I am hunched over a counter in a small food service kiosk. The kiosk is located in a large city library. The air is cool in the building and for that I am thankful. It is about the only thing I am thankful for at the moment. I am poring over a thick manual which is trying to communicate to me how to program the cash register that sits to my right. Each time I attempt to plunk in the specific series of code it is telling me to I receive a loud droning beeeeeeeeeep; impressing the ever expanding notion that, yes, I’m an idiot and cannot even follow simple instructions properly. Passersby startle from the beeps to which I awkwardly say, “it’s my first day!” with a shrug and a borderline manic laugh bubbling up from my nervous gut. I suspect this terrifies them more than the initial beeping had.
Each time I fail at inputting this or that into the machine a cruel voice in my brain grows a little bit louder. It tells me that I’m too stupid for this. It says that I am not cut out for the pressure in which this new endeavour is hammering down upon us. It drills into me that I do not have the wherewithal to run this thing. To build this thing. To be whom I have to be to get ‘er done.
With each hurdle that pops up, each landmine that blows my progress thus far to smithereens, I wonder how I will get this thing finished. The days in which I have to finish are slipping away. We need to get it up and running. This much I know.
Every ten minutes or so I have a friendly face stop by. Some of these faces I recognise from The Hot Wire, some I’ve seen around town. Some are not familiar but they all wear smiles and come bearing curious questions about hours of operation and opening dates and basically all of the things I have no answers for. I give them a, “We will sell sandwiches” kind of answer which does not seem to satisfy any of them. As lovely as these people are, as humbled as I am that they are interested in our business, I still feel a bubble of crippling anxiety swelling in my throat because as it stands right now I feel as though it will never be complete. I will never have these answers for them.
So I stop with the cash register. I stop with the service calls and the number crunching. I stop with the grocery lists and the budget planning. I stop with all of the things I feel I cannot look at for even one more minute because if I do I will crumble. I will fall apart dead smack in the middle of this library food service kiosk and that would be quite embarrassing. My brain is too tired, too tender, too self-aware to look at these endlessly infuriating numbers right now. So instead I look at the blank chalkboard I have hanging on the wall, waiting to be delved into.
I am no artist but I can wholly understand the appeal. To design and decorate, to think up an idea and lay it out on something that was nothing only moments before. It feels so good, and it relieves the stress of the morning, if only for a short time. This output of creativity gives me the extra confidence I need to carry on with the tough stuff.
There are so many moments of self-doubt in this business. It seems as though nearly every decision we make we can count on some obstacle rearing its head soon after. I am so tired. So run down and burnt out, exhausted from decision making and immediately after worrying if it was the right decision.
Some days, on the bad days, I look at the dark circles under my eyes and I wonder why we do this. Why do we run ourselves ragged? Why do we take the verbal abuse from strange customers? Why do we work so hard for so little pay off? And then, after my small pity trip has wrapped itself up neat and tidy, I step back and look at it all as a whole.
I look at my life. At the accomplishment of this thing; this beautiful, terrible, sleep depriving, exhilarating, outrageous, ever-growing, once unimaginable thing that we have built from absolutely nothing. And I am so proud of it all.
I am hunched over a counter in a small food service kiosk. I am admiring my half-done chalkboard menu. It’s not perfect but it’s us. It’s got charm and a tad of the “weird” that our patrons have come to love about us. The way I see it, the way I really see this chalk board hanging in front of me is the same way I try to see this business when things get tough. The passion of what we are doing, the love from our people and of our product shines through and draws the eye away from the little flaws peppered throughout.
Sometimes it’s difficult to hush the cruel voice in my head that says I’m not enough. Sometimes I wish I could conjure up confidence the way I conjure up hilarious food puns for our sidewalk sign. Alas, I don’t know how confidence works. Whenever I ask the confident people in my life how they acquired so much of it, they just laugh a hearty chortle and pat me patronisingly on the top of the head. I suppose like all things, my confidence in this business will come with time and experience and until then I will keep my head up, pretend to know what I’m doing, and continue to remind myself to take creative breaks along the way.