Jun 27, 2017



The occupational hazard of existing

Finding comfort from hard work, self-improvement


Madeline Seymour

With a green apron wrapped around my waist and a pitcher of steamed soy milk in my hand, I glance above my store’s espresso machine and at the endless line of people. All customers. All in line for a latte or iced tea or some wildly mutated version of an otherwise common coffeehouse drink. As I look, there’s a lot to take in — the businesswoman with impatient eyes, the couple on a casual coffee date, the child that keeps pointing at our selection of cake pops. All this, however, and the one thing that stands out to me is the quiet 60-or-so-year-old in the back of the line. What about him caught my eye? His ragged baseball cap. Printed across the front was our Cavalier logo.

Now that I’ve spent two semesters on Grounds, it’s like I’ve been trained to hone in on any kind of Cavalier memorabilia. Sweatshirts. License plates. Credit cards. Really, an odd selection of things. A year ago, I wouldn’t have noticed these unless they were staring me in the face — now, it feels like I see these things everywhere.

This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s given me the courage to start conversations with complete strangers. While I knew nothing about these people, we had lengthy talks. “Which library is your favorite?” “Did you ever see the Purple Shadows on April 13?” “Where is your favorite place to eat on Grounds?” It’s strange how one commonality can spark a genuine connection between people. Not only that, but it reminds me of what really matters. Not that I’m stuck making drink after drink, but that I am saving money to pay for my tuition.

Still, these ubiquitous reminders of the school I left in Charlottesville sometimes make it hard to believe I’ve departed for the summer. Especially when considering my average day here is far more work than an average day on Grounds. That’s bound to happen, I suppose, when you’re consistently working overtime and attempting to prepare for the GRE test, which is scheduled for the end of July. It’s a lot to adjust to, but I’ll adapt. The key must be to find a happy medium between both expectations — something I have yet to achieve.

Any advice? I’d welcome it.

Sure, I feel overworked and a tad stressed, but I know that I am not alone in that. Feeling this way is a stipulation of being a student and — in all honesty — it’s also a stipulation of being human. It is an occupational hazard of existence.

After all, the desire for self-improvement is natural and is really only achieved through incessant and determined work. With that in mind, it’s easy to swallow the hours spent studying, the absurd number of blended beverages made and all the missed social events. It’s easy to take comfort in this commonality, because it means we’re a part of a giant and inclusive community.

While this isn’t always clear, especially when buried shoulder-deep in seemingly endless stress, it is omnipresent. And let’s be honest. Who doesn’t need that in their life? A sense of belonging? A sense of direction? Knowing that people are experiencing similar situations is a comforting thing. While work isn’t always desirable, it’s something we share with others and it’s something that propels our self-improvement. 

With a green apron wrapped around my waist and a pitcher of steamed soy milk in my hand, I glance above my store’s espresso machine and at the endless line of people. All customers. All in line for a latte or iced tea or some wildly mutated version of an otherwise common coffeehouse drink. As I look, there’s a lot to take in — the businesswoman with impatient eyes, the couple on a casual coffee date, the child that keeps pointing at our selection of cake pops. All this, however, and the one thing that stands out to me is the quiet 60-or-so-year-old in the back of the line. What about him caught my eye? His ragged baseball cap. Printed across the front was our Cavalier logo.

Now that I’ve spent two semesters on Grounds, it’s like I’ve been trained to hone in on any kind of Cavalier memorabilia. Sweatshirts. License plates. Credit cards. Really, an odd selection of things. A year ago, I wouldn’t have noticed these unless they were staring me in the face — now, it feels like I see these things everywhere.

This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s given me the courage to start conversations with complete strangers. While I knew nothing about these people, we had lengthy talks. “Which library is your favorite?” “Did you ever see the Purple Shadows on April 13?” “Where is your favorite place to eat on Grounds?” It’s strange how one commonality can spark a genuine connection between people. Not only that, but it reminds me of what really matters. Not that I’m stuck making drink after drink, but that I am saving money to pay for my tuition.

Still, these ubiquitous reminders of the school I left in Charlottesville sometimes make it hard to believe I’ve departed for the summer. Especially when considering my average day here is far more work than an average day on Grounds. That’s bound to happen, I suppose, when you’re consistently working overtime and attempting to prepare for the GRE test, which is scheduled for the end of July. It’s a lot to adjust to, but I’ll adapt. The key must be to find a happy medium between both expectations — something I have yet to achieve.

Any advice? I’d welcome it.

Sure, I feel overworked and a tad stressed, but I know that I am not alone in that. Feeling this way is a stipulation of being a student and — in all honesty — it’s also a stipulation of being human. It is an occupational hazard of existence.

After all, the desire for self-improvement is natural and is really only achieved through incessant and determined work. With that in mind, it’s easy to swallow the hours spent studying, the absurd number of blended beverages made and all the missed social events. It’s easy to take comfort in this commonality, because it means we’re a part of a giant and inclusive community.

While this isn’t always clear, especially when buried shoulder-deep in seemingly endless stress, it is omnipresent. And let’s be honest. Who doesn’t need that in their life? A sense of belonging? A sense of direction? Knowing that people are experiencing similar situations is a comforting thing. While work isn’t always desirable, it’s something we share with others and it’s something that propels our self-improvement. 


Published June 8, 2017 in Columns, Life







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