Last night at work was rough. In a moment tinged with exhaustion, melancholy, and general hopelessness, I turned around from the triple sink and heard Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” play. I’m listening to it as I write. 

In that moment, I flashed back to November of 2016, my first shift at the Chelsea location, a Friday night where we stayed until 2am (normally we’d be done by 12) because the two people training me couldn’t figure out how to balance the cash drawer. I remember being asked to sweep outside the front area while that song BLASTED over the speakers and Seamus, the first person to train me, danced around the back. I remember Seamus a few shifts after that, telling off a disconcerted customer who I’d given wrong information to because I was brand new, saying, “OKAY, THANKS, BYE!” I remember feeling like a part of a real hardworking team.

The company I work for is different now. We have a required playlist at every store. We were only playing the playlist I made in early 2017 (”CLOSE THE STORE” is its title) because I had been at work for 12 hours. The store was finally closed and I was very done with the the required playlist. Thinking of myself then, as I sit here now, I find it funny that I so often wish I could go back to the non-entity I was when I first started. I’m not going to flatter myself and say I am essential to operations but they saw promise in me and promoted me twice within 18 months. Now, I manage. Now, I lead. Now, I do stupid dances and sing bits of the song from the LEGO movie (“Everything Is Awesome!”) and Vine clips, to try and cheer myself up, while my staff members look at me funny. I have made some semblance of an impact. I’m still part of a hardworking team, I still feel protected. 

Also, my life is in fact better now. I took this picture in Windsor Terrace when I lived there last year. I have so many pictures that look like this but I can remember almost exactly where every one was taken. I could probably walk you there and point directly to it, almost every picture.  

But, this light was one of the only comforts I had in that neighborhood: the Prospect Expwy overpass at sunset, the big bed that took up the whole room, peanut butter sandwiches when I’d come home from work at 1am, 2am, 3am if I was unlucky (or went for a beer), sometimes with ice cream in my hair. I rushed, from everything, to everything. I had $50 every week, I was asking my boss to buy us Popeye’s at work. I didn’t slow down until I went home after I graduated from Pratt, for maybe four or five days. I haven’t put on makeup to get tips at work in months, and that alone feels nice.

I did roll out of bed this morning and long for writing papers instead of organizing a storefront, but, really, the grass is always greener, and at least for the time being, I’m glad I’ve found something I’m pretty good at. I think in the next life I will look back on this and remember the merits of this job, remember making kids excited about sprinkle cookies, making couples happy because I’ll split their milkshake into two cups for them, being the first person people see when they are getting their morning coffee. I’ll put my life into perspective, remembering the gratitude I feel for a customer asking me how I am (instead of just barking at me); I will remember where I came from. The pictures are part of this too, of course, but it’s hard to discount what I have spent so much time doing these past two years.

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