Why hide your talents & joys

Taking a moment to be a motivational speaker.

What’s something you like, do, or have done that you take pride in, but society says you should hide or be ashamed of?

I’m sure I have several, but the thing that’s currently at the top of my mind is my on-campus food service job in college.

Something my mom really enjoys saying is, “Everyone should have to work in food service.” Nobody has ever objected to this statement, but she still slides it into relevant conversations every so often, using a tone as if people will disagree.

I have always agreed, especially after hearing numerous horror stories from my mom’s time working as a waiter at a buffet/steak house in college. But I guess I never gave it much more thought than that. Yeah, yeah…valuable lessons and such.

But after working three years in an on-campus cafe, I really get it. Rude customers. Lines out the door during rushes. Smoothie and soup and coffee everywhere. Really gross cleaning duties.

But I got more out of that job than any fancy internship I ever had.

I met wonderful, hilarious people that became some of my closest friends through college. I experienced and interacted with a lot of diversity. I learned time management, leadership, organization, and much more.

Sometimes I still miss that job; while it was sometimes extremely stressful and frustrating, it yielded some of my best college memories. And I was good at it – I became a student manager within a year, and I was the person employees would call when I wasn’t there to help with issues. I always felt confident and dynamic at work, which is harder to come by in your professional career.

Yes, I’m absolutely proud of that simple cafe job.

I never boasted about it though. It seemed like everyone else had posh gigs like nannying for wealthy families, or interning for nonprofits, or working in various academic departments. It’s not overtly stated in college, but jobs like those are “superior” to food service for university students. It trickles down from society’s standards – we all hear the disparaging remarks about working at McDonald’s, and more generally, the comparison of white collar to blue collar work. How could I say that I loved my job when I had to wear a baseball cap and ugly polo to work, and was scrubbing dried fruit off of my shoes and jeans after every shift?

I didn’t want to hide that I enjoyed my job. I learned and gained so much. I was able to fully supported myself through college, including rent, food, and tuition payments that loans didn’t cover. I think that’s something to be proud of.

But it wasn’t enough. As the end of college drew nearer, I knew I needed an internship or two to adorn my resume, because internships are pretty. The tools gained in food service may be extremely useful and applicable to any future role, but they’re ugly. I loved my internships, but they did not give me the same confidence, joy, patience, leadership, and people skills.

This is not intended to be a rant about career judgement. It is just the best example I can find in my personal experience for a bigger issue we are dealing with today.

I think everyone hides interests and hobbies and talents they’re proud of because they feel society won’t embrace them.

On social media, we usually post photos curated to the “norm” and what our followers will like rather than what we like, because we want to feel accepted and verified. For the things we want to share that we think may be “uncool” we create a separate account.

Maybe it’s your taste in music. Maybe it’s your preferred clothing style. Maybe it’s that “nerdy” convention you really want to go to. Maybe you love something that is not usually attributed to your gender.

And maybe it’s a blog post you reread and decided to make private because you’re embarrassed about how others will perceive the realness or sense of humor.

I’m currently working on confidently being myself, not worrying so much what others think. That’s a basic lesson we’ve heard since grade school, but it’s not really reflected in how society raises us to treat differing opinions.

Why stifle your talents and the things that bring you joy? We can’t truly value diversity like we claim to with that approach. It’s amazing how complex and different every single person is from the next, and it makes our world a rich, beautiful tapestry.

But only if we proudly give ourselves the credit we deserve, use our talents, and pursue joy.

Thanks for sticking around for this cheesy life coach speech.

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