This industry that many of us have fallen in love with is riddled with university dropouts and suffers of ill mental health. As I tick both boxes, through a troubled struggle with my own expectations and an attempt to realise what it is exactly that I want to achieve I have decided that neither of these things is a bad thing nor should they count against me.
For a start this means I’ve chosen to do this, the late nights, doubling back and AFDs. Simply because I love it and wouldn’t have it another way. I went to university in the first place because thats what everyone was doing, it was expected. I chose a subject I was vaguely good at that later it turned out I hated. I started in hospitality entirely by accident and honestly so did nearly everyone else I know who is pursuing this as a career. I have friends with degrees, one particularly close friend has a first class masters in Biochemistry but instead of curing cancer or whatever real job society considers he should be pursuing, he spends his work life running masterclasses for hen parties and just having a bloody good time. The advantage to not having necessarily intended this as a career means we have been sucked in and enjoy it enough to stick around. It offers a flexibility that many other profession’s cannot offer.
The draw of hospitality while temporary to some, filling gap years or generating income for the nights out while studying, for others, myself included, creates this unique space. Its one where its OK (with some obvious law or practical experience exceptions) to not have the credentials on paper, to not have a diploma or BSc in the area you are applying to. There is always someone on hand willing to show you the ropes, build you up and furnish you with the knowledge and skills you need for the job at hand. As long as you want to learnn and are up front and honest about what you do or don’t know, I have never met a group of people as keen to force all their knowledge on you as bartenders are.
It offers a body of people who no matter how many times per shift they say they ‘f**king hate people’ actually really care about them. Intrinsically they want to listen, to understand and more than anything to make people happy. No one goes to a bar to intentionally have a terrible time. To individuals like me who suffer greatly from stress and ever present depression, its an escape and a support system all in one. I go to work and am surrounded by people who care and we get so wrapped up in creating a good time both for those of us working and our guests visiting that more often than not it helps alleviate whatever is bothering me.
Personally, I’ve never achieved anything. I’m not a great bartender but boy do I love it. Ive won no competitions, nor even actually entered any as I’m not sure where I’d start or even if I want to. And while I love drinking in local indies my career is considerably more corporate. I realise to many people that makes me not a real bartender. But what is a real bartender?
When I first chose hospitalty over completing my degree, I struggled a large part with imposter syndrome. I didn’t belong in this world of men making fancy drinks with rare spirits. I kept trying to find venues that were more credible in the industry circle while still catering to my ‘I just want going to work to be fun’ work ethic. Honestly all this achieved was a patchy CV. At some point I just gave up and started going for jobs I fancied.
Even then I still failed to find somewhere I was comfortable. Five years on and I’ve come full circle, I’m now back at the venue I left for feeling like it wasn’t cool enough, as a bartender just having fun. At the end of the day, what im trying to achieve is to enjoy going to work each day. As long as that’s happening, who cares what anyone else thinks?
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