Turned On

When I go a few days without writing, I honestly don’t even know where to start. So much has happened… more than I remember, actually. My job is physically difficult and leaves me spent, so I don’t have as much time to re-live my life as I used to. I don’t have the brain power for it.

As I have said before, that’s the point. Life is meant to be lived forwards, and taking time each day to overthink about what happened is nailing one hand to the past. I intentionally chose this job to get out of my head and back into my body. I feel every cut, bruise, and ache. I wake up completely ataxic, lacking basic coordination because my muscles and bones need time to start working together again, particularly without pain so I can hold myself up. My feet and hands have it the worst, which is why in the mornings, my movements are “wonkier” than usual. There is no cure for this, as I have a palsy in my brain that’s been there since I was born. But I can treat it to bring myself up to almost normal with naproxen sodium and arthritis-level acetaminophen (1300mg time release). I buy huge bottles off of Amazon that are Costco/Kirkland brand, which means I can get (facetiously) 80,000 pills for a dollar. My movements have always been a little off- movements being a lot off is caused by pain…. and not a little bit. You would think that this would make me think this is not the job for me.

But by the time service starts, I am out of pain and my muscle memory takes over, a kind of out of body experience in which I feel nothing physically until we get the all-clear that the kitchen is closed. Cooking and dish washing are also great jobs for people with ADHD, where that type of multi-tasking is celebrated. Being physically tired also slows my brain down enough that I can function without medication, because there’s only 26 channels on instead of 102, all blaring at once.

Although I will say that I have come to a crossroads, even though I don’t know any more than I did last week. University of Maryland did indeed call me back, and they want to schedule an interview. But, in terms of “the road not taken,” I am wondering if I am capable of walking both paths at once, cutting my hours down at the pub and working full time. The money is not the issue here, Dude. It’s that I’m having too much fun to quit, and this company has been more than amazing to me. There is a part of me that thinks I flat belong in a kitchen, and I make enough to support myself. But I will not and cannot ignore a job that, as part of its benefits package, comes with tuition waivers. It’s the type job I’ve been trying to get since I arrived on the DC scene, because I know it’s one of the only ways I’ll be able to pay for school without owing the government or a bank an absolute shit ton of money once I graduate. My fear is that working at a pub makes going to class easier, because I have all seven days free. However, I haven’t even interviewed yet, so I’ll cross that time bridge when and if I come to it.

The feeling of pride I have in myself is palpable and lights me up from the inside. External validation is nice, but absolutely not necessary, a change in my mental state that has made all the difference in the world. For someone with a litany of mental illnesses for which I take medication to correct (which it does), feeling proud of myself goes just as far as popping pills to even the chemical imbalances in my brain. For instance, every time I get paid, I remember just how much blood, sweat and tears went into every dollar.

However, I still haven’t gotten first blood from my knife to make it mine. All of my cuts have come from sharp metal corners on pans, or a mandoline that is of the devil. Every time I have to use or wash it, I’m just like, “not today, Satan.” I’ve also kept hurting myself on the line to a minimum. The worst injuries have come from prep, because my work station is right next to a convection oven that I always hope is turned off, but rarely ever is.

Perhaps I should just turn my energy inward, and hope that I stay turned on, rather than the oven.

It’s working out pretty well so far.

Long Days, Short Nights

I find that the longer I work at the pub, the stronger I get. This is naturally what’s supposed to happen. You can’t carry stuff that heavy and do what’s basically a cross between Zumba and hot yoga for six to eight hours at a clip and not feel a change in your muscle mass. Although I will admit that though I’ve been tempted, there’s been at least twice where I just wanted one of the guys to take over. I couldn’t bring myself to ask.

I’m short, and I have trouble dead lifting 50-60 lbs over my head. I also have trouble admitting that men have better upper body strength and are taller, because what comes to me first is that women can do anything men can do, and I’m just admitting weakness and proving to myself that they can’t. Simultaneously, I would kill for someone to say, “that looks heavy. Let me carry it for you,” while I am thinking ” I would legit fall over and die before I admit defeat.” I feel I am forgetting something important- that it’s not my femininity that’s the problem. It’s that I personally am short and weak after long years of computer butt. To my credit, the “I would legit fall over and die before I admit defeat” part of me won, and I muscled through. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of working smarter and not harder. The walk-in refrigerator is set up the way it’s set up. There’s nothing to lever, pulley, or otherwise physics into being. It’s just mind over matter. If I think I can or I can’t, I’m generally right.

It makes me feel good to see these changes in my body after such a long dormant period. Even working in an office is physically lazy, though I mean no offense. It is mentally taxing to an enormous degree. This has changed due to Bluetooth, people bringing their laptops to you on battery power, and wi-fi, but when I was low on the food chain in IT (late 90s, early 2000s), I did get workouts from climbing under desks to fix cabling and the like. In IT now, you barely have to get up.

Even with the relaxed atmosphere physically, depression and anxiety build up for two reasons. The first is that you tend to see the same problems every day, sometimes from the same people… every day. The second is that they’re always mad about it, and no matter what they did, it’s all your fault. I had one person get mad at me because their thesis disappeared- they’d stuck their floppy disk onto their refrigerator with a magnet and of course, had no backups, because why would they?

For me, the difference between working in IT and working in a restaurant is that with cooking, it’s always fresh hell instead of stale. It is also a proven fact that movement is an excellent treatment for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. None of my own mental problems were caused by working in IT, but if you’re already feeling all of these things, being mentally taxed and not physically makes it ten thousand times worse.

People haul off and call you a piece of garbage and you’ve agreed with that for years, despite the fact that you cannot help them fix their computers while their computer is on their desk at work and they’re out driving and just thought to call you from the car. I am sure that now it’s possible with remote desktop, but not if their computer is off and they’re in New York and you’re in Oregon. I’ve often been sorry for not being able to plug a computer into the wall from 3,000 miles away.

You might laugh at this, but I guarantee it’s a sad place to be, because the feeling is so helpless. You couldn’t do anything to fix the problem and even though you’ve just spent 15 minutes on the phone with a total idiot explaining in three different ways why you’re useless, it gets to you. You live for the moments when all you do is walk into a room and press one button and the entire office thinks you have magic powers.

IT jokes about idiot users conceal deep, deep rage for the very scenarios I’ve described… especially when the customer is always right and their idiocy has to come with an “I’m here to serve you” patois.

With cooking, there’s a buffer zone called waitstaff, and never think I’m ungrateful for it. While cooking is busy, it’s not nearly as abusive as working with the public.

It is, however, perpetually exhausting even as you get stronger, because I can’t speak for everyone in my profession, but my sleep cycles have gotten shorter as my body rebels against my natural circadian rhythm. If I don’t go to bed until 0200-0300, I’m still up by 0630-0700. Part of this is that there’s a ton of natural light in my room. Part of it still is that the rhythm of the world keeps going- traffic noise, lawns being mowed, construction… I try to nap, but so far, that isn’t doing anything for me. I just “keep calm and coffee on.” Because of the noise, even if I take a sleeping pill, it doesn’t keep me asleep. I just feel like I’m walking through a Jell-o mold at dawn.

Yet another reason why my shift drink is usually club soda with extra ice and lime. The sugar rush of beer keeps me up even later. I give in when I don’t have to work the next day, because sometimes a cold one after work is a good thing, and it is also important to say that I’ve at least tried our products…. I haven’t had a bad beer yet, and it is vital to me that what I’m drinking is local to my adopted hometown.

I have also learned the hard way that too much alcohol makes my medication less effective, and the last thing I need on earth is that happening. And, apparently, too much alcohol, for me, is having a beer every night… something lots of people do, and I joined them until I had my own epiphany about it. Too much for me is different than most people, and I’m okay with that.

Plus, beer doesn’t have ice in it, and by the time I get out of the kitchen, it is the first thing I want. I could take a bath in ice and it wouldn’t be too much…. and in fact, might be a good idea given how badly I have osteoarthritis in my back and hands.

But for all my aches and pains, I never think about what’s happening mentally with me. I just act on instinct. Childhood trauma and adult chemical imbalances mean nothing to the ticket machine, which, for me, is all about saving the waitstaff from customer abuse. In a way, it’s giving back to all the people who’ve helped me along the way.

I do get a break on Memorial Day, though. It’s up in the air as to what I will do, because there will be several parties going on that I don’t want to miss, giving toasts to the fallen… with extra ice.