This piece is not what you think. I’m not here to share my mourning over the loss of a lover. I’m here, rather, to mourn the loss of a piece of myself, a major chunk of my personality. It took me a while to realize that I’d lost anything at all, but now that I know she’s gone, I’m not sure I know how to define myself anymore. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Let me take you back. Roughly 14 years ago, as a fresh-faced 22-year-old, I began my glamorous career as a waitress! Becoming a waitress was a huge deal for me back then, a step in what I thought was the right direction of joining the ranks of the super cool, popular types I’d known in school and longed to become. At the time, I was the same horribly awkward, nervous dweeb I’d always been, prone to saying or doing the absolute wrong thing at any given moment. The thing is, you can’t really do that as a waitress. You can’t be flustered or confused when guests ask you questions or else they’ll assume you don’t have a clue on what you’re doing. I now had to be cool, confident, laid back, and capable of small talking the hell out of anyone at anytime.
Thus, my alter ego, the exact opposite of me, was created.
Nadia, as she would eventually be known by many, was bubbly, witty, a little snarky, but always professional and welcoming. She could easily read her tables and adapt to fit any group’s needs. She was all things to all people and she loved it! Nadia could be the sexy flirt for a group of dudes watching the game, the woo-friend to raucous groups of Ladies Nighters, fade into the background of important business lunches, or sit down across from the lonely, single guy and make him feel special.
The real me was rarely seen inside those restaurant walls, or inside the bars she started frequenting with her coworkers. And, frequent she did. Looking back now, after over a year of sobriety, I can honestly say that I was/am an alcoholic. That became a part of Nadia’s persona, too. She was the party girl with FOMO to spare and a knack for pushing things way too far. Basically, she was a mess. Nadia took root in me and has been my constant companion for 14 years. Through two divorces, countless moves, and new jobs, Nadia was always there, until, all of a sudden, she wasn’t.
Something unexpected happened nearly two months ago. I was fired from the restaurant I’d been a part of for five years. Now, I’ve been fired before, and usually, aside from the usual griping about how wronged I was, I’d bounced back pretty quickly. The turnover rate for restaurant employees is bonkers high. This time was vastly different, for multiple reasons.
One, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been sober for a year, having finally realized just how sickeningly dependent I was on booze and the bar scene. Two, I was already in a shaky living situation, and had been scouring the unforgiving Santa Cruz housing market for a new home for several months. Three, I was still trying to nail down just the right combination of antidepressants and anti anxiety drugs. The fact was that Normal Nadine had been in such a state of flux that I’d been relying heavily on Nadia to fill in the gaps for a long while. To have her ripped away from me so suddenly left me lost and feeling quite empty.
So, I made the not-so-awesome reactionary decision to move three hours away from all of my friends to stay in my aunt’s spare room in Sacramento. I applied for unemployment for the first time in my life and set out to find another restaurant job. I’ve had no luck in the job hunt, but that’s not surprising. I haven’t been “selling myself” quite as eloquently and forcefully as I have in the past, and I’m not sure if I have it in me to do so anymore. I’ve lived in my new city for about a month now, and my days mostly consist of driving around aimlessly under the guise of getting to know the place, shutting myself in my room with a crochet project and Netflix, and gloomily walking my dog around the neighborhood trying not to make eye contact with anyone. It’s a quiet life, and a lonely one, in which I struggle daily to find purpose and meaning.
Nadia is gone, I know that now. I’m not sure if I could summon her back, or if I even want to at this point. She did see me through some of the roughest times in my life, was always my first line of defense in new and uncomfortable social settings, and pulled me into quite a few pretty amazing life experiences. But, she’s also been a crutch and a shield, protecting me from the world and keeping me from fully becoming a complete person.
Perhaps this change is a blessing, and I should see this as a time to find out what I really want my life to look like. Maybe I’ll get pulled back in to the “industry” and fall back into my old habits. Who knows? Being that so much of my life is still in transition, I can’t wrap this piece up into a tidy little package. All I can say is goodbye to Nadia, and that I’m excited and terrified daily to discover more of who I am without her.