From July of 2014 until the beginning of last month, I worked as a waiter at an upscale steakhouse in Des Moines.
It’s hard work. You walk Amish miles with no breaks, juggle a dozen or more time-sensitive tasks at any moment, and you’re paid based not based upon a set wage or percentage of sales, but whatever the customers decide you deserve. And dealing with the public means encountering some rude, snobbish, and generally miserable folks.
But I can handle that. For me, at least, it was difficult for another reason.
I never wanted to wait tables.
I went to college and tried to pursue a different path in life. I immersed myself in extracurricular activities, got a great job with Teach For America, and was even accepted to law school. Waiting tables was not a logical progression of that chain of events.
But things didn’t work out as expected. For me, law school was never more than a vague concept–a logical next step for a smart kid who wanted a respectable job and a high income. The sort of “oh well, I guess I’ll do this” decision made by someone who didn’t understand himself or the world around him. And since law school had, by the time I finished with Teach For America, become a ticket to high-debt and low job prospects, I decided not to go.
I became just another social sciences graduate with a useless, unmarketable degree. Fast forward five years and various jobs later, and there I was: applying for a job at a restaurant, trying to bury my self-pity and negativity.
But I was wrong. Working at the steakhouse turned out to be a fantastic experience, and it helped me to become a better person.
So in the event that you haven’t–or don’t plan to–get a job waiting tables, pay attention as I share what I learned.