I had my formal review at work this week. It went really well, which I figured it would, despite deep-seeded and unfounded doubts. I've been working at my company for over a year now, which puts me way farther along than I ever saw myself a year ago. Up until an internship I had last year at a marketing company, I had only ever worked at restaurants as a hostess, food runner, kitchen bitch, server, and bartender. I had found kindred spirits amongst bar staff and regulars. I read Raymond Carver and Charles Bukowski. I knew that I would only blossom as a writer if I stayed among my people; the down and out, the romantics, the off-the-beaten-paths. But secretly? Well, secretly I wanted a routine. I wanted to wake up early in the morning, my favorite time of day, and be refreshed. I wanted to hang out at coffee shops on the weekend instead of cutting fruit and mixing bloody marys. I wanted to get a paycheck direct deposited into my bank account instead of waiting for the ATM to sort through all of my cash, spitting back the tattered, folded ones and fives from the night before. I wanted to wear dresses instead of jeans, sandals instead of black sneakers, bangs instead of headbands and bobby pins. I wanted to live in the daytime, to meet other people who lived in the daytime, to use the college degree I was washing pint glasses to pay for, to lie in the grass without counting down the hours until my bar shift began.
Then one day, on one of the first sunny spring days of 2010, I headed to the bar where I'd worked for almost four years. I'd received a voicemail from my manager, something about a scheduling mix up, and decided to just go in rather than calling back. I went in, said hi to my friends that were working, then headed downstairs to the office to work out the kinks in my schedule. Two minutes later, I was told that I had a rotten attitude and that I would no longer be needed. Three minutes later I was standing in front of the bar where I'd served countless SoCo & limes, super sweet cocktails, ice waters, and tabs, and told my friends that I'd just gotten fired. I walked home, sunglasses on, sobbing to Jenna on the phone about what happened.
But even then, in the depths of rejection, confusion, and terror at not being able to pay my bills, I knew that better things were coming to me. Even as my eyes got puffy and I hyperventilated, I knew that I couldn't mourn that which I'd outgrown. While I don't believe I deserved to be fired (let's be honest, who does?), I couldn't argue that my attitude had gone downhill in the months preceding. I was restless, unhappy. I was outgrowing a shell that I'd convinced myself was the only one I'd ever get. Since being fired from my last restaurant gig, I've found a good job at a great company; I've found freelancing opportunities; I've joined a writing group, read so many books, and started a book blog; I've met a wonderful man who makes me happier than I ever thought a romantic relationship was capable; I've traveled to see friends, and aspired for more. While I still have financial fears and utter confusion as to where I see myself in five years, I have proven more capable than I give myself credit for. And that's always reason enough to keep going.
I keep this painful memory as a reminder that no matter how many circumstances I can name, usually the only thing holding me back is myself.