Saturday, October 12, 2013

In Retrospect

Moving to the East Coast opened a new chapter in my life, and with that move came several changes. Now that I have been here for two and a half months, I thought I'd reflect on new elements in my life.

I grasped the opportunity prompted by a major life change to make smaller changes in my lifestyle. I decided to write more, and writing for Lydia Magazine has been an important stepping stone in my journey (you can read my latest article here!). I wasn't searching for opportunities to write for other publications while in California, but now I love contributing to an online magazine whose ethos I believe in strongly.

Gaining the Internet in the Hobbit Hole has brought many unexpected changes. I have utilized social media further to promote my writing. My social media networks are essentially microscopic at this point, but every +1 from Google gives me a little boost of excitement! Although I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, I keep mine so I can post my latest blog pieces. I got a Pinterest account, and surprise, surprise, I included a link to my blog! My life is increasingly played out in an Internet setting.

It's easy to get distracted by the flashing ads and beautiful Pinterest pictures, and I've found that it's important to set boundaries on the Internet, and refocus my mind and heart through pen and paper. All my rough drafts for Lydia are handwritten. I have been journaling far more consistently as well. My blog posts are usually typed, but sometimes they come from thoughts that originated in the journal. 

Switching gears to job reflections, I didn't think I would work in a preschool again. It was a great learning experience in California, but I thought it would be fun to try something new. However, I realized that the something new is writing every day. I found that I missed the smiles and glitter and atmosphere of nurturing in a preschool. And when I spent time with my adorable 3-year-old cousin-in-law, I was convinced that I wanted to search for another preschool job. Life is full of surprises. I begin my new job on Tuesday, and I'll be working three days a week. I'll be learning what it means to be a writer the other two days.

And this reflection would not be complete if I didn't mention the cafe job I held for the past month. Poor Aaron heard me complain about it until a good friend of mine gave me an attitude check and shared her secret of taking pride even in the small aspects of work. I'd like to share the other lessons I learned from my service experience with you.

When I began my job, I felt like Jon Snow (I knew nothing). I didn't know how to fill the sanitation buckets or where everything went in the fridge or the trick of how to add jimmies to a person's ice cream scoop without spilling them all over the floor. It took a few weeks to overcome the learning curve.

Working a service job made me grateful for all those who are willing to change their schedules to meet a need in the world. Cashiers and baristas and popcorn scoopers give up their Friday night or Saturday afternoon so that we can fulfill our indulgences. From now on, I will always tip those serving me, because even it seems like they are only putting money in a register, before I came in, they were scrubbing bathroom baseboards with a toothbrush. Service jobs involve a lot of behind the scenes cleaning. Even in the movie theater, when the main part of my job was serving customers popcorn and soda (and I loathed saying 'A large soda is only 50 cents more' when what I really wanted to do was throw the soda on the ground and tell the managers that I wasn't going to be part of their system), I was cleaning whenever there was a dull moment.

Customers provide either entertainment or frustration. A sweet old man told me that the Converse I wore were the same ones he wore to play high school basketball in 1955. That made my day. Once a little old lady asked me to keep her food hot for her, because she was going to the bathroom and she was going to be a while. That made my coworkers and me laugh. There were others who were not so charming. On my last day of work, two ladies ordered their food at the same time and then wanted to split the bill, and I had to go get my manager for approval in our computer system. That wouldn't have been so bad, but one of the ladies told me that next time I should ask customers if they were paying separately or together. I'm sure she was just trying to be helpful, but I wanted to tell her not to tell me how to do my job, and that most of the time I did ask that question. Obviously it was my fault, though, and of course I smiled and thanked her for her patronizing suggestion. I preferred the way her friend handled the situation. She said, “You'll have to watch out for us next time!” and made a joke out of the situation.

When service workers make a mistake, you can usually bet they already feel bad about it and are working to fix it. If a mistake is made with your order, by all means speak up, but show a little patience and gentleness when you do. Getting upset solves nothing. We had 28 flavors of ice cream, but could only display 20 at a time, and coworkers told me that if someone came in and their favorite flavor wasn't out, but they were nice about their disappointment, often the coworker would go in the back to fetch that person's favorite flavor. However, if the person was mean about it, they would simply say, “We don't have that flavor. Sorry.” Kindness prompts workers to make your experience as pleasant as possible. Anger leads to forced smiles, and jokes behind your back when you leave (and hate, and suffering, and the Dark Side).

Appreciation was the main lesson I learned, and one I continue to learn as I attempt to be grateful for everything life throws me. In two more months, I can only imagine what new reflections I will write. For now, I am excited to start a new job, watch the fall leaves change, and write.

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