New Post: 2nd Tuesday of the Month
To pay rent, I work as a server in a restaurant. It's a physically demanding, multi-tasking, tip hustling art performance. Some days I get frustrated, most days I try to have fun.
Yet somehow "society" sees my job as something to grow out of, a temporary arrangement, not a life choice.
A couple months ago, I broke my foot (slipping on a pine cone, of all things). My X-ray results crushed me - I knew I couldn't work with a broken foot. The doctor suggested I do "back-office work", then added, "Maybe, who knows, they'll let you do that permanently." Immediately assuming I didn't like my job, that I would enjoy doing "office" work. At my small Korean-owned ramen restaurant, there is no "office" work. Our office is a corner between the dish-washing station and a rack for pots & Cambros.
I have actually worked in an office and hated it: working more than 40 hours in a week, stuck in a room, sitting in front of a computer, sharing an office with people at least fifteen years older. I couldn't stand it. I couldn't focus, spent most of my time surfing the Internet and eventually got fired.
As a kid, I loved to play Diner Dash. I loved it’s routine - take order, bring food, take payment, bus table. Now reality isn't as fun as the game - taking out the trash & sweeping was not required in the virtual world. But the bustle is real and a thrill.
Sometimes weird and funny shit happens - like a group of USC students who opened at least ten packets of chopsticks, claiming they smelled funny... like wood.
But everywhere I go, when I say I work at a restaurant I feel a judgy vibe. Why am I not trying to “better” myself?
A co-worker asked me this week what I wanted to do in life. (TBH I want to burn shit down, etc etc, but that uncomfortable truth aside...) I am doing what I want to do - working part-time, writing part-time. I don't know if I want to make money from my writing. I don't like money. I know we need it because the system of capitalism we currently live under, but I don't like it. I want my poetry & writings to be accessible, I’m sharing my story to inspire & help others, not to gain material wealth. I believe in exchange and give-what-you can, because artists should be compensated for their work, but this shouldn’t be a marker of success or the sole goal.
However artists living their hustle does inspire me - folx creating content and using Patreon to support themselves; folx doing workshops, lectures, and key-note speeches on resistance at educational institutions; folx using grants to support marginalized voices. As someone with light-skinned, cis-privilege, I haven’t stepped into that space, to allow for others to inhabit it. I try to balance my anti-capitalism, privilege and joy.
Sometimes I joke, serving is my hobby, and writing is my job. Who says you must define job as something paid? If we didn't live under capitalism, I don't know what I would choose to do, but it would most likely still involve art & food.
Point is - don't demean people's work within the service & labor industry. Don’t demean what people have to do to survive. Instead of talking shit on people's jobs, let's talk shit on the institution of work. Eight hours of labor for someone else's gain? Who is creating value? Who keeps the material wealth? Is it fair that Bezos is a billionaire and line cooks are paid minimum wage? Cleaning & cooking are essential tasks, yet these are often the least valued - both in how they are paid and viewed. Why?
Let's take down this hierarchy of work, y'all. Don’t let societal norms & pressures define you. Find joy, especially if you are a person of color, especially if you are a Black and/or Indigenous person of color (BIPOC). Don’t get caught up in how others define success, define success your own way. Finding joy can be an act of resistance, if this joy is not rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism.
There’s so much more to say on this topic, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll end here.