This past Saturday, I was scheduled to start my first shift as a server. It’s an amazing feeling to find a job after searching around for months. I’m productive. I’m part of society. I belong. No more worried phone calls from relatives with suggestions. No more “Sorry, we only accept online applications.” It’s an amazing feeling, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t nervous about starting my first shift. Generally, I have confidence in my ability to learn new information and skills. When I begin a new task I think, “Okay, I may barely know how to do this, but that’s how it’s been with learning to swim, riding a bicycle, every job I’ve ever had, and so on.” Just a few minutes before I found my balance on a bicycle, I was swearing my body just wasn’t built for one, that it would never happen for me. Now, it’s different. The feeling of “I’ll never be able to do this,” is still there, but it’s met by a voice fortified with experience, a voice that says, “Don’t be silly, you always say that and you always do it.”
On my last day of training, my manager asked me how I was feeling about the job - if I was ready to start. I answered honestly. I told her, “I’m a little bit nervous but if I’m starting with a lunch shift then I feel like I can totally handle it. I’ve never worked in a restaurant before, let alone as a server, so I wouldn’t want to start on a Friday or Saturday night. I heard from the other waiters they can be overwhelming and I’d rather work my way up than jump into the deep end.” She told me, “Don’t even worry about it. I don’t think you’ll see a Friday or Saturday night for a couple of weeks. We make sure our new servers start with smaller sections and shifts to get comfortable. You’re going to do fine.”
That week, I waited with anxious excitement for the schedule to be posted online. There’s a website that the restaurant uses to coordinate scheduling, swaps, and requests for time off. I approve. It’s nice when technology makes life easier. As I logged on to check the schedule, I was in shock. Sure enough, I had been scheduled to start my first shift on a Saturday night. “This would happen to me,” I thought to myself, “What do I do? Do I just go in to work the shift and do my best? Or could this be a mistake? Do I tell someone about this?” I decided to e-mail my manager to make sure the information was correct. If she told me it was on purpose, then I would see it as a test and do my best. If not, then maybe she’d be happy I caught an error. It was a win-win. Regardless, I was chewing my fingers to the bones as I awaited her reply. I felt scared. Just like riding a bicycle, I was sure I would never be able to do it. But the voice of experience in the back of my head kept reassuring me, “Don’t be silly, you always say that and you always do it.”
Later that day, I received her reply. As I read it, I felt embarrassed. I won’t copy and paste the e-mail, but in a nutshell, she told me, “Don’t worry. We’re trying out a new floor plan and adding extra servers to the Saturday night shift so that new people can get comfortable on busy nights by managing fewer tables. I remember you said you were worried and we absolutely wouldn’t start you off with something you couldn’t handle. Relax. You’ll do fine.” I felt silly to have gotten so worked up about the situation because I was giving in to my doubts. In life, my goal is often to hope for the best and plan for the worst. But sometimes planning for the worst is more trouble than it’s worth. And often, the worst I can imagine is significantly exaggerated from what is likely happening. The whole time, the situation was under control and there was no reason for me to feel so anxious.
In preparation for my first shift, I made flash cards of all the menu items. I made sure to note what sides come with each entrée, the ingredients in each dish, the list of salad dressings, the list of sides, what dishes are spicy, to always ask how a person wants the steak cooked, etc. I did the best I could to memorize as much as I could before Saturday came. The more I reviewed through the cards and the more I remembered about the menu, the more confident I felt about my position. “I can do this,” I thought to myself, “I’ve been getting worked up over nothing. I can do this.” On Friday night, I went to sleep feeling good. Whatever was coming my way, I was ready to handle it.
On Saturday morning, I awoke to a message on my answering machine. “Hi, Ian – It looks like we’re getting a lot of snow today. You don’t need to come in. Relax and enjoy the day.” Wow. All that over nothing. Just like that. I mean, I wouldn’t say I wasted time studying and making flash cards. That was a great idea no matter what. But I felt so much anxiety surrounding the Saturday night shift. To find out that I felt the way for no reason… well, it just makes me feel ridiculous. After all my worrying, everything turned out the way I hoped it would. But that’s not the point. The point is that even if I had worked on Saturday night, it would have been okay. Even if my managers put me in a larger zone, it would have been okay. Maybe I would have made a few mistakes. Maybe I’d have been perfect. It doesn’t matter. After all this, I am once again reminded that life goes on. No matter what happens, it’ll be okay. No one makes it out alive anyway. The most we can do is have the best experiences we can in each and every moment. And that means learning to have some faith in yourself and in the Universe so that you don’t sweat the small stuff.
This week, let’s meditate on positive perseverance. You’ve made it this far. You can keep going. Feel good about it. Whatever comes your way you can handle it. Whether it’s the small stuff or even the big stuff, you’ll do the best that you can. Just remember to let go of that which is not in your control. Sometimes life will give you challenges and place obstacles in your path. It’s supposed to happen that way. Don’t get nervous. Don’t fight it. Don’t try to run away from it. Embrace it. Move with the flow and harmony of life. Quiet the worrying in your mind so that you may hear the tune of the Universe. So that you may dance to it.
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