrote about their good intentions, self-preservation insticts and libido clashing in a storm of ambivalence, giving rise to their respective artistic endeavors. I think they are now both very successful, fulfilled individuals, comfortable in lives that include great purpose and lots of people wanting to fuck them.
Originally I wanted my life to have meaning. I wanted a job that I believed in, that I could love because I knew I was making the world a better place, even if it was hard sometimes and stressed me out a lot. I thought I had found that in journalism but it turned out I hadn't. I don't hate journalism or those who choose to stay with it. But I didn't have that feeling working at a newspaper for a lot of reasons. Part of the problem was also the toll my work was taking on my mental health. Sometimes, when you report the news, you get exposed to a lot of things that everyday people routinely choose to ignore if only to spare themselves the pain of knowing what really happens to other people. But reporters don't have that privilege. If cars crash into each other, if a house burns down, if a dead body washes up in a creek, I have to get in my car and drive to it, interview everyone connected to it, then distill a tragedy that upturned countless lives into 500-700 words. The whole process is not only counterintuitive, but it sometimes leaves you feeling like the whole weight of human sadness and suffering is swallowing you.
Anyway...the point is I don't know what I want anymore. Recently, two job opportunities have manifested themselves and they are both in the vein of marketing/PR which is rife with the very same moral bankruptcy I was trying to escape when I left journalism. I don't want to be useless, but sometimes it seems a better fit than trying to find a job I love and leaving it in a year, feeling betrayed by the system.
Anyone who has found their way out of a similar black hole is welcome to comment.
Coming soon: e-mail the Perennial Failure!