When I was in college I worked as a bartender. I think a lot of people have the idea that I made tantalizing and Flavorful cocktails like the ones above. Usually, I opened beers and made fun and unique shots in a bar that looked much more like the one below:
The thing that had the most flavor by far however, was my customer base. I lived in a small town far enough away from campus that there were corn fields in between to deter almost all of my fellow students from being my neighbor. I like things quiet. What that meant was, I really got the opportunity to become part of the small community I lived in.
Going to the little grocery store in town sometimes took an hour just to pick up milk because I knew so many of the employees and ran into so many people I knew. I knew the tiny police force from working at the bar (and having to call them a few times), and I always felt safe and protected.
I only actually worked at this bar for three months but it fundamentally changed my outlook on people and the world.
When I first moved to this small town seemingly full of white picket fences and American flags, I thought I was in some kind of small town paradise. No one locked their doors, everyone knew everyone else, people looked out for each other’s kids and the schools (even though I don’t have kids) were great.
I went to work as a girl from a different suburban area who had been pretty sheltered her whole life. Sure I had a few friends who smoked pot when I was a teen, and I had been drinking long before this job at 25, but I really did live in a bubble. I had all kinds of preconceived ideas about certain kinds of people and how they got to the places they did in their lives.
Let me tell you, working in a bar you learn more about people and their darkest secrets in a week than you do almost anywhere than maybe outside of a therapist’s office.
My preconceived notions shattered within two weeks and they were replaced with compassion and love. I grew to love people who were addicted to substances of all kinds, not just alcohol. I grew to love people who were hard workers and never had the opportunities I had to go to college. I grew to love people who never wanted to go to college. I grew to love people where they were at. The goofy ones, the angry ones, the sad ones, the funny ones; they all found – place in my heart.
I am so glad that bubble burst. I know now that I am not any better or any worse than anyone else. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone and no one has to prove anything to me. I love.
I see this beauty in people that I would have never seen otherwise. There is something truly amazing about a small town and how people pull together after a tragedy or a victory, a loss or a huge win.
Even after I quit working there, I spent a lot of time there because I lived a block away and because those people ended up being like family to me. I wrote papers for class there, studied for the LSAT there, watched historical events unfold, organized a mayoral campaign, and saw a small town grow from there. I grew too.
So for me, bartending was so much more than about how amazing my shots were or how many beers I could carry at once. For me, it was about getting to know and love all of the amazing people, many of whom will still stop me in the grocery store there if I stop in for one thing.