The short answer is that I had a midlife crisis. I hated my career, my son was turning into a teenager searching for his own identity, and I had no specialized education or skills. When I tried to imagine the rest of my life, I felt sick. I had to do something.
I grew up in restaurants and stayed in the service industry in one form or another all of my life. I was a hostess, server, bartender, and manager. I worked in nightclubs, neighborhood bars, cafes, craft cocktail bars, coffee shops, and fine dining. From Las Vegas to New Orleans- I worked in places that were everything from historical and elegant to fun and exotic. I’m a vet when it comes to service, wine, exotic booze, and making people feel good about themselves. And I hate it. I am uncomfortable selling myself. I feel dishonest selling products I care nothing about and that people don’t need. I resent making someone else money. It’s humiliating when people talk to me like I’m idiot or call me by an occupational title. I hate being leered at but I am equally terrified that my income will lower or I will be unhireable when they stop (or that I’ll be forced into management). Serving alcohol and meat conflict with my spiritual beliefs (which have no place in bars and restaurants).
You would never know it by looking at me at work, but everyday I would die just a little more inside. I just wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing in this life. In what was supposed to be the peak of my career, a little voice started whispering things like, “Are you going to do this for the rest of your life? What about when you get older? How will you retire?”
While some people have fulfilling life-long careers in the service industry (my life partner included), I only ever did it to make money because I didn’t know how to do anything else. There is no retirement plan for service workers and workers who do well in tips still do just that… work for tips. For me, that type of lifestyle is not sustainable. Not in the long run and certainly not for my golden years. Thinking of bar and restaurant management or ownership makes me want to hurl myself off the nearest tallest building. I have zero aspirations to move up. It’s not for me.
So I started jumping from one escape plan to the next. For about a year I toyed with becoming a yoga teacher. Then proudly announced I would go back to school for a quick degree in web design. I didn’t know what I wanted to be but I knew I wanted to have the freedom to travel, work the hours that I set for myself, and become an expert in something else. Something meaningful that contributed to society. . I don’t want to be another fat stupid American that can’t fill in a world map. Something spiritually fulfilling and larger than myself. I fancy myself a giver and not a taker but was that true? I started meditating, journaling, and asked endless questions trying to find peace. I was restless, twitchy, and depressed. I’m thankful to my family who stood by me during that flakey, confused, self-searching time.
I began to think about what makes me, me. Who I am and what I want out of this life. I thought back to when I was a kid and about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought about how I pictured my life as an adult and realized that I still had that same vision. I started researching all sorts of different majors and careers. I threw out the idea that my major had to be practical. This is my life, damn it, and if I want a “useless” degree in something that lit up my life studying then who cares? Worse case scenario I get a new job making the same amount of money and I’m smarter. Best case scenario I find work doing something meaningful that I love and I live out my later years understanding a bit more about the world around me and how things work. Either way I’ll be in a better position to help people and make a difference in this world for the better.
So I did it. I enrolled in the local community college to get my basics out of the way before transferring to a university. I just finished my first semester and I’m so proud of myself. I’m one of the oldest ones there but I don’t care at all (and neither do they). I enjoy it now in a way I couldn’t have when I was younger. I’m not distracted by the things younger people are. I already know and am comfortable with myself. I love to study, the smell of a library, and sitting by myself in the cafeteria. I want to major in anthropology but was so amazed by the modern civilization class that I’m thinking of double majoring: anthropology and history. There is a “peace and conflict” minor that I’ve got my eye on. I can’t get enough! Once I started I knew right away that this was the right decision and this is absolutely what I am supposed to be doing right now. And because I’m older and doing this for self enrichment I can stay in school for the next 10 years if I want, so why not go all the way? At first I thought this was a selfish silly idea.. going all the way… what does that mean? Could someone like me get a PhD? I whispered the idea shyly to my advisor and she told me with a laugh, “Sure, why not? People do it everyday, why not you? What makes other people deserve it but not you?”
There is one other reason that I decided this would be the perfect time to go back to school. My son will be a freshman in high school next year. I hope to be a good example for him. Perhaps I clear a path for him and show him different options he otherwise wouldn’t have otherwise known existed. I hope it helps us bond. I hope to show him how interesting and enjoyable life can be. I hope he is fearless and lives all his dreams. I hope I can inspire him.
So I’m writing this blog to help keep me motivated. As time goes by and things get hard or I forget my initial passion, I can look back and watch my progress. I’m writing this to connect with those of you on the same path. To share and get advice. To encourage and be inspired. To listen carefully to feedback and learn from other bloggers.
Are you going to college? What had been your experience so far?