Do you ever hear that one catchy song that sweeps you off your chair and onto your feet, the one with thumping bassline and rhythmic drumming leading your body’s twist and turns? It’s a sweet acapella with an infectious melody, a bridge to a familiar chorus that never fails to escape your memory. And when your steps resonate the acoustic pulses, do you finally recognize that it was just your heart beating and thoughts singing?
There is nothing more satisfying than inhaling the biggest gulp of oxygenated air, filled with new energy, and then releasing liters of carbon dioxide carrying all thoughts that serve us no purpose but torture and distraught in the most exasperated, exaggerated exhalation that evaporates to nothing.
I knew there was something more special to breathing than just living.
A young Jackson Cannon, now successful bar director, wrote to himself prior to his fame and rise to glory. It’s a great read and representation of a young adult searching and working towards himself; ambition and energetic youth pushing him to do more, crave for more, live more:
Pick your destination. Think carefully about what you really want. Look at your shoes.
Your first step: Get new shoes.
You will not have to map your route to your destination. You will be guided. All of the people you work with from now on will be your guide to the destination you have chosen. If you are clear about what you want, are truthful when people ask you what you want, and make yourself humble and available to guidance, you will reach that destination. If you chose Local Sports Bar Owner, you will be guided there. If you chose Celebrity Bartender On A Reality Show, you will be guided there.
Some of your guides will explicitly help you and say, “Your next step is to put this glass in this spot.” Some will be less obvious and say, “I’m not sure this is a great fit.” Some will shrug and their disinterest will help you. Some guides will be outright warning signs. All of them are guides, and none of them know how to get to where you want to go. Your destination is yours alone. They may have some idea of how they themselves can get where you’d like to go, but their path and yours are not the same thing.
Your first job is to observe. Watch the way the other kid in the black shirt puts away the glassware. Watch the way she puts away the beer. Watch the way your boss looks at the beer when she’s done. Turn on all of your sensors. Observe with all of your senses. Watch the way the bartender holds his hands when nothing is going on. Watch the way he dries his hands. Watch the way his boss looks at him when he’s working. Notice how you feel when you observe that.
Your second job is to do. Jump in. Ask questions. Get your feet wet. Get your hands dirty. No matter what you are told, do it. When you have to do it a second time, do it faster. When you have to do it a third time, do it faster and cleaner. Get on your belly and clean something. Find a ladder, get up there, and clean that. Faster. Catch your boss watching you. Notice how you feel.
Your third job is to get watched. All the time. Feel the eyes of your peers upon you. Sometimes you will feel their envy. Sometimes they will cringe. Sometimes they will look awed. Sometimes they will laugh. Ask for feedback. Ask how they would do it if they were you. Feel the eyes of guests on you. Begin to notice that you are on a stage. Try moving more artfully, knowing that you are being watched.
Fourth: Expose yourself. Go places. Taste things. See the outside. Look inside. Notice. Notice. Notice. Remark. Take risks. Enter contests. Develop a menu of drinks you love (and make those Cosmos). Make a menu that sells itself and notice how you feel. Pour your soul into a project and feel the boots trample on it. Get up. Pour your soul into a project and feel rewarded.
Develop a character that speaks for your projects. Develop a voice.
Speak. Recite. Write. Repeat. In a mirror/on a tablet/in a text/on your grocery list/in your pillow/to your friends/to your mother/to a stranger. Say, write, repeat: Every single drink recipe you ever see. Every single drink recipe you ever hear. Every single drink recipe period.
Spend a paycheck. Get the booze. Have a party. Make, say, make again, over and over. When you catch yourself reaching for the bottles before you remember what’s in the drink, then you are starting to get it.
Speak up. Ask. Ask if you can help. Ask if you can run the drinks for a busy server. Ask if you can show the new kid how to juice. Ask if you can pull the tickets off of a colleague’s printer. Ask if you can make a few tickets. Ask if you can taste their contest entry. Ask them to taste yours. Ask if you can do the money. Ask if they will check your work. Ask if you can do inventory. Ask to look at the invoices when the fruit comes in. Ask to look at the liquor invoices. Ask if you can close for a sick colleague. Ask if you can close for a burnt out manager.
Look over the bar top. Look at the women ordering. What do their faces do when they drink what you made? Do their eyebrows go up and away or down and together? Look at the men. They are better trained not to react. Look back at the women. Look at the entire bar from six paces. Go straighten your bottles. Wipe the sticky ones. Watch the fingers of the man on a first date. Offer food if his hands are too frantic.
Listen. Listen to the bartender ask an older man how he likes his martini. Listen to the hungover barback polish with a cloth that is too dry and isn’t working. Listen to the dishwasher, and learn what a broken glass sounds like.
Our senses are sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, intuition.
Get a nice apartment. (Nice for sleeping.) Get a place where you can sit outside within a ten minute walk. Just a bench where you can sit and wonder what’s next.
Fall in love. Sleep with a few people. Don’t give it away. Live with someone. Your time will be ever more precious. Don’t f*(& everyone.
Your mate is likely to be near you. You might know her as the new server. He might be your boss. She might be a valet. He might be in the kitchen. Anyone can do intimacy when they’re drunk, and everyone will connect over the shared hardships of this business. Your mate is the one you can talk to about your sister when you’re picking mint for the off-site. Your mate knows how you take your coffee the second time and never forgets. Your mate has impressive flaws that you see the day you meet them and are not cute now. Your mate is a human that you respect. They can list your flaws. They are not delusional about them. (That thing you do is not cute.)
Your mate is curious to discover who you are going to be. You are dying to know how their story turns out, and hope that you’re in it the whole time.
Whether it’s kids or animals or plants, get something living and care for it. Be reliable. Pay your rent on time. Get your oil changed. Pay your taxes.
When you find a home, put down roots. Take your time. Don’t settle. But settle eventually. Have a local. Know your neighbors. Bring your garbage cans in. Pick up litter. Say hi to kids. Watch the news. Know who’s on the ballot. Vote. Watch your community change. Engage with the people who are trying to change it for the better. Take a Saturday off to clean a park. Host a fundraiser. Be known.
Play. Tell jokes. Pick up an instrument. Find your perfect ball: golf, tennis, soccer, foot, basket? Be a fan of a team. Root for someone. Dance. Sing.
Ice someone. Prank. Punk. Look silly for the laugh.
Remember you are not the drinks you make, you are not the glasses you polish, you are not the people you train nor the bars you build. You are not the children you create. You are not the failures you suffer. You are not the awards you don’t receive and deserve. You are not your undeserved kudos. You are who you are and what you believe. If you are a bartender, you will know it, and so will the world.
"The road less traveled by a little girl,
You disregard the mess,
while I try to control the world.
Don’t leave me, stay here and frighten me.
Don’t leave me, come now, enlighten me.”
- Sia, Fair Game
Hi grandma. It’s May. I hope you liked everything we made for you today—I know it’s your first Ghost Festival, and I really want to make sure to make it special. Mom had me prep the care package for you: flower-patterned paper to make new clothes, colorful string to sew and mend with, rice to keep you nourished, and pennies to exchange for anything your heart desires. I never understood why my mom uses the term, “down under” when she refers to the other realm…perhaps it’s just my Westernized brain that associates “below” with “hell.” Silly, isn’t it?
I’m doing much better…my hair is growing out, so maybe you will recognize me again. School has been terribly discouraging, but I’m meeting so many inspirations and making many realizations. Like last night, when I was chatting with my friend during our drive home, I suddenly had an epiphany about how ashamed I feel all the time- and for what? This fear of judgment from others just brings me down, and I declared (silently, because who declares aloud realistically?) that I shall give no more power to this shame and those who cannot find the time to understand and accept me will not take another of my minute. Perhaps I’m just talking myself up again…
I hope you’re enjoying your new home, Grandma. I know you’ve heard this too many times (and it might even annoy you), but I miss you. I don’t even care that I don’t even particularly believe in an afterlife, even if I am merely talking to your memory in my own memory, I just wanted to tell you what we never say enough, I love you.
P.S. Grandpa’s doing well. I’m really upset with his caretaker, but Dad is reminding me how to accept some compromises that we may not like. I’ll spare you the tirade…it’s not very pretty.
My, well that’s a loaded question! I’m not one to divulge as the consequences are unprecedented (though it would be such a librating action)- and I think that already tells you so much of where I’m at. I am a hopeless romantic who is compulsively cautious, a horribly contradicting trait, so as usual, I’m standing on the edge of risk and security, swinging between vulnerability and armory. I’m flirting with Uncertainty, and whether he becomes disappointment or adventure, I do not mind because I would have still made acquaintance with one whom I respect, learned from, and hopefully, made a friend of.
I don’t know if there’s ever an answer to anything. But we seek what we believe is the truth in order to soothe our racing thoughts and anxiety that constantly nips and gnaws the edge of our brain. And the more we doubt there will ever be a satisfactory response to our questions, the more we struggle with the binding that holds us captive in our minds. And it squeezes tighter, makes us panic harder, and wears us more intensely until we collapse in defeat and surrender to Life, who will then gloat at its conquering feat of tiny, overly-hopeful people.
My watch showed that it was 10pm, but the sun had just begun its descent in the West. Why haven’t the stars marked the day’s end? I climbed the stairs and walked into her room, perching up on her bed. Oddly I fit on the edge, my hands small and my knees tiny. I swear I was no longer prepubescent. I reached up and tapped her sleeping shoulder. She turned and I giggled at her new perm, shiny silver hair curled into an fluffy afro. “Grandma, your hair!” I’m in the twilight zone.
If circumstances were different,
If sparks weren’t as volatile,
If reactions weren’t so conscious,
even if ifs were non-existent,
we probably wouldn’t have shared us.
"I’m told that our lives aren’t worth much,
They pass like an instant, like wilting roses.
I’m told that time slipping by is a bastard
Making its coat of our sorrows.
Yet someone told me…”
It’s a lesson that’s been passed down every generation, but it’s also a lesson that isn’t learned until you have lived through it. And I’m at the cusp of that lesson: not yet learned and not yet experienced. I’m torn between trying to figure out if I want to hear the “I told you so”-s or ride the waves to see where I dock. Human nature tells us that people never change, but there’s always wishful thinking or examples of the few exceptions. Where do you lie? Between the hearsay and the future? Maybe the hearsay is the future. I don’t know you well enough to make the judgement call and I don’t know when to dial it either. I have yet to fall for you fully and so, I’m barely even emotionally attached, but I have to admit that I feel a tinge of pained confusion as to how to approach this bizarre situation we find ourselves in…
Honestly, a part of me wants to have fun with this: if you play me, I promise I’ll tear you apart. If you don’t, I promise to make sure you never do.
I was bustling through the busy hallways of the emergency department when someone in a room caught my eye. And then my system went into shock for a brief second, like those moments in the movies when the frame slows and focuses so intently on the subject in the character’s point of view, and you can tell that the world had silenced. Then my feet turned and I was at my desk before I even knew the pain that ripped through my nerves and the breathlessness I was getting more and more consciously aware and scared of. All my senses were on edge, and I feel my body quivering with a desire to snap.
I thought I saw my grandmother in that room. I wanted to see my grandmother in that room. Because it would mean I can try to save her and bring her back…
We’re gladiators, but I guess we’re really fighting ourselves…
Here is what I revert to when I feel like I should know the answer to this long ago:
So many times we have passed each other between classes or chatted cordially when we see one another. First impression of you was the worst, and I would roll my eyes at your antics. You don’t even make much height on my standards, you are sometimes blunt and rude, and your snarky humor is dry and somewhat tolerable. And now, I have this strange intrigue, like when you hear a melody that starts to grow on you, an itch that I cannot quite put an etiology to.
Honestly, I have no idea why now. And honestly, I have no idea what to do. Should I scratch or resist? It’s that fear of infection that prevents us from doing anything, but what if I can relieve this with one invitation to warm up? it’s foolish to be this far in life and still have these petty crush problems…
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath