“So, you’re in school right?” or “What do you actually do?” or “What’s the next step?” these are all variations of the frequent unprompted inquiries I receive about my current social status. According to this logic, twenty – something year olds should be investing in their future, gaining as much education necessary to be a successful adult. Jobs like bartending are only meant to be a transitory means to an end, AKA a temporary rent – paying gig. Something to pay the bills until your REAL job begins.
These patrons have heard me say something that sparked their interest. Maybe it was a passing comment about the current political state, or an observation I made while touring abroad. How disappointed would they be if I responded to the previously stated questions with, ‘I’m not in school, this is what I do, there is no next step’. What a waste, they might think. So much potential that’s being squandered in menial task work.
Instead, I usually reassure them that I am still in school and am pursuing post-graduate studies. Sometimes, this satisfies them. More often, this is followed with unsolicited career/life advice. What I don’t mention is that I have been and off and on student for years and I lack a five year career plan. I don’t mention that I am okay with my current uncertainty.
Sometimes I feel compelled to defend my profession, to explain that I have learned more about the human condition through this job then in my four- year Sociology degree. But this principle goes beyond me. What about all of the people who are in these ‘low-level’ professions in a long – term basis with no interest to advance? What about the people who aren’t able to access the social ladder?
Interestingly, I am never asked those prying questions by my twenty-something peers. They are usually in the same boat and would never think to ask the same things that they are tired of hearing themselves. They respond, “bartender? Cool”. And that’s the end of it.
I ask you to withhold these questions until there is appropriate evidence to suggest the bartender/server/barista is pursuing other avenues. Further, you will be asked for advice if they are seeking it. Another bonus is that by not assuming anything about this quasi stranger, you don’t run the risk of an awkward interaction.