It all started when, with a heavy heart, I decided that my cashier/bartending/food running job at Jimmy Hula's was no longer cutting it. I didn't have a car at the time and I lived five minutes away from the location, so it was the ideal job for me for a little over a year. Anybody who worked with me at Jimmy Hula's during that year can agree with me that we definitely sacrificed generous paychecks for a good time with great people and cheap tacos and craft beer. It was my favorite job that I'd ever had, even though I was making $5/hour plus whatever change we could scrap up from the tip bucket at the end of the night and we split it amongst everybody in the front of the house. So yeah, not much.
When I finally got a new car, I figured that the smart thing to do would be to apply to fancy restaurants in a nicer part of town. I had been serving since I was 16 years old and felt like I had enough experience to do so. I quit Jimmy Hula's one day and got hired on the spot at the first place I walked into in Winter Park, Florida. If you've never heard of Winter Park, to make a long story short, it's full of a lot of hoity-toity rich people. In my head, I'm thinking I just hit the jackpot. I pictured myself walking out of work with hundreds of dollars a night, taking money straight out the pockets of rich men wearing Rolexes and heading straight to the mall. While that was partly true, I was absolutely miserable.
Sure, my paychecks were awesome. Easily the best money I'd ever made. I was paying my bills with ease, treating myself to boujee sushi dinners and strictly organic groceries, and I still had money to play with. My financial worries were out the window. However, I absolutely dreaded going to work and my job was turning me into an anxious, depressed weirdo.
First of all, the clientele was terrible. Given, they were definitely paying big bucks to have expensive food, quality wine, and an exceptional experience, but it seemed like you could never make anybody happy no matter what you did. They weren't the "I'm cool with it" type of crowd. I was used to slinging tacos and pouring draft beer. If something took too long in the kitchen at Jimmy Hula's, I always got a "No biggie!" or "I know it's not your fault, it's okay." It definitely was not like that here. Nobody was "cool" with anything. Some people were so rude and demanding to me just because they knew they could be. They were all high-end hot shots, so why not talk to the poor girl like she's a peasant?
Second of all, this was considered a "fine dining" restaurant and everything had to be absolutely perfect. If I didn't remove plates in a graceful manner or put the right fork on the right side or whatever, people rolled their eyes and scoffed at me. I had a table where the woman talked so much crap about me right in front of my face when I accidentally spilled some salad dressing on my shirt as I was removing her plate. Literally, making fun of me and whispering about me and apologizing to the rest of her party. For me spilling a little salad dressing on my own shirt.
Another time, I had a table that traumatized me forever when it came to opening a bottle of wine. The cork was old and split in half while I was opening it, and I apologized and took it to the back to fix it, and when I came back, they all had looks of disgust on their faces and just whispered to each other as I was pouring their glasses. As I was pouring..."You call that a pour?!" Jesus Christ, give me a break.
Don't even get me started on the people that I worked with, as well as my managers and the restaurant owners. I think there were about two people that I liked in that entire establishment. They all treated me like some incompetent dummy because my whole life didn't revolve around fine dining and breathing. Mind you, I was probably the youngest server there and one of the only people that was actually pursuing a degree. The most stuck-up people that worked there were the ones that called themselves "professional servers." Oh, and a guy in the kitchen randomly called me fat one day. Just for fun.
I will never forget the day that I came into work after not sleeping a wink the night before. I was up all night legitimately having a panic attack about how much I hated my job and what was going to happen to me if I didn't get a job right out of college and was forced to be a server for the rest of my life. My worst nightmare. If you have anxiety, you know how your restless thoughts can actually keep you up all night. It's terrible. And then I had to make it to work bright and early the next day.
To make everything better, after getting absolutely zero sleep the night before, the restaurant owner pulled me to the side to ask me how I was doing. He said it seemed like I "just wasn't getting it" and made comments about my behavior and performance that were definitely insulting my intelligence. Another time, one of my managers asked me to come into her office to ask me what was wrong with me. "You were so happy-go-lucky in your interview. You seemed like this 'little, positive bird.' What happened?" THIS JOB. THIS JOB HAPPENED. The negative energy in this building is seeping through my bones and making me hate my life.
Day after day, I came in and I put up with it. The dreaded car ride there, the entitled customers, the coworkers I didn't click with on any level, the micro-managing managers, and owners who intimidated me to no end, etc. I did it for the money. I did it because I told myself what I thought my parents would say to me: "You're not there to make friends. You're not there to have fun. You're there to make money so you can pay your bills and go home." I will never forget what one of my coworkers said after he added me on Snapchat. "You seem so different on Snapchat. You seem so full of life." I laughed. "Yeah, because this place literally sucks the soul out of my body."
Then I realized something. What good is the money if I'm seriously making myself miserable? I worked about five days a week and spent most of my time at a place I absolutely hated. I thought about how irresponsible and stupid it would be to quit just because I was unhappy if I was making such good money. And then I thought: What the hell? Why not?
One day, I didn't show up. I had nothing lined up to fall back on. I had no idea what to do next. My parents were extremely pissed. I honestly felt pretty stupid. But I genuinely thought that living on peanut butter and jelly and old soup in the back of my pantry from 2004 was better than walking into that shithole ever again and being talked down to all the time by both the people I worked with and the people I served.
Here's where the happy ending comes in. I decided to apply to Topgolf. The interview process was probably one of the strangest, yet best experiences I've ever had. Basically, they stuck 100 of us in a room, blasted music and made us dance and talk to each other even though we were all complete strangers and just watched us interact. I did a damn cartwheel into a split while I was jacked up on nothing but Mountain Dew. Something came over me. I swear it was the positive energy all around me. I'm naturally a shy person at first, but I felt like I was at home being my weird and crazy self. I now work with the most amazing, positive, hilarious people who never fail to uplift my spirits. I dance around at work and act like a fool and have the pleasure of serving the best and most fun-loving guests who are all just trying to have a good time. And I still make great money!
Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to quit that awful job or walk away from whatever makes you unhappy. Money is not the only thing that will make you happy. Good people and good vibes are what makes you happy. It is more than possible to have a job where you can make a living and love what you do. You just have to not be afraid to go get it. I know that I won't be working in restaurants for the rest of my life, but in the meantime, I know to not ever put up with mistreatment and disrespect just to make a buck, and I will always remember that when I embark on my journey of pursuing a writing career as well.
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