“Leave Your Shit At the Door.”
A Los Angeles bartender suffering with mental illnesses.
I never followed this advice. The thoughts would continue even when I came behind the bar. Over time, I learned to just smile and pretend that my heart wasn’t going to come out of my chest. It took a year or so to finally get over the nervous shaking I would get in my hands before a shift. But my old habit of comparing myself to others continued.
Being in Los Angeles has its benefits. There’s always something to do and you never get bored of the people. But one thing that I have always noticed is the continuous comparison. People from all over the country, hell even the world, come here to go after a dream. It's always been competitive but if you put your mind to it you can achieve it right?
I have lived in this area my whole life; the competition never ends. I can remember always feeling like I had to prove myself.
I wanted to be a singer or dancer. Something in the line of the of performing arts. As I grew older, my dreams started to feel impossible to achieve. Always being made fun of by other girls for my weight. Being ridiculed for my eating habits at home. Overtime I developed mental illnesses that I tried to hide from the world, but I don’t think I was ever good at it.
I gave up college because my depression would get so bad that I couldn’t go to class. I spent a lot of my school days purging in my bathroom. I tried out dancing in college, but my eating disorders took hold of my dreams.
So what did I end up doing instead? Doing what other college drop outs do and bartend ha! In all seriousness I knew I was meant to bartend at some point in my life. It felt like the perfect career since I was a party girl and I had nothing going for me.
Four years down the road as a bartender, I have learned a lot about myself and even more about the world. I have had some great moments and moments where I wonder why I do this in the first place.
Currently I am looking for a restaurant job, yet again. Every year it becomes the same thing; bouncing from restaurant job to restaurant job. I enjoy the hustle and made a lot of money for myself to be independent, but sometimes I wonder how it all affects me. I’ve had to face some terrible things in this industry and I’m not sure if I ever really moved on from them.
I had gotten hired at a job and was really excited about it when I first got it. I went in for my training and although it turned out okay, I just kept feeling bad energy from the environment and the people. All in all I didn’t feel it was to my standards of a place I want to work at.
I went there the next day for my second day of training and I started having a lot of anxiety. I started crying and couldn’t contain myself while on the phone with my boyfriend. My breath was short and my body heavy. I was having a mild panic attack and I couldn’t understand why. I ended up being a no show because my anxiety was so terrible. I felt like a horrible person for letting it get to me.
With my panic attack the other day and today even being anxious about going to a Yardhouse to apply for a job, I started thinking to myself what is it that gets me like this? Is it all in my head or is it the fact that we live in a society where the need to compete all the time is idolized?
With hundreds, maybe thousands, of bars all over the city; there is still a sense of always having to compete. Behind the bar, everything is extracted from you and is put out there so rent can get paid. If you don’t stand out or make better drinks than the guy next to you, you can kiss your livelihood goodbye.
The funny thing is, I love interacting with people. I’ve always been a social butterfly. It’s why I wanted to become a bartender so that I can interact with people and have a good time.
There are moments though where I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to be seen or engaged by someone. The slightest off putting look or snarky remark sets off my anxiety. If I make a drink and someone doesn’t like it, I immediately question myself and my skills. I create chain reactions of thoughts that the guest hates me or has something against me.
I worked hard to obtain the skills I have and never let myself quit. Even when I felt defeated and like an amateur, I still fought on. The beauty of anxiety, depression, or any mental illness is that only you will ever know how painful it was to escape it to get to where you are now.
The thoughts in my head will continue to scream with a roar as I continue to smile while asking you,
“What drinks can I get started for you today?”
I thought it would be appropriate to add a cocktail at the end because why not??
I tried this cocktail in Santa Cruz at a local restaurant and I was blown away by it. The complexity and textures were incredible, the presentation of it was beautiful and there was a party in my mouth with all the flavors I tasted.
Contains Chai tea infused gin, lemon juice, egg white, and cardamom bitters.
Let me tell you, I cherished every sip of it.