Do or do not. There is no try.
I realize it's been awhile (a long while) since my last post, and that's kind of what I've wanted to talk about it. I got a new job, at a much, much nicer restaurant - I used to work at an "upscale casual" chain restaurant (think Bennigans, but with marble), I've moved on to a high-end steak house - but it's been kind of a mixed blessing. The money is better (like, really better), the clientele is (vastly) better and, once they kick in, the benefits (401(k)!) are better.
But I'm working a lot. Like, 8 shifts a week - usually about 3 doubles, a lunch and a night. It's over 50 hours a week waiting tables, which is a lot. I'm used to a workweek of about 32-40 - at my old job they wouldn't let you go into overtime. I realize for a lot of non-waiters, 50+ hour workweeks (or 60 or 70) are not uncommon, but for waiting tables it's a lot. First of all, waiting tables is physically demanding - I'm basically on my feet for ten to twelve hours a day (and, unlike some jobs, I don't get to break for Farmville or ESPN.com). I've been so drained that in my off time it's really hard to get motivated to do anything except sleep in and waste time on the internet. Secondly, I'm not moving up any company ladder any time soon. To be a waiter is to have a job where the only real advancement is better sections and priority in scheduling (unless you want to work your way up to management, and I have zero interest in doing that). There are no raises and no promotions. So to sacrifice 50 hours a week is to do so with no carrot at the end of the stick - it's simply for the money made. And granted, the money is good. But is it a trade off I'm happy to make?
One of the reasons I've always liked waiting as a profession is because it allows you the time to do other things (like write blogs and promote e-books, for instance). So when you take that away, you're left with just this job, and it's looking less and less appealing. It's a real catch-22: I've taken this job to make more money so I can have more freedom (and God forbid put together a savings, retirement fund, and pay off my credit cards), but because of all the time spent at the job I have less freedom than ever (I'm sure this scenario is not unfamiliar to many of you).
The whole thing has got me thinking about the trade-offs we make in life, the sacrifices we're forced to make in choosing one thing or another. There's only so much time in a day (or in a life), and you can only divide it up so much. At my old job I had free time and flexibility, but I was also not saving anything and continually paying the minimum on my credit cards. So it was limiting my future free time and flexibility.
One of the main things I've learned from Buddhism is to try to see the situation as it truly is, without fear or desire or regret or prejudice getting in the way. We have to look at our lives and ask ourselves, time and time again: is this working? And if it's not, what's to be done about it: is it something I can change, or is it something I need to accept? If my current path is preventing me from living the life I want, I have the responsibility for figuring out what I need to do to get to the other place - and then do everything in my power to get there. I've said it before: Buddhism is not about passively accepting everything that comes your way; it's about seeing reality as it is and acting accordingly. If you're absolutely powerless over a situation and acceptance is the only thing you can do, then that's all you can do - that's reality. However, if there is something you can do about it, you have to commit yourself to that action fully and without hesitation. If you do make a mistake, or take a wrong turn, at least then you can learn from that experience and redirect yourself. If you never take any chances, you'll never learn anything and never move from where you are.