“What do you recommend — the bacon burger or the half rack of ribs?” the lady asks, looking up from her menu. I smile and tell her the fajitas are my favorite and suggest she try that. What I don’t tell her is that I am a vegetarian, and I don’t have the slightest clue as to what half the menu tastes like. I’m just hoping she will decide quickly so that I can put her order in and then sneak to the back to email my professor the assignment I was supposed to have sent before my shift started. I know what you’re thinking — and yes, I do sound a little fake. In fact, this is something I struggled with when I first started working part-time as a waitress. My life became a tricky balance between my job and school, which made it difficult to give either of them my all. Taking orders and taking exams may seem to have little in common, and for a long time I felt that the 15 hours I spent sitting in class were directly opposed to the equal amount of time I spent running around a restaurant each week. I’ve learned, though, that having more on my plate — no pun intended — can actually help me. Having less free time has made me much more productive, and I can manage my time much better now, knowing that it is limited. I can also cut down on my visits to the gym, since I’ve decided that lifting trays of piping hot food is probably better than any arm workout I would do anyway. Besides killer biceps, being a waitress has given me plenty of practical life skills. Serving food is like speed dating — you have a limited window to make a large impression. I am sure many of us as students have faced a similar difficulty when networking or conducting interviews. My job has taught me how to be personable and genuine with my guests and avoid the fake enthusiasm that waitresses can often fall back on. (How excited was I really about those fajitas at the beginning of my story?) Customer service requires a large degree of confidence, especially when things don’t go as planned. The fast pace of the job requires me to make decisions quickly and solve problems effectively. It is easy to be overwhelmed, but harder to keep that stress from showing. I have learned that I am better off genuinely believing in my own abilities, rather than constantly trying to hide my fears of messing up. My job does not just give me the confidence to talk to people or solve issues as they arise, but it also reminds me that I can achieve the tasks I set out to do. I know that I can walk into work, and by the end of the night, I will have something to show for my efforts. It allows me to build a sense of pride outside of academics, which I think that can be valuable, as so many University students, including myself, often feel defined by their grades. I am not trying to glorify the exhaustion and stress that working as a student can cause. You definitely do not need to be workaholic to feel a sense of purpose or drive in life. But long-term goals, like earning a degree or establishing a career, are a marathon and it can be easy to lose steam along the way. My job during college has given me perspective and motivation in school by teaching me the value of having ways to refuel — aspects of life that give me a sense of accomplishment along the way so that I can drive those other ambitions forward. Jacqueline Kester is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.