"Words are tears that have been written down. Tears are words that need to be shed. Without them, joy loses all its brilliance and sadness has no end."

maanantai 17. syyskuuta 2012

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A couple of weeks ago I faced my frustration towards my job. At the moment I don't do anything particularly constructive for a living and participate in a harmful societal construct, no matter how pleasant it is to work at a cafe where people come to quietly enjoy themselves. The relative easiness of the job itself may also be harmful, as when the work tasks become automated actions it supports me as an automated being acting through autopilot instead of making conscious choices in each and every moment. I decided to focus on deconstructing the mind-patterns and survival systems related to my job, as it is something I spend a considerable amount of time on, and I will also try and get to the root cause of the problems that often manifest within restaurant business.

Today I faced a point of gratefulness. I often go through an experience where, as I notice a customer approaching the door of the cafe, I think “no, please don't come in”. Today I stopped within the experience to notice that it's where I then usually pretend to be welcoming when I'd just like to be left alone.

Now, I of course realize that more customers is a good thing for me. When we have plenty of customers the company prospers and my income is more secure and might even increase. As I know this to be true, why isn't my reaction to each customer a genuinely happy one? The reason does not lie in laziness as I work constantly throughout my shift, customers or not. There is something within the interaction that makes me want to avoid customers.

Last week I deconstructed a set of phrases I use as I interact with customers. There's one thing I've been taught to do as something that should always be done when working in customer service: to ask if they want anything else after they've already given their primary order. The logic behind this is that people are prone to buy more if they're offered more, that they don't always realize they want something else (this is bullshit: within the offer the seller just creates needs and desires out of nowhere) and that a customer is often so passive that they may not even dare to ask for more if an active salesperson accepts their primary order as it is. I've tested around during my years in the business and noticed this to be true. I have never before questioned the validity of the action, though. If I keep on asking people if they actually want something more but are suppressing themselves and not “daring” to say it out loud, I support the construct of passiveness where no one is required to take full responsibility of themselves. If there's always someone to dig you out of your shell, you'll never learn to crawl out by yourself. This is an action I've decided to stop doing and find a more constructive way to interact with customers.

As I was deconstructing the aforementioned phrase I also had a better look at the act of trading itself. The trading business is based on a setting where one guy has something that has some kind of a value, be it enjoyment, nutrition, tools, you name it. Then there's another guy who wants that item. Now, the first guy can either give the other what he has or, to ensure he doesn't lose more by giving away than what he gets back from others (a lack of trust in fellow people [note to self: when has trading business begun? Check history.]), define a price for the item. Now the first guy holds power over the other as he has what the other wants/needs/desires/would benefit from, and can set whichever price he wants. But the other one can also decide to not buy the item. This would leave the first guy with an item he doesn't need and without whatever the price he was asking for. That gives power to the second guy, as he now has the power to say the price is too high and leave the first guy in trouble. This game of give-and-take, this power play is what keeps the trading business together: the first guy fears he will be left without what he desires (money) and left with useless stuff (the item) - and the second one desires what's offered (the item) and fears it will cost him too much (money). This interplay looks to me like two people at opposite ends of a rope pulling and giving in to find a balance where both would be equally stressed and uncomfortable.

To get back to my issues, the base foundation of the trading business is twisted and affects the overall pleasantness of the seller-buyer interaction I take part in every day. Within the restaurant business alone the foundation has manifested various roles and statuses that one is “supposed” to accept, whether a servant or a customer, as dictated by a self-perceived and believed authority (the boss, senior colleagues, the customers). I'm still not sure where the core of this issue within myself is, but what's essential is that the nature of the business affects me constantly and has affected me for the past 4 years I've been doing this kind of work. Such major exposure to a setting that is fundamentally a game has shaped me as I have passively allowed myself to be shaped. I commit myself to change myself within the business to change the business itself – it is so corrupted there's no other way to affect it.

To get back to the point of gratefulness, I'm afraid people will see my genuine kindness as mere faking. I face all customers as equals, meaning I treat them with respect and friendliness without excusing their possible bullshit. I fear it will be seen as what many customer servants do: instead of actually living kindness one presents an image of kindness out of fear (of losing one's job) and desire (for the customer's money). From within that fear I make the situation uncomfortable and tiresome for myself. I refuse to make it a situation where I would be balanced and content no matter the customer. Thus from within that imbalance I make myself unable to interact as myself here and resort to the automated phrases, tones and behavior I'm trying to free myself from. I now stop compromising myself based on the justification that an “authority” “demands” me to behave a certain way as I trade items for others. I now see and realize that the judgement that dictates my behavior is merely my perception of reality, and even if it were completely true it's still only my perception and essentially guesswork and thus should not be believed as the whole truth.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear conflict while working as I am afraid I will not perform my role as the “servant” well enough and thus cause a reaction of anger, frustration, dissatisfaction, spite and/or annoyance in a customer which would lead me to think less of myself.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not realize that the set of roles, characters and statuses in restaurant business is a game where everyone participates in creating a false and temporary reality of power, dominance and escapism, and that all of this is not in fact real and is just a massive delusional daydream believed by even those that submit because they will have their turn to be the ones who dominate and thus continue the cycle of revenge.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to participate in the aforementioned game, no matter how unwillingly or unknowingly, thus supporting its existence.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe I ought to show gratefulness towards the customers as they bring me what I “need” - the money that supports my employer – when in fact the trade of items either happens or doesn't happen and the act of trading itself does not contain any statuses or emotions: it's just a trade, item for an item, and the friendliness I associate with it comes from the presence of human interaction, not from the imagined “debt” of gratefulness.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to feel uncomfortable when facing a customer as I fear I will draw a negative reaction from the other if I “fail” to live up to the expected statuses and roles, and I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to thus make myself incapable of facing the customer as equals as myself here within breath as I have trapped myself into fear.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to label the people that I trade items for money with as “customers”, not realizing the word itself holds within it a status, a value and a meaning that supports the construct of inequality.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear the reactions of others because I have believed them to be “more” than me as I have perceived them to be in a station of power, not realizing the “power” they hold is but an illusion that will vanish as I stop believing in it.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe and adapt into the way my senior colleagues and employers have perceived the restaurant business to be, thus continuing the cycle of self-abuse and revenge.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to lose myself and not stand within myself as I have questioned the norms of the restaurant/trading business and faced reactions of rejection, denial and judgement.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to fear and not trust people will be able to tell the difference between faked kindness and genuine kindness, even after I have received positive feedback from customers themselves as well as employers and colleagues.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to not trust myself to be “enough” as myself within a situation where I interact with another with the purpose of trading.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to believe the customers deserve and demand for “service”, and that “service” is something more when in fact it's something less. (The concept of “service” is something I'll have to process separately as it is a vast point within this profession.)

I commit myself to identify, stop and face all the situations where and all the ways how I still make myself “less” than a customer instead of living as equal to all life. When and as I see myself resisting an interaction with a customer, I stop and slow myself down through breathing and support and assist myself to face the person as/within myself and as equal.

I commit myself to deconstruct the constructs of my automated work behavior step by step through writing to see what I actually manifest and support with my actions, so that I may eventually reconstruct myself to function as a manifestation of life instead of an automated slave to the mind.

I commit myself to support and assist myself to stand within myself and to maintain my stability in each and every moment, no matter who I interact with and how.

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