It’s true, I pull a few shifts at a really nice local restaurant, and people ask me fairly frequently why I do it when I’ve got so much else going on. I fully trust my own professional skills, but there are a whole host of reasons why I keep an partially-employed foot in the “human” world, and why I still wait tables. Here are a few of the biggest:
Working online can create false realities.
I love what I do. I came of age with the internet. I love getting paid to be a writer. I love showing people how to fine-tune and manage their online presence in order to maximize its usefulness for them. I love sharing positive messages and helping people promote themselves.
This is not the real, tangible world though, despite how much a part of our lives it has become. The real world is the actual output my clients create, and the “ROI” is seeing their products and their offerings reach and inspire further. Because part of the work I do, however, means that I am immersed in stats and analytics and subscriber list growth, serving actual food to actual human beings keeps me grounded.
Serving food is a path of service.
There was a point in time when I was much too arrogant and sensitive to serve people food (obviously, this was prior to parenthood and during my extended period of child-free self-absorption). After spending a few years wiping someone else’s butt, a lot of that just… left. I realize this is a really gross comparison to make when discussing the reason I keep a moonlighting gig as a waitress, but parenthood (and the attending butt-wiping) has definitely made me a better, more humble person.
Too, after five years of being a stay-at-home mom, I understand the great pleasure in eating a meal out: someone else cooks the food for you, brings it to your table, makes sure you have something to drink, helps to keep your feral children occupied and then takes all the dirty plates away when you’re done, never to be seen again. After you leave, they sweep up the mess your kids left.
Now granted, there are all kinds of scenarios besides parenthood that warrant the relief of someone else cooking and serving you food and cleaning up after you – this is the one I personally relate to most, but I also understand long work days, lonely Sunday mornings, sheer laziness, and treating myself.
It’s a chance to network.
One of the other servers where I work is also a writer. He has his own pens printed up and offers them for use when people sign credit card payment slips. They very often take his pens, and they like to ask him about himself and the writing he does.
I now have my own pens too. I like real world connections. I could do nearly everything I do online without ever meeting a client in person (and it has happened) but I really enjoy connecting with people when I can.
It’s actually really good personal development work.
In everything I do for other people I make a sincere effort to please. No matter how grumpy you may be when you show up at my table, making sure you have the best experience you can with me at your service is my goal.
If you’ve ever been in a service position, you’ll know there are certain people for which there is simply no pleasing, ever. Waiting tables has helped me develop much thicker skin in this regard, reminding me that when I encounter these folks, it’s not me, and it’s not personal. It has most definitely required lots of personal work but over the years I’ve developed the kind of healthy confidence I can rely on when I encounter people and situations like this: I can acknowledge my own mistakes and I can ask for help when necessary, but I also know my boundaries and my limitations now. I will clearly state when something is beyond my capacity, and I also know that if within those parameters I have done my very best then I have done all I can.
So there you have it. If that’s you, reading this because you took one of my pens at the restaurant, well, hello there! Nice to meet you. How can I be of service to you today?