Monday, October 27, 2008
Four years ago, I was in a terrible relationship and I had a miserable job. My therapist would say, “Good mental health is determined by your love life and your job.” Well, if this was the case, I was institution bound. My boyfriend and I hated each other and fought consistently. My job was more like house arrest than work.
My then boyfriend and I had significant problems and we were still discussing marriage. I knew it was a terrible mistake but I really didn’t know what else to do. I figured it was what I was supposed to do, he made a good living, he would make a good father and he came from a great family. To add to my confusion, my father encouraged the bond and reinforced his encouragement by repeatedly telling me that “no marriage is perfect.”
At that time, I was working for a large consulting company in Chicago. I worked on the Global Events team for a Professional Services firm, we managed the sponsorship and hospitality for top tier events, i.e., the World Golf Championships, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, etc. Sounds fun, right? Well, I was miserable. I hated going to work every day, though my group was tight knit, I was the new girl and no one spoke to me. And, my boss was insane…insane in the membrane. I felt as though I was a robot, as if someone else was living my life. I was waking up, getting dressed and going through the motions of A life but not actually living MY life.
My therapist used to get very concerned, because given all my apparent misery, and there was significant misery, I was not depressed. My therapist would say, “Depression is a gauge for us, if we don’t feel depressed, we won’t change our situation.” She was right, I was not doing anything about my situation. I continued to allow a man who I knew was wrong for me occupy my life. I was afraid to leave him and I did not mind feeling complacent. I stayed in my horrible job because on the outside, as others saw it, it was a great job. I was working for one of the best companies in the United States, maybe the world, in a coveted position but I was so unhappy.
The boyfriend and I broke up that summer. After I lost the boyfriend, a new opportunity came along with a large, fancy restaurant. I thought that maybe if I had a job that I enjoyed more, I would be happier in general. My position was Event & Marketing Manager, it was a sales position and I had nearly seven years Event Marketing Experience in Advertising and Marketing. I interviewed for the position and it was offered to me almost immediately.
When I started with the restaurant, I actually did become depressed, finally. The reality of my 2.5 year relationship ending was hitting me hard and I didn’t know how to handle it. The boyfriend had offered security, entertainment, love, companionship, a future, a focus and many other things that I felt disappeared when he walked out of my life. Coupled with the fact that he had secured his next love interest before exiting with me, I was hurting! He had his new girlfriend in place and she moved in before I could even sell all my jewelry on eBay. I tried not to blame him for this, it was his Modus Operandi and I knew that when I met him. I blamed ME for being unable to move on. And I blamed myself for staying as long as I had stayed.
In an effort to move on, I threw myself into work. I worked hard, I didn’t want to do anything but make money. I went to every networking event I could find, I joined business organizations and stay connected with many local business leaders. I encouraged the restaurant to participate in charitable events that were in line with our target market in order to increase our exposure, and hopefully, leave a positive impact on the community. I booked as many corporate events and B2B events as I could – big or small.
It was the first time I felt as though I was actually working while at work. There were not any silly meetings discussing a whole bunch of nothing. I cold-called, I emailed out information and I booked events. I grew the event business for the restaurant by over 40% and I loved every minute of it. I felt as though I was actually accomplishing something.
My first year at the restaurant was solely work driven. This was the year I got my feet wet and learned as much as I could about being a Catering Manager or a Sales Manager. The second year, I realized that I had no friends at work and that the staff basically hated me. When I started, I made a point to create a clear differentiation between me and everyone else. I wanted to make the distinction that I was not one of them. This only worked against me. I realized in my second year that the servers and bartenders were my best outlet to the guests that came into the restaurant when I was not there. I worked in the office from 9:00 AM until 6:00 PM, I didn’t know a single “regular” or investor but the staff knew them well. The staff was my best ally for reaching out to our existing client base. Maybe my initial intention for reaching out to the staff was selfish but ultimately it came from a place of caring.
Around that same time, many of my long time friends got married and moved on to the suburbs, leaving me alone in the city. I will never be a suburban dweller and losing my friends to the wastelands of the suburbs was not easy for me. My friends and I used to think of ourselves as a Tribe and their exodus left me with feelings of abandonment. The family I once had, my Tribe, which had supported me through almost everything was gone and they had left with such ease. I was happy for them and their new gain, but at the same time, I truly did not feel as though they had any empathy for my situation. I heard things like “While you’re in this in between stage.” Or, “When you get married you’ll understand.” "IN BETWEEN STAGE" how dare they? What makes them think their lives are any better than mine simply because they're married?
Unlike 99% of women, my goal in life has never been to get married OR move to the suburbs. I started taking public transportation downtown (alone or with friends) when I was about 13 years old, maybe younger. I have never dreamed of a beautiful, white wedding, never dreamed of the flowers or a husband. In fact, I always thought any wedding I might have would have fire breathers and sword swallowers and possibly stilt walkers as ushers and I would be wearing black or dark purple. Certainly NOT white. When I was little and I would talk to my mom about my future husband, I would say “I hope I marry a doctor or a traveling salesman.” Because I preferred for him to be gone for long periods of time so that I could be alone.
With the comfort zone my friends once afforded me gone, I needed to replenish the friend bin. The natural fit was the restaurant. I was there all the time and I did meet a few friends that were closer to my age and who shared my same set of values. Claudia, our AM manager, and her husband, we became good friends. I loved spending my days with Claudia, she was always positive and she enjoyed her life and was so happy to be where she was in life. Claudia had great stories about her past and even better hopes for her future. But of course Claudia quickly moved on to something better too, she now lives in NY with her husband.
David was 24 when we met and he was a funny and smart. He was a young "choch" and he was doing his best to "rip it". He hooked up with "hotties" in the stairwell of the restaurant and "boned" as often as he could. Then, on Monday morning, he took pride in sharing the gruesome details of his encounters with me in my office or in our manager meetings. We had picnics together, we went for coffee together and I purposely made him stroll down Oak Street with me on the weekends, hoping against hope that we would run into that ex of mine. I would be with my hot, young friend David and he would likely think that David was my boyfriend. My favorite David story was the time he ripped the seat of his pants (he only had two suits) and WORE IT ANYWAY. It was pretty bad.
I was also friends with a few servers, Kathryn, our AM server, a recent grad from Northwestern and aspiring actress, we would laugh for hours during the day and chit chat about stupid people who would come into the restaurant and do stupid things. Like the time the woman from Naperville came into the restaurant all drunk, staggered her way to a table and then demanded that she was being treated improperly. She accused Kathryn of not knowing who SHE was, and that she was from Naperville. In fact, she insisted that she lived in a mansion in Naperville. We still laugh about that, the words “mansion” and “Naperville” should not be used in the same sentence together....ever!
And then, there was Monica, our GM, she and I became fast friends. We enjoyed dining out, wine and took our jobs very seriously. She had a great head on her shoulders and managed the restaurant quite well. We shared the same vision for the restaurant and it made working there easy and fun. Monica was 24, many years my junior, but we were very similar and had many of the same hobbies - drinking and eating. Monica was driven and smart and it was refreshing to be around someone with a different perspective. She didn’t complain about not making enough money or about getting older or about her bad relationships, etc. like my friends in their 30s complained about. She was young and her perspective kept me positive.
Finally, there is Anthony. Anthony is a character, the best character. He is the happiest man in show business. He is never, ever in a bad mood and nothing can bring him down. Not even if orally ingested. For those four years, I came to work looking forward to his arrival at 4:00 PM. Anthony is never a minute late. Some weekends I watched him when he was in full force and I admired his stamina, his relentless energy. Working in a restaurant is not an easy job, people are mean, people have been trained to believe they can treat you however they wish, like they are above you and it all rolls off Anthony. In fact, Anthony just wins people over if they are slightly condescending or completely rude. He is incredible.
In the time that I ran the events and the marketing at the restaurant, I grew a tremendous amount. I learned how to run my own business with very few resources. I learned to be fully self sufficient (which never was priority previously) and I learned that the only thing that is important is waking up in the morning next to the person you want to be with and wanting to go to the place you’re going. And the restaurant was the first job I ever had that I truly looked forward to, the first job where I couldn’t wait for Monday morning.