Therapists in the Restaurant Business

We all have problems. We all have baggage. We all have complaints, grievances, problems, and arguments. We have all have pain and haunted pasts of some degree. I can’t remember the last time I went to work, class, Wal-Mart, or out to eat where I didn’t have something going on in my mind that bothered me or upset me. So, the first thing I do when I get to work or the restaurant or Wal-Mart? I stop. I bury it. I let it reside in the deepest, darkest pits of my being and do my job, enjoy my meal, or do my shopping. Then, when I get back in the car and/or when I get home, those problems can rise again and I can deal with them accordingly.

We also have a right to complain about these problems. We have a right to say whatever we want, whenever we want. We also have some form of unwritten obligation to complain about certain aspects of our jobs. We all do it. We all complain about this or that in our jobs. Sometimes the complaint comes forth in a plea to a fellow co-worker or boss. Sometimes we complain JUST to have something to complain about. And this is all a right we have. In fact, I do it all the time. I complain. I whine. I look for solace with my problems to all sorts of people. But there is a line; a point where it becomes too much and nothing we can say, do, or act upon will change anything. There is a line and recently it’s been crossed over and over and over.

I am a 29 year old student. There are others that are in college or trying to support a few kids or just trying to put a little extra spending money in their pocket. If I, or anybody else, was a therapist we wouldn’t be working at a restaurant for $2.13/hr. I am absolutely honored that somebody would choose me as a trustworthy person to talk to; a listening ear of trust and companionship. You’ve had a bad day and you want to tell me about it? I’m honored to listen. Having a bad night at work because of a bad table? I’m honored to listen.

However, when you reach your THIRD complaint in less than five minutes about this or that…I become annoyed. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole or somebody that is “complaining” about this but enough is enough. I get it. I understand that you have problems. But as I stated earlier in this, WE ALL DO. We ALL have problems. I get to work at 5pm. I walk in, ready to work for the day, and within the first ten minutes, somebody pulls me aside to tell me about this and that and why their life sucks and how it’s unfair and tearing them apart. I empathize with you, I truly do. But what do you want me to do about it? You need an ear to speak to. I get it. But I can’t be your therapist. I can’t be the person to save you and to help you every single time.

Another thing that has really started to bother me is the sensitivity of some people. At school, if you messed up and did something you knew to be wrong, the teacher would yell at you. At home, when you did something against the rules, your parents would scold you, yell at you, or discipline you. At work, when you mess up, the manager will yell at you, scold you, or discipline you. We have learned from just three sentences that if you are in the presence of an authority figure and you do something wrong, you will be scolded. Some people are treated differently. Some take a little more of the “tough love” as it were. Some people require a gentler approach. I will not sit here and pretend that I know which kind of discipline each person requires, but I can tell you that when you do something wrong, and somebody with authority scolds/yells/disicplines you, it’s not personal. Stop acting like the entire world is out to get you because your manager or teacher or parent yelled at you. If it was personal, said person would use personal comments and insults to get under your skin. This all circles back to the therapist problem from before. You mess up, the manager/teacher/parent goes off on you, and all of a sudden I become your therapist as you complain to  me about how said authority figure hates you and the entire world is against you. If this is your view on things then you’re going to have a rough time out in the rest of the world.

Recently, I was giving some advice to a friend of mine and this was the analogy I used:

Think of work and school like performing in a play; you have drama and problems in your life but when you step on the stage, you have to bury all of it until the play is over. Work and school are the same. You go to school, you go to work, you have to bury everything and become a new person.

I may complain to somebody at work later today. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep or maybe I’m not feeling well and it’s just nice to vent. Maybe I’m having money problems. But the extent of my complaints will be limited to a quick, “here’s my story, thanks for listening”. I have no intent to tell you EVERYTHING wrong and how it can be fixed and why I’m upset and what I want you to do about it and how everything in my life sucks.

I have several very close friends. I have two best friends and a friend that I entrust absolutely EVERYTHING to. I have a father and grandparents. I will gladly listen to ALL of their problems and offer any advice I can. They are my family; the people I love and care most for in this world. I want them to come to me with their problems and allow me to help. But there is a time and a place for everything. Work and school: not the place.

So tonight, when you go to work or school or even to a restaurant to enjoy a meal, leave your drama at the door, enjoy your time to the best of your ability, and when you get back in the car to head home, let all of it out in whichever way best suits you.

“There are times in life when, instead of complaining, you do something about your complaints.” – Rita Dove

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