Last night, my daughter asked me a question, kind of a simple question. She said, "Did you like being a hotel manager?" Immediately, I said "No."
Then, I gave it a little more thought.
The real answer is sometimes I liked it. Most of the time I was bored out of my skull and there were times, I outright hated it but I got to thinking about the parts I liked and the parts that made a difference and spilled over into other parts of my life.
The parts I liked were these. I like learning new things, I like feeling competent at my job. I take pride in doing things really well and the thing about being a hotel manager or a restaurant manager, a server, a bartender, all the things in the hospitality business was that I did those things really well. I excelled at those jobs and I liked doing things that I do very well. People didn't want me to quit. I was almost always offered obscene raises (relatively speaking) to stay in those jobs and keep doing them. But I couldn't stay happy. It got old, it got stale, it became the same. The challenge was mostly gone and once it wasn't a new thing I was learning, I realized I was just miserable again because I had only been distracted from the thing I was supposed to do.
But back to the parts I liked. I loved working with people. I loved meeting new people. One of my favorite things to do was to do something that made someone really, really happy. So, whether it was getting them to a hotel bed in a beautiful room where they were comfortable or serving them a warm and delicious meal or giving them a perfectly created drink that that person had been craving all day. I loved that. If someone was unhappy, I would work extra hard to find that magical thing that would create satisfaction somehow. I would move them to another room that was awesome. I would bring them a luscious piece of dessert. Sometimes, all I would do was just care enough to listen to the problem and make a safe space to communicate it.
In my job, I would create a connection and create a happiness that had not existed before. I would be a conduit to serve something greater in this world. Sure, a lot of times our interactions were brief and seemed meaningless but I knew that a smile to a weary traveler, it meant something, if even just for a moment and understanding the value of that was one of the reasons I was good at my job.
It would wear me down, though. It's really hard being that empathetic in a job like that. People will just take and take all I gave and I would be left swimming in pain sometimes.
I got the residue of their anger, their frustration, their snappish rude behavior. And often I took it home with me.
And when I would reach the point where I was numb or desensitized to everything at the job, I would often leave, both as an act of self protection or because I was no good to the public doing a half ass job.
So, why couldn't I keep it up? Well, it's exhausting and it isn't my true calling after all. I have always known this, but when my daughter asked me that question the other day, I thought about it in a way I had never really realized before.
When I make movies, direct or act in plays, write a story...I'm doing the same thing. I'm connecting to the world in a way that makes people happy. I'm using all of me and what I am good at to create good feelings in others. I am directly connecting with people in a way that makes them smile or cry or think or feel.
We used to have regulars in the restaurant and business regulars at the hotel. In the hotel, they were away from home and I was often fascinated with the way people would behave when they were far from their home life. Sometimes, the railroad guys would come and sit in the lobby and tell me their stories. I loved that.
When certain businessmen would checkout, they would ask me to take off the $50 in dirty movie charges off their bill so they could pay cash. No one needs their boss to see that on the bill, and I would do so with a poker face, all the while thinking, he didn't look the type or he looks exactly like he would be totally into that. And I would scroll past the titles, "Barely Legal" or "Hot Nurses" because you never know what someone is hiding anonymously far away from home.
And I would think to myself about how many stories there were to tell that lived inside these people, how many people were just lonely or meeting up or finally coming together after a long separation. Valentine's Day was an adventure, so many high hopes of a perfect night and there I was the quiet witness to what goes wrong and what goes right.
I realized that in many ways hospitality is another art that connects us. I still love to cook for people, to create food that makes them warm and satisfied, to serve a cold drink or a warm hot chocolate. I want to create something superior that will connect me to the world in more ways. This is how I serve humanity. I have been called to a higher calling, but in the simple ways I was taught to do this. This is why serving is worthwhile. It has taught me tolerance, patience and to manage lots of personalities. I have been taught to quietly listen to the troubles of others and try to find a way to fix a problem, and if that cannot be done, just to listen and comfort. There are times when all you have to do is just understand.
It also has shown me that people who are operating from the ego and not from the place of connection, these people are missing out on that real joy. If you're in it for the applause, the attention, the superficial- that won't last. To create and share, that is when I realized I was on track. Even the solitary writer puts pen to paper to push her thoughts out into the world. I do this to serve and to connect.
In a way, every thing I have ever done has been to serve and connect to the world, to share in a higher consciousness, to understand humanity better and when I make people happy in some way, I find extra joy. There are lots of stories out there waiting to be told, I may not have time for all of them but I am grateful to have witnessed them all.