I woke yesterday morning after my typical four to five hours of sleep, brushed my teeth by nightlight, stumbled into the closet to find slightly presentable clothes for the day job and gather all the pieces of my uniform for the night job. As I shoved a pair of mismatched black socks into my overworked duffle bag, I remembered where my uniform was. In the washing machine. Soaked.
I got home at 11:45 the previous night, gathered the kids, brushed teeth, changed a diaper, told a story, listened to a story, prayed, put them to bed, went to the bathroom, put them to bed again, took a shower, put them to bed again, balled up all pieces of my uniform and dropped them in the washing machine, hung out with Brett while he started working, passed out on the couch, woke up with a second wind and talked with Brett some more, went back upstairs, put the kids to bed again but this time with frustration, went to bed, felt guilty about the frustration and thought if I died on the way to work in the morning that the last memory the kids would have of me is the one where I said "you what? had to see what color the stars were? oh my gosh please PLEASE get back into bed, I can't put you to bed fifty five times, I just can't, in fact, put your own covers on", got back out of bed, put he kids to bed again, this time telling them "I understand you want to see what color the stars are and that actually sounds kind of beautiful, just please obey me when I tell you to be quiet, I love you, you're treasures, were the stars pretty? good", thought, OK, that's better, now I can go to sleep.
Putting my clothes in the dryer didn't make its way into the night's design.
I dressed, took three hangers into the basement. I yanked out the heavy, wet khakis (filled with holes I cover with my apron), undershirt and used-to-be-bright-white button down and put them on the hangers. I trudged back upstairs, labored to gather my purse, my briefcase bag, my duffle bag, lifted the hanging clothes far enough above the ground, and headed to the car a suburban sherpa.
My pants hung on a fence outside of my office until I realized it was freezing the water rather than drying it. I hung them on the door next to the copy machine where people asked about them alllllllll day, draped my shirts over a cubicle wall, flipping them through the day so all surfaces had contact with the air.
This is nothing, really. This is silliness. This is an easy day. Just the most recent morning. One little thing in the past 4 1/2 years of consistent chaos. It's not all bad, certainly not. But it has been overwhelming, exhausting. Since Knight was 8 months old: two jobs, 15 or more hours per day, 6-7 days per week. Since September, for instance, I've had seven full days off. Seven. This time period, you'll note, includes Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. That means since September, Brett has had seven days where he hasn't been solely responsible for three meals a day for four kids, all diapers, all home schooling, all Lego building, toy fixing, mess cleaning, laundry, discipline, and beginning his work day at 1am.
Brett and I try not to complain too much, we don't whine, we do explain "we're tired" or "we don't have time" or "I know I forgot to text you back but HOLY HELL you have no idea..." But we both have this ability to put our heads down and go. Just go. And keep going. We're both the first born. Maybe we think we can do everything. Maybe we think we're supposed to carry maximum responsibility at all times. Whatever it is, we just keep going. I don't think we even realized how (what's the word here? struggle-laden?) our lives were until this past fall. I don't even know what woke us up, but something did. We just realized something had to change.
That's my last serving shift. February 27, 5:30–close.
It's not what you think.
After 15 years in advertising and publishing, I'm moving on. On February 28, I'll begin management training with the restaurant.
Five random days a week. 12-14 hour shifts. (That's an improvement).
Two days at home, every single week.
Brett and I have gone on one vacation. Our honeymoon. Our kids have never had a vacation. We think maybe next year we'll change that.
I am going to miss the newspaper. These people are family. Some were at my wedding. They threw me a housewarming party when Brett and I bought the town home. They furnished my nursery. They threw me a baby shower four times. Four times! They're family.
Since 2008 when I started the serving job, conversations with Brett have gone something like this:
Me: I love this restaurant. But I never want to end up a 40 year-old server.
Brett: OK, then we need to get you out of the restaurant.
Me: But I don't want to leave, I love that company.
Brett: Then I think you'd make an amazing manager at the restaurant, you love people, you love numbers, you love the company's concept and believe in it.
Me: Nah, I'm in advertising, blah blah blah.
Me: But I don't want to be a 40 year-old server.
Brett: Then you should go into management –
Me: But I love being a server.
Then one day it hit me. I had this awesome idea.
Me: Hey, Brett, I think I should leave the newspaper and go into management at the restaurant! It combines everything I love! I love the company, I believe in its concept, they are growing, I respect them, I love people and I love profit and loss forms, and I love numbers! I think I finally realized what I want to be when I grow up!
No, really, Brett encouraged me the whole way, and saw things in me that I didn't see. If it weren't for him, I'd keep my head down and stubbornly go, go, go. Straight to being a 40 year-old server.
With gifts cards and money earmarked for the electric bill, I built a new wardrobe (see: express dot com during their 50% off everything in the store sale). First time I've bought clothing in many, many years. First time I've bought a suit since 1998. Suits and skirts and blazers and dresses. A real wardrobe! And necklaces, too!
I've read business books and books on management. I've studied the check-list for promotions within my company. I've asked questions and discussed management scenarios with Brett, who has a masters in Industrial Labor Relations.
I've never been more excited or more ready for change. We will face financial difficulties this year, but the change is worth it. We trust that miracles will happen. They always do in the Barkley household.
I'll never forget being hired as a server in 2008, shaking hands with the GM (who will be training me next week for his former job), walking down the sidewalk in front of the restaurant trying not to hyperventilate. Trying not to cry. Breathe, I told myself. It will be temporary. I hated serving when I was in college. It wasn't for me. Not then.
Apparently when you've had a career, a family, and realized you've tackled much harder things in life than waiting tables, it's not so scary. I was good at it, fell in love with the company, and here I am.
Six days away from a new... a new... everything.