• Anna Patterson

Lockdown Gave Me Room to Bloom

Lockdown was tough for all of us, especially those of us that are highly social extroverts working hospitality. Going from daily interactions to zilch. Right?

I’ve been working hospitality for ten years, alongside school, then university, and now for my career as a barista. Hospitality work is hard…enjoyable, but hard. Emotionally and physically. Many of us are aware of the “10 years hospitality burn out,” where people often turn to a 9-5 job in favour of the shift patterns, the customer service persona, and are generally done with the public.

This wasn’t me, I love my job, I love working with people, and training…all that jazz. However, I was heading towards a burn out that I wasn’t aware of until I stopped for 6 weeks. Stopped setting an alarm, stopped being on my feet for 8+ hours, stopped feeling responsible for the experiences of others, stopped politely ignoring the expectations that I be delighted with flirtation.

The six weeks I had off during lockdown turned out to be a lifesaver, recharging batteries I didn’t know were depleted.

Folks, I had never been so rested. I found time to consistently do things I was always too tired to before. I’m not talking about a multitude of new hobbies (although I did start a few), I’m talking about cooking food, laundry, cleaning. I think many of us in hospitality know what it is like to return home from cleaning for several hours at work, to nearly cry at the thought of then doing basic cleaning in your own space. And it’s sad, it sounds like a silly excuse…which it could well be. But if you know, you know. You end up ordering a Boojum and falling asleep with an open laptop.

“Wind your neck in,” you might proclaim, and rightfully so perhaps. Since I would take my role over one in the hospital, on the front lines, properly dangerous and exhausting work. I don’t even have kids. But it made me realise that I had been accustomed to a pretty high level of consistent exhaustion. For years. The most I ever had booked off was two weeks, which were holidays filled with experiences and joy – but activity and the tiredness that accompanies that. I never just rested.

It was a revelation to just…stop.

Then, it started again. The shifts were now encompassing the emotional drain of trying to direct the public to maintain social distancing and explain hygiene standards that I am not personally responsible for. I was happy! Happy to be working, happy to have my social interactions with beloved regular customers and new faces. But it made me think… “is this how tired I was before when I went to a gig after a shift, or stopped by a party the night before my 7am start?” I didn’t understand how I was functioning like I was with the energy levels I had.

Lockdown made me appreciate the importance of proper rest, and the benefits that it brings. Even more, it made me realise what real physical and mental rest is. My skin got better, my hair healthier, my mood was at a stable contentment, and I had time to emotionally invest in loved ones. I also, had a good stockpile of specialty coffee beans and a Moccamaster – this might be a totally different article if I didn’t.

I would love to normalise an emphasis on proper rest in hospitality. We’ve all been there, there’s a crisis at work or it’s busier than normal, we feel responsible to give up hours or days off to keep the ship afloat, often ending up with one day off in the week or working for 7+ days in a row before our next rest. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, a strong team that cares for each other results in workers bailing each other out or staying behind to make the others job a little less hard etc. But it has happened regularly in every hospitality job I’ve had over the decade. It obviously isn’t only a hospitality problem either. I think our society’s attitudes towards normal working exhaustion is whack.

I don’t have the answers either. Otherwise I’d be running for office. But next time you see your server frazzled and stressed, looking a little over worked and emotional – maybe don’t complain about the problem that isn’t their responsibility.

We’re all just working for the weekend after all. 

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