Last year, I worked for four months as a hostess at a restaurant. It was all right. I liked my co-workers and my managers, but I got pretty fed up with the job itself.
It was a stressful job, and I didn't cope well with it. I felt like there were a million people to please (my bosses, the servers, the customers) and it was impossible to do it all. I often felt like I was crumbling under the pressure.
I hated that feeling. Most of my life, I had been used to the idea that if I worked hard and tried my best, I could do well at anything I put my mind to. That's the way I'd always been with school, even with the most difficult subjects. Yet, here was a job where I just couldn't seem to do well. I wasn't terrible (I think), but I certainly wasn't excelling. I never felt confident. I floundered.
It took me a while to be okay with this. Not that I think I ought to be good at everything--I know I'm not--but this was a minimum-wage job that (I thought) almost anyone could do. It didn't take education or intelligence to do this. Why was it so difficult for me? It didn't make sense. I didn't think it was normal to struggle in a job like this--especially when I was trying so hard.
Eventually I realized that it's not just okay to be bad at some things...it's actually a good thing. I don't want to work in food service. It's absolutely not my goal, and it never was. So why do I want to be good at it? Why do I feel any kind of need to be good at it?
Moreover, it was silly of me to think that minimum-wage jobs are supposed to be easy. They don't have special requirements, which is why anyone can try to do them, but they are usually difficult, stressful, and unfulfilling. It was good for me to see and experience that, so that I don't take my life and my education for granted.
And I had to remind myself that I can do hard things. I've cultivated an ability within myself to deal well with pressure--but not all pressure is the same. The pressures of food service were too much for me, but I've successfully dealt with many tough assignments and impossible deadlines at school. Once I had to write an entire draft of a paper in one day, and then about an hour before it was due, I lost it all due to a computer malfunction (on a school computer--even more frustrating). Somehow, I managed to rewrite the entire thing before it was due. This wasn't a measly opinion paper--it had an annotated bibliography. I still have no idea how I did that. I remind myself of that experience sometimes, to remember that I can deal with hard situations and make it out okay.
So I discovered that I'm not good at everything. That I can't deal with every kind of stress. But you know what? I do have skills. I do have strength. I can do hard things. And ultimately, I made it through those months I needed to work in food service, and I'm stronger for it. And now I can focus on bigger goals than just a paycheck.