Notes On Leaving: I Am Not A Waitress Anymore

I am not a waitress anymore.

It feels weird to say, weirder than I’d expected. I changed my Facebook status today, from “Works at” to “Has worked at,” and it was like breaking up with someone—the finality of it, at the top of your profile: “so I guess this is it.”

I am not a waitress anymore.

I never really think of it as a core part of who I am. You know, when you think of your life, all the components that make up that person you are and that life you muddle through, “waitress” is never at the top of the list. Or even close to the top. But the truth is, I’ve been doing it for a long time. Ten years. Always an ends to a means, something I fell into, never part of my self-definition. It’s been that thing that happens while you’re making other plans—somewhere, when I wasn’t looking, waitressing became a central part of my life, who I am.

So it feels weird to think I’m no longer a waitress.

I remember hearing that in French culture people don’t begin cocktail conversations but asking what a person does for a living (we Americans love to endow the French with enlightened qualities we have no real way of substantiating)—they talk about, I suppose, far more cultured and important things, the substance of a person, what they think and feel and believe in. I was thirteen, in a French A class I ended up dropping out of, when I heard this, and I’ve remembered it, sometimes try to play a game with myself where I meet someone and have to engage in that chit-chat and try not to ask them what they do. I never last long.

And what will I say now? Now that I’m not a waitress?

It was strange to leave, stranger than I’d expected. Surreal. I love the place I’ve worked the last year and a half—I love the food and the people and the vibe and the money and how close it is to my apartment and how I can wear whatever I want and listen to good music and bullshit with my tables like they were my friends. So I knew it would be hard to leave such a good gig.

I sat on the back patio on my last night—which didn’t feel like a last night but just another night—and two more people told me how awesome they thought my moving was, how bad-ass and brave, and I told them how it felt neither bad-ass nor brave, just really fucking surreal. They’d said at menu meeting how much they’d miss me, how they knew I’d do great things, and they said it again in the card they gave me later, candles and a fancy ice-cream cake, at the 12:30 at night, when I blushed and ate two pieces and felt sick.

People gave me hugs and loved on me and were unbelievably sweet and I tried my best to soak it all in, but it still felt surreal. I basked in the love and the dimming heat of the pizza oven, and then I walked out to my car. Alone. Because leaving is like that.

I went home and threw out all my wine notes. I took out my wine key and tossed my apron on the floor. It still felt like something I needed, something I would pick up in a day or two, sauce stains and all, and tie back on. It didn’t feel unnecessary yet, like a house key after you’ve moved. Because leaving is like that.

So I’m not a waitress anymore. I guess that makes me a writer. Or just unemployed. (Which could be the same thing.) I’m not sure what it makes me. It definitely doesn’t make me French. For now it’s just surreal and strange and much sadder than I’d expected.

Because leaving is like that too.

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7 Responses to “Notes On Leaving: I Am Not A Waitress Anymore”


  1. 1 Kirstin September 27, 2011 at 2:15 am

    You ARE a writer! You’re taking all the necessary steps and maybe some people (who you’ll meet and they’ll act very un-French and ask you what you do for a living) will think that equates to being unemployed, but then again, I’m sure there’s a nice expat bar in Cambodia that’s looking for some extra help on the weekends if you miss being a waitress too much 😉

  2. 2 Monica Stott (@TotalTravelBug) September 27, 2011 at 2:15 am

    Congratulations! It can be so scary to leave a job that is comfortable and brings in some decent money. I’ve always worked as a waitress in between studying and while travelling and people are often surprised that I love it. It’s great fun but it sounds like you’re moving on to the next big thing. Good luck in your career as a writer!

  3. 3 kristinlynch September 27, 2011 at 3:30 am

    Hey there, my name is Kristin and I’m a so cal native currently working as a journalist in Cambodia with the Phnom Penh Post. I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago when I first moved here and I’ve enjoyed your writings. Excited to hear you’ll be moving here full-time. Would love to grab a coffee/drink/meal with you when you arrive. Shoot me an email at klynch@alumni.princeton.edu.

    Kristin

  4. 4 halamen September 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    “and then I walked out to my car. Alone. Because leaving is like that.” great line.

    In one way, life feels like an accumulation of these sad moments. Partings. But what they lead to is the stuff worth living for. Like moving to Cambodia. 🙂

  5. 5 Amanda September 29, 2011 at 6:21 am

    I remember when people told me that leaving seemed brave and bad-assed and I never really considered what they really meant because, as you point out, it never really seemed brave nor bad-assed.

    After having done it – and staying away for more than five years I do know what they were saying, and I would suggest it has far more to do with coming back than actually leaving: I think people fear departure because they fret about losing the ability to return. And that is a legitimate concern in so many ways, the most obvious being that one can never step in the same river twice as some eloquent Greek noted long ago.

    But, I’d suggest that is precisely the reason some of us leave.
    And the river, while constantly changing, always remains.

    Someday, some amount of time from now, you will walk out to your motorbike or your taxi or your ferry… alone… “and you will look [back on PP] and then… walk… on…. Alone. Because leaving is like that.”

    Vaya con dios young lady!
    x

  6. 6 Scott October 4, 2011 at 12:58 am

    I can totally relate to you as I will be leaving a serving job of five years in February to travel full time for the foreseeable future. You are so right … it is an ends to a mean, but there is something about this job that stays with you. Maybe it’s the kitchen staff, maybe it’s the post-shift drinks, maybe it’s the battle tales with the waitstaff, but this kind of job is special, and I know I will be very sad come February. Anyway, good luck!

  7. 7 fred October 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Congrats on not being what you were because you obviously are a writer…so I guess,in my opinion, you never were a waitress. Nice job! I wish I could write you some words that were eloquent, inspiring and life altering but I think I’ll leave that to you.

    The best to you,

    your new fan

    fred


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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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