New Kids on the Block

Last night was the most dramatic night I’ve had to deal with at work in my life. First of all, I had a section full of tables requiring lots of attention and maintenance. From reasonable high-maintenance requests (bringing in a birthday cake for your son for me to present, cut, and serve – reasonable, but it takes a lot of time away) and those that were not-so-reasonable (grown men yelling at me that the strawberry lemonade we made him “didn’t have crunchies,” leaving me to figure out that what he was talking about were strawberry seeds and had to go bug the kitchen for real strawberries to mix into his lemonade, just to watch him chug it and pick out the strawberries with his fork from the ice left in the glass, and then proceed demand another all over again), I was already quite overwhelmed. I wasn’t behind or in the weeds (as we servers call it), but I was definitely to the point of asking for help from servers who weren’t busy at the time. I was in focused “go” mode. The moment I actually had a chance to stop for a second, I got caught up on some drama that was occurring among some of the people I work with. However, I’m very proud of myself because I actually stood up for myself against one of the managers regarding an (unrelated) issue that has happened more than once before and hadn’t been addressed. It wasn’t easy but I stood my ground and was ultimately commended for the way I handled the situation from him and my friends there. Personal victory: Check!

However, there was a whole bunch of “he said, she said” junk going on immediately after (again, two unrelated events). What was particularly difficult was not knowing some of the new hires that were involved very well at all, and therefore had no relationship or rapport with them already. We didn’t have any trust built, didn’t know each other’s character, nor what kinds of things are or are not just typical behavior of the other. I actually didn’t even know two of their names.

I’m currently the new kid in my university’s chorale. (This will tie in soon, I promise.) At work, I have seniority, I know people who have come and gone, and I’ve seen a lot of changes throughout my time there. In choir, I’m the new hire. I’m not even a music major, but I’m working to find my place in the group and become a real part of the team. Although everyone has been very sweet, supportive, and excited to have me there, I still feel the “new kid” awkwardness enter the scene when others tell stories about old choir members who have graduated, other music department faculty and events, and when hearing about the great times they had together over the weekend.

Know that I am in no way complaining or blaming them for the “new kid syndrome.” (How could I? There’s absolutely no justification for anyone claiming a preexisting group should revolve around the new kids or pretend they didn’t have an awesome time and group before we came along. In fact, celebrate it with them.)  Auditioning and getting this opportunity is the best chance I’ve taken in my entire college career. What I’m getting at is that it is that newness is weird and scary for everyone. At work, I am one of those people who reminisce about coworkers that have moved on or how things used to be, and it’s hard figuring out how to connect with new hires and figure out their unique place in the team. It’s hard finding myself on the opposite side of the situation, being the new choir member and figuring out how to relate to people who have had such a strong and familiar family for years before I showed up, and are now adjusting to new members. I know it’s hard for the new kids at work, and I know it’s hard for the others in choir. It’s weirdness, for all of us.

This juxtaposition just recently occurred to me, and I can’t help but to find it odd just how different the emotions and the responsibilities are from one situation to the next. In one, I have to decide to put effort into getting to know the newbies; in the other, I have to put effort into speaking up and showing people I really totally want to be their friend.

My tagline for this blog is “just for today, everyone be 10% less cool & 10% more open-hearted.” As the big kids on top, it’s easy to really enjoy just how cool we are. In any situation this is true. Heck, even as a new kid, it’s natural to use how cool we are to hide our fear of being inadequate and our awkwardness. If we can remember to just step outside of that, at some point we could find people, connections, friends, experiences, knowledge, that we hadn’t anticipated. The important thing is that we don’t have to “turn a new leaf,” or have some life-changing existential experience, or decide to become a whole new person. I’m just asking for 10%.

(However, I will admit that when you think about how freaking awesome YOU are, 10% less cool is still a lot. And just that bit can make a huge difference to some one else.)

 

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