As many of you already know, I have been working in the bar and restaurant industry for twelve years.
Twelve years! I put myself through college as a server at a Texas Roadhouse.
I then moved to a new city and got a job in a restaurant because I thought it’d be a nice way to make money and friends while looking for a “real” job using my newly obtained Bachelor’s degree.
And when it turned out that the idea of getting a “real” job was both terrifying and probably terribly boring, I continued on in the industry by getting a bartending gig at a fun, local bar.
I loved it.
Throughout all of the last twelve years, I have genuinely loved working in bars and restaurants. I mean sure… you have your bad days, your shitty tippers, and your obnoxious customers. But the good almost always makes up for the bad.
I love interacting with people, and moving around. I genuinely enjoy the job and all that comes along with it; developing relationships with regulars, memorizing and perfecting cocktails, facilitating an atmosphere for people to celebrate the good times, or drink away the bad.
If you had asked me a year ago if I was interested in sitting behind a desk in exchange for a more traditional career, a more secure income – even benefits – I probably would have told you it wasn’t for me. No way.
Unfortunately, now… I’m starting to change my mind.
Not because I want to, not because my love for the job has changed.
And definitely not because the idea of a desk job is super intriguing.
But because my body is beginning to protest. My legs are objecting to the demands I’m making of them; the long shifts, the hours and hours spent on my feet and the impossibility of a regular sleep schedule. My muscles are rebelling, and the fatigue is becoming too much to bear.
Am I getting old? Is it simply the natural progression of a bartender to have to leave the industry at a certain age?
In any case, bartending it turns out, is a hard industry to leave. Hard for multiple reasons, really. Walking (or limping) away from the cash, leaving the casual for the professional, and convincing people that you are in fact capable of more than mixology.
And I’m one of the lucky ones. I have that Bachelor’s degree to fall back on.
I got my degree over eight years ago but I suppose I have never really “used” it. I remember my parents and relatives telling me how it was important to finish, to just get a degree – any degree! – and figure out what to do with it later.
This was a time when simply getting a degree meant something to employers, I guess. But I’m beginning to realize – I think most of Americans are beginning to realize – that is no longer the case. They also want work history and experience.
Well, I do have experience – I am experienced in conversational skills, multitasking, and the ability to remain calm in long periods of high stress. I am experienced in financial management, budgeting a month’s worth of bills and payments on a cash only income. I’m experienced in training others, teaching new employees, and introducing new ideas.
I am well versed in interacting with various people from multitudes of different backgrounds and social statuses.
I am confident and coordinated. I’m creative and flexible while maintaining just the right level of perfectionism (Okay, bordering on slight OCD at times).
I am all these things and much more. But what people see on my resume is Bartender and I have to wonder if any of it translates.
I don’t regret my twenties at all. By not jumping into the corporate world, I allowed myself the time and the freedom to make some wonderful memories and have some great life experiences.
For instance, I did a lot of traveling – China, Australia, forty-nine countries in Europe. I made some incredible friends and learned a lot about different kinds of people. Those trips were amazing! And long – I never would have been able to go to those places, for the amount of time that I did, if I had been strapped to a desk.
It was my decision to work for cash tips, during weird hours that allowed me the freedom to do all those wonderful things.
So … you can imagine my sadness and frustration at the thought of leaving the industry that’s brought me so much.
Who knows, maybe I wont actually leave it.
Maybe I’ll try yet another orthopedic shoe, or a different brand of compression socks. Maybe more vitamins and a better pillow will be the answer I’m looking for. Or maybe there’s a different venue with shorter shifts looking for a seasoned pro such as myself.
Either way, I wanted to share my thoughts on this period of my life in case there was anyone out there who was feeling the same.
Thanks, as always, for reading! I appreciate each and every one of you!
And if you are in fact feeling the same way I do, whenever you read this I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Whether it’s the service industry or some other field you’ve been enjoying and contemplating leaving, I’m sure others would benefit from hearing your thoughts.