Switching Job Titles

“I didn’t know you worked here!” Said the Mother of a High School friend, her eyebrows rising.

I didn’t know what to say. I smoothed my skin-tight black T-shirt down to cover my slightly exposed mid drift and licked my lips. “Been here for almost 4 years.” I responded, wondering if that was the appropriate response. Was she surprised that I worked at a restaurant? Or that I worked at this restaurant? Or that I’m not in some other (more important) job?

“Well, how ’bout that?” She said politely, the smile still frozen on her face. “I wish you all the luck, Natalie. It’s good to see you.” She pulled out her wallet and dropped a dollar into my tip jar. I felt sickened. I didn’t think she was judging me: I was judging me. She clipped her leather purse back together and pushed her horn rimmed glasses onto her head, holding her highlighted caramel hair back out of her blue eyes. Her eyes crinkled into another smile and she winked at me before walking to her seat.

“How did I get into 4 years as a waitress?” I thought. My mind had been processing that information for the past six months. “I am not a waitress.” I watched the Mother of a High School friend sit down and adjust her bag onto the floor of the restaurant. “This is a filler position. This is not my career. I am not a server for lifer…what the hell am I  still doing here?”

To say I’d been struggling with what I wanted to do with myself was an understatement. The brash “go fuck ‘em” attitude I had approached the service industry with had drained to a trickle, at best, and I found myself getting more and more jealous over friends on Facebook who were getting degrees. A degree meant you were making something of yourself. A masters was a way to tell the world that you were serious! Only, I didn’t know what I wanted a master’s in and, frankly, I was still very happy with getting a fat wad of cash in my hand at the end of every (well, recently not every) night and going home and relaxing (well, not relaxing because this job was stressing me out) and laughing at my 9-5 friends who had no vacation time and were slaves to jobs that seemed, well, too grown-up for my taste (but they had benefits and security and a boss who didn’t get drunk and yell at them and a job that they were respected for and a tax return that would allow them to get a mortgage…).

I jerked out of my train of thought. That cycle of thinking had been happening too much lately. I hated telling people I was 26 and still a server. I hated telling myself that. Sure, I’d promise my brain that I was just doing this so I could travel and take classes and be a free bird in a society that told me I needed “golden handcuffs” to be respected. But, I knew there was no movement in waitressing, only a lateral road of tedium and boredom as the monotony of serving food and drinks became so second nature I could get drunk on shift and still do a damn good job.

Something needed to change and I wasn’t going to wait for my boobs to get saggy first.

I got a job teaching English to foreign teenagers over the summer. At first, I told my serving job I was only leaving temporarily, that I’d be back in the fall. Then, when I tasted the idea of not ever having to work a serving job again, I said I’d never come back. And I meant it.

Now, the summer is ending. My job as a summer school teacher is ending. And, god help me, I won’t go back.

The Admissions officer at Hunter College School of Education looked over my transcript like a menu. “Oh that looks good.” She said, pointing to a choice morsel of 6 credits that fulfilled my writing requirement. “And you have a side of that, nice!” She mused, pouring over my South Asian Studies concentration. I leaned forward in my seat, watching her.

“Do you think I have a good chance of getting in?” I asked.

“Oh yes.” She responded, looking up at me. “I think you have a very strong chance. A Masters in TESOL would be a good fit for you.”

I let the moment wash over me like a wave of warm water. I wiped my damp hands on my jeans, exalted over the news. “Then I’ll be applying soon.” I responded. Gathering my materials and sweeping out the door of the office on the back on my imaginary motivational griffin.

I’ll go be a teacher. I’ll get a Masters degree. I’ll have a summer vacation, and benefits, and would be helping people learn (not get drunk and fat!!), and would get paid more and… and… and… The possibilities are endless. I am no longer a server.

 

August 16, 2014 at 10:37 am by Natalie Allen