For a long time, in my previous life and previous career, I made secret plans of moving out to the middle of nowhere. My roommate, Taylor, will vouch for this, as he came home many nights to find me house hunting on various Realty websites. Ultimately, the location of my dream house often depended on the month and the weather here in Los Angeles. If it was rainy, I would be looking for a six bedroom something out in the middle of Arizona, Tucson to be specific, or it’s outskirts. If it were sunny here – as it is most times – I would be looking for something in Lake Tahoe, the Nevada side, where I was positive I could get a better deal. I fantasized about being able to buy a half a million dollar house, fill it with beautiful women and have either water balloon or snowball fights, once again depending on where the house was located. This virtual escape from the conditions in which I lived made it possible for me to continue living. I would tell myself, “This time next year, I’ll be out in the world, alone, doing something else.” I made plans to become a certified Bikram yoga teacher, said, “If I’m in Tahoe, I’ll teach little kids how to snowboard during winter, and run a boat and jet ski rental during summer.” At no point did the financial probability of this fantasy becoming reality ever come in to play because finances were flexible, I thought of my bank account as a resilient thing that bounced back as quickly as it drained. The dream wasn’t necessarily about leaving, or starting fresh, or creating a sexual palace in which I’d be free to do as I pleased sans judgement. I simply wanted to be alone.
The motivation behind that drive for loneliness remains unknown to me. Whether as a result of believing I didn’t deserve to be with some one because of the nature of my every one occupation, or the belief that if I were attached to a person, I’d ultimately screw it up and would thereby save the world the trouble of dealing with me, I was determined to spend the rest of my life in emotional, solitary confinement. Sequestered off from mankind and yet still able to view the goings on, in my own safe, voyeur bubble.
Aristotle, in Politics, c. 328 BC, said, “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something in nature that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as to not need to, and therefore does not partake in society, is either a beast or a god.”
Now, a fully functional human, participating fully in a functional role in this society, I am able to look at those fantasies with clear eyes. An understanding that I’d wanted to be elsewhere for so long, and the knowledge that now, all I wish is to be present, is the most comprehensive way of illuminating the changes I’ve undergone.
I say all this because I am nearly finished with the final rewrite of my book, and I realize how lonely I’ve become. What a lonely life the author leads, locked away with his or her thoughts, a pad and a pen that runs perilously low of ink. I tried working in coffee shops, so that I’m surrounded by people, my people, our people, and I still felt removed, floating away in the safety bubble. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of emotions, pleasure with the ending of the project, sorrow with the story being finalized and cast out into the universe, curiosity as to what comes next, and in which form it will come. So I decided to return to the restaurant, to be a part of something again, a team of men and women that bring other people things.
I am not returning as a waitress, a promotion from my starting position as hostess and was a big deal to me last year – a promotion which theoretically meant less hours and more money. But after six months of being apart from it, I can now see the action and attraction there. It was a subtle way for me to hustle like I once did. It was less harmful than the previous hustle, but the hustle, schmoozing, manipulating tables for twenty percent is not something I want to do anymore. Just like I don’t want to move out to the desert for water balloon fights with hot chicks (although, I must admit, it sounds nice when I say it aloud). I want to work honestly, effortlessly, I don’t want my cash/tip income to be based on how good I can make the customer feel… I was a horrible stripper when I danced, and though it’s quite different, it all feels very similar. Servers and strippers are the lone wolves of the “service” industry. For some it’s very suiting, a career even if done well. For me, it is exhausting, emotionally and physically, and not worth the little financial gain.
So I am back as a hostess, pleased to be part of this super girly team that brings people to their seats, sets menus and walks back to guard the front door. Yesterday was my first day, and the welcome was so warm, I was touched. Hugs from the Chefs, Bussers and Runners. Girl talk with the hostesses and servers. “I missed you,” from many people in the restaurant, to which I replied, “I missed you too.” I did. I missed being a part of something. I missed the team. I missed my feet hurting, and the hard sleep that follows a long shift. I missed clocking in, learning Spanish and Chinese cuss words (it’s a sushi joint but has Chinese chefs). I missed saying goodnight, high-fiving the valet guys, and waiting for my schedule come Sunday evening.
When I first got the job, I didn’t understand how people do it. The work every day, soreness, save money to do special things deal. Now, I wouldn’t change it for the world, because I get to be part of the world.