A funny thing has been happening lately. I keep telling everyone I have a PhD. Ironically, when I had two sets of business cards made in the last few years, one personal set for when I went on my sabbatical and one professional set for when I was promoted to associate professor, I forgot to include my doctoral degree on both.
When I realized these omissions, it occurred to me I could not care less about them. I thought, A-ha! I have finally gotten over myself and now I can move on.
It was one of the best break-ups I’ve ever had
and I didn’t even have to gaze longingly at my ceiling while playing Jewel’s You Were Meant For Me on repeat to get over it.
Since then, I’d certainly say I’ve moved on, what with quitting my teaching job and maintaining I never want to conduct another statistical analysis again in my life. Yet, here I am day in and day out trying to work my degree into conversations with my customers.
Oh, did I forget to mention I got a new job? One that has customers? I know, crazy, right? For those of you who know me, you have heard me say over the years, “I could never have a service job.” So imagine my surprise that I am now working in a service job. And an even bigger surprise – I am loving it!
It all happened rather by chance. The wife of the couple my husband and I are housesitting for in Connecticut showed us around town before they left. We were at the local grocery store when we turned around an aisle corner and bumped into a woman who owns a café in town. She lamented her college students had gone back to school and she was without help. My husband and I volunteered for the job.
Six days a week (I get Wednesdays off), from 11am to 2pm, I now assist in a café. I greet customers, make sandwiches, wash dishes, and perform various other duties, but most excitedly for me I get to make change using an early model cash register! You may not think the previous sentence warrants an exclamation point, but one of my favorite toys as a child was a cash register (first a fisher price one, then an upgraded model that came with fake credit cards and an electronic display).
I also loved basic math as a child and just for fun when I finished exams early in grade school, I would flip them over and calculate long division problems like
576869707078685747475869 ÷ 12
So getting to use a cash register which adds up the prices of lunches, iced teas, and brownies, with the punch of a few buttons, then makes delightful cha-ching sounds when I give the customers change is somewhat of a dream come true for me. Of course, it’s not the same sort of dream coming true as being a published writer, but in the meantime, I’m pretty excited about it.
I must have some insecurity, though, about being in this job because I bring up my PhD often.
Why does it matter? I suspect it’s because deep down I sometimes take to heart what other people think of me. Or more accurately, what I think other people think about me. Here’s how it goes in my mind: Oh, did you hear? Dr. Kandra is now working at a café? So much for her writing career!
On the positive side I am aware of what happens when we assume and a lot of the time I am able to stamp out my ego and get back to actually living my life instead of getting caught up in my head. It turns out I actually like this job and I honestly don’t think it minimizes my goals of being a writer in any way.
There’s also the fact that in this new job, I am doing things that I’ve always taken for granted as easy. Maybe for some people they are. For me, not so much, and even though I am incredibly enthusiastic about it (DID I MENTION THE CASH REGISTER?!?!) and what I bring to the café, I keep making mistakes. For example, today I learned that mayonnaise does not go on a traditional Italian tomato and mozzarella sandwich. EVER. In case you want to know, use olive oil.
These experiences have been incredibly humbling for me and I think I’m having a hard time accepting not being inherently good at something.
Time will tell if I can embrace this humility and maybe learn something from it.
In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my cash register and making sandwiches. I only have two short months here. Come November when my husband and I head to our next housesitting job in North Carolina, this may be an even tougher breakup than with my PhD. I will have to get my playlist ready just in case I have a hard time saying goodbye. I’m thinking Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion. I’m also welcome to suggestions. Please feel free to leave any in the comments below.