Cienkus Headshot_SketchWhen I think back to how I started the summer, it was in the “slowing down” mentality.

How far from reality this expectation was.

This summer was completely hectic. Between babysitting and having two part-time jobs, my free time was spent passed out in random places between shifts and trying to catch up with family and friends.

However, what I had to come to terms with is that for the longest time, I thought I was not getting anything “accomplished” this summer. I only read one book, did not travel and spent my days in the same routine until the months passed away. In my first article, I imagined myself cooking, journaling and taking time to explore the city and be contemplative. I almost look back at myself like some hopeless romantic.

It was busy, but a different kind of busy than school. It was the type of busy that everyday working Americans face, and although it was not my expected experience, what it has taught me is invaluable moving forward.

This “business” forced me to be constantly moving and at attention. Therefore, the exhaustion at the end of the day was more physical than mental, unlike the 3 a.m. Lauinger Library paper-writing exhaustion.

One of my jobs was working as a waitress. Working in the restaurant industry was definitely a jolting experience at first and, I can say wholeheartedly, the hardest thing I have ever done. It is really hard to be a waitress; all my prejudices came tumbling down on my first day when I messed up three orders and dropped two plates. You are truly working for every dollar you make, because it is 100 percent tips, no hourly rate. I learned so much from my coworkers who, before I started the job, I would have thought had little to offer me. Overall, the social and efficiency skills service jobs foster are invaluable in life. I met people from all walks of life and had to work together with them for a common goal. When a State Department representative came to speak to the International Relations Club this spring and mentioned that they really like to hire servers, baristas, etc., I did not understand that at all. What about the really cool internship on the Hill? That means nothing? Now I understand.

I learned what hard work really is. Hard work is not just studying for hours for a test. It is being on your feet for over eight hours, remembering to pick up someone’s glass of wine at the bar while heading to the kitchen to grab a soup for another table while taking the order for yet another. It is the work that the kitchen staff do, spending over 70 hours a week in a hot sweaty kitchen cooking and doing dishes, making minimum wage and failing to see their four children for days at a time. It is that feeling you have at 6 a.m. when you wake up and do the whole thing all over again.

Personally, I could get through it because I was aware my time there was only temporary. When I was in the basement scooping coleslaw for the next day at the end of the night, I would think about Georgetown and how I would be back in seven weeks. I would be returning to my prestigious university with a bright future ahead that was most likely not going to end with me working in a restaurant and a sailing camp full time. But for the majority of my coworkers, this was not the case. The 11-hour days were not ending anytime soon, and for that reason alone, their work ethic and mental and emotional strength is astonishing and admirable. Nothing has made me more thankful for my education and relative privilege, and if that is all I have “accomplished” this summer, I am content. Moving forward, even though I am physically drained from this summer, I am 100 percent revitalized mentally for my return to school in the coming weeks.

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