[CHALLENGE] Follow your strange heart (Rockstar Em the bartender?)

Follow Your Strange Heart

Follow Your Strange HeartThe heart might know better than the head (but I’ve got decades of practice in tuning that craziness out).

I have wanted to be a bartender since before I could (legally) drink.

Why? I really can’t tell you. I don’t know.

It’s always been there. This yearning to stand behind the bar.

Of course, bartenders usually don’t make great money and work insane hours. More importantly, it was never on my list of approved career paths.

At official drinking age, I became a therapist who worked with the folks who sat at the bar one (thousand) too many times, specializing in addiction treatment.

Perhaps I just like helping people forget their woes.

My winding career trail continued to shift and pivot to where I am today, but all along the way at the committee meetings in my head, there was always that uninvited free spirit who would show up late and interrupt the whole planning session to suggest this outlandish idea of bartending.

I’m a therapist. I’m a single mother. I have a business that is the epitome of busy-ness. I am instigating this resiliency project. I’ve adopted a mantra of working less and religiously maintaining my freedom. Hell, I’m a type-1 diabetic who doesn’t drink anything but red wine now.

So why, oh why, would I want to get take food handler’s and alcohol server classes, attend staff meetings, and clean dishes and bathrooms at 2 am for wages that average FAR less than what I could be billing my clients, who have more work than I can keep up with?

I am absolutely a strange fit for the industry, too.

When I first broke through the doubts and applied to work at a bar back in 2013, I actually brought in a cover letter and resume, on that outrageously expensive paper that you save for the biggest opportunities in your life. I did not get a call back.

This bartending pursuit makes zero logical sense. I’ve stopped trying to explain it. I just shrug and say, “because I want to.”

When did that stop being enough?

At what point in my development did the career-driven, socially acceptable Em take over and start slapping the wrist of the playful, spontaneous, jump-in-gutter-water-because-it-might-be-fun Em?

When I started my personal Rockstar Comeback experiment and made out a list of adventures to take me outside my comfort zone, become a bartender was one of the first items on the list.

Then I took it off. Put it back on. Took it off.

It wasn’t something I could explain, and so I kept explaining it away.

I don’t have time. I can’t work until 3 AM (!). I need to put kids / money / (fill in the blank) first.

But every time I met a bartender, I’d have to ask: How did you get started? How can I do it? And they would laugh and tell me I’d hate it.

Off the list.

Several years ago, I met one such bartender so obsessively passionate about the craft that he has taken it to a level of excellence that only a fellow obsessive can appreciate.

It turned out I had some skills that could help him with a nonprofit venture and we became friends.

And after the last two years of occasional nagging, I think he (and I) finally realized I might be serious.

This strange pursuit suddenly shifted into reality. I questioned my sanity.

But when I walked behind that bar and affixed my painter’s tape name tag on, it was clear: the free spirit had been right all along.

Dare I say bliss? Everything I had felt it would be, and then some. The expression of this repressed crazy self that wants strange, inexplicable things that the brain cannot fathom.

The other strange part: After sharing this illogical, glorious leap of faith, nearly every one of my girlfriends has come out of the woodwork with their own desire to sling cocktails.

On one hand, I was shocked that so many of us had this same strange longing. On the other, I realized I am drawn to a particular breed of quirky and it’s probably not all that odd in this niche of successful women who are starting to put the free spirit at the top of the committee agenda.

I left that first shift, that first step on a new totally-outside-my-comfort-zone challenge, with that euphoria that comes after venturing out of bounds and enjoying the fruits of the wild world out beyond your bubble (and lack of sleep).

Do you have a crazy, innocent repressed longing?

Following my strange heart taught me once again to trust my intuition, often blindly.

Play, in whatever form or shape that takes for you, is actually a full answer to the question of why for any new challenge, worthy of trading a little sleep and sitting through a very low-quality animated food handler’s seminar.

  1. Loved reading this. I believe we all have a little firecracker living inside of us. Thanks for encouraging and challenging to live out and follow your strange heart.

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