Smokey Row

I’m sitting at the coffee shop, trying to work on homework but struggling with distractablity. This coffee shop/restaurant is crowded (though I managed to score a table, much to the jealously of people balancing their laptops on their knees in random chairs scattered around) and I’m watching the girl at the cash register absolutely bust her ass to keep up with the rush of people. She is ringing things up, getting drinks and baked goods, keeping track of who is supposed to be getting the Cobb salad and who is still waiting on a latte.

I’ve been that girl. I’ve been a hostess and a server and worked in department stores and mall shops and had plenty of jobs where work meant eight or even ten full hours on your feet, smiling at strangers, hustling for their convenience. Some of the jobs were good (I genuinely enjoyed working at the Speedo store), some were not (coming home from serving at Don Pablos, stinking of salsa and cigarette smoke since I always seem to get stuck with the smoking section) but I worked hard, really hard, at all of them. I was always that girl who would pick up your shift or work a double or happily work on any holiday where I could get time and a half. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down an opportunity to make money, ever.

I’m sitting here today because I am supposed to be doing my homework so I can get my Phd and become a college dean or vice-president some day. I’ll most likely (unless there is a dramatic twist of fate awaiting me) not ever work behind a cash register again. I think that me, 15 years ago, would consider that a sign of success.  I’d probably think things were so much easier now that I am a boss and work at a desk.

And, in some ways they are. The money is certainly better and I don’t stink like other people’s food at the end of every day, so there is that. But I’m also worried more and less healthy and tired all the time…which maybe due to the fact that I can’t sleep in until 10am every day like I did when I was in service type jobs, but is also due to work stress, I think.

I feel like my work+grad school+parenting+rest of my life stress is at an unsustainable level right now, much worse for some reason than it was last semester. I find myself envying the coffee shop girl, assuming her life to be less complicated than mine, as though it were a competition, as though I’d be happier to be her than me.

It isn’t. And I wouldn’t be. But I think I need a massage and less caffeine and more fun and more sleep. 

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