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Service with a Smile…And About 400 Other Emotions

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I recently moved to New York City in hopes of pursuing a career as an actor. Just like 95% of the people currently living in this city.

Determined to defy the stereotype, I turned my collar to the hoards of waitressing jobs, convinced I could hold out for better.

Better, ladies and gentlemen, turns out to be….wait for it….customer service.

Yes. You heard me right. I went to a prominent University, wrote a thesis, and graduated from the Honors College so that I could be in customer service.

The seemingly bizarre part is, I’m finding myself struggling with it. This overly educated, extensive vocabularied, overachieving uber-nerd is having trouble with SERVING CUSTOMERS.

I’m shocked to my core. There are a mass amounts of online applications to learn, inexplicably detailed instructions to remember, specific verbiage to use when speaking, and impeccable decorum to uphold. My friends, this job…is HARD.

It’s causing a rollercoaster of emotions that only an overachieving actor is capable of exuding. I’ll begin my day confident, answering simple messages and calls with ease. I find myself feeling silly for ever considering this job a struggle in the slightest. Humming to myself, my confidence builds over several hours, and ultimately I get juuuuust cocky enough so that when I get the most bewildering, confusing, and complicated message and request in the world, I completely fall apart at the seams.

Suddenly, I can’t remember ANY of those inexplicably detailed instructions. What the hell do I do next?! I find myself hurriedly clicking through the myriad of tabs I am required to have open on my computer, searching for answers from applications that only seem to be laughing at my extreme incompetence and making my brain seize up. All of a sudden, I feel as though my entire cortex has crashed, I get incredibly panicked, and have to do what no nerd EVER wants to do….consult my notes.

MY NOTES. I can’t even remember how to create an account, reship an item, and soothe an irate customer on my own. To an overly studious dork such as myself, consulting my notes is a sign of weakness akin to a New Yorker consulting a map in their own city. You drown in the impending shame, disappointment, and horror due to your lack of skills and crumbling sense of self.

I end each day feeling as though someone has ripped away a chunk of my personality, depriving me of any shred of self confidence, and I conclude my hours feeling parched of intelligence and leave with a head full of scrambled eggs.

Finally I come to the final destination of the emotional road on which I have been progressing throughout the day, whose previous pit stops consist of confidence, shock, pain, depression, and confusion. No mental Disneyworld or metaphorical beach awaits me here; rather, this weary traveller crashes straight into a solid brick wall of anger.

The anger tends to explode in the form of many, many questions. Why the heck do my bosses care so much about beauty products?! Who cares about Random Rachelle’s missing lip balm?! Why do people think their products are going to ship to them when they haven’t ADDED AN ADDRESS to their order?! Who could possibly want to be receiving MORE emails from this company?! Why are they all SO irate about choosing which minuscule sample of body wash will be sent to them this month?!

The final question is always this: why is it that THIS is the natural path for actors? It’s a given that artists must begin their “careers” with having a “day job” in order to support themselves monetarily. According to some unspoken rule, I MUST bang my head against a metaphorical wall of complaints for seven hours a day so that I can have the “luxury” of going to my audition and actually getting to do what I love for five whole minutes of my day.

This seems so incredibly backwards to me. Who decided this was normal?¬†Imagine if we told accountants “Hey friend. I know you’re a great accountant, but before you can…you know, actually crunch those numbers, you’re gonna need to be a yoga instructor all day long. I know you went to school for accounting and you’ve never cared about yoga a day in your life, but nevermind all that! You can do your little math problems at the end of the day, but we’re not gonna pay you for it. Pay those dues, baby! Enjoy!”

It’s hard to imagine, yes?

And yet, we, as actors, do it. Willingly. We get up each morning and commence dealing with the vicious cycle of complaints and overflow of emotions just so we can attempt to pursue what we are most passionate about in this world. And that, my friends, is something most people cannot say about their jobs.

So…you tell me. Am I lucky? Deranged? Brave? Insane? An inspiration? A whiny baby? Some combination of all of the above?

When you figure it out, let me know. I keep trying to determine that myself.

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