A year and a bit ago (about when the blog went quiet) I made one of those big scary life changing steps. I quit the job I’d had for the previous 6 years (one that was safe and boring) and took over managing a small guesthouse in the Cradle of Humankind. With delusions of this being just the right thing for me. Vibrant, versatile and organised.
I was prepared for the challenge, but I was not prepared for a job that ate my life. 1 day off a week, 1 weekend off a month. Working from 8 – 6 most days (except when the goalposts shifted) just to try and keep up. Doing everything from accommodation bookings to guest liaison, wedding planning, accounts, stock control, systems management, IT, photography, social media, quotes, ordering, shopping, maintenance supervision and managing a team of housekeeping staff (and a whole lot in-between) – it’s not for the faint hearted. No wonder the industry is rife with druggies, chain smokers and alcoholics.
When I went for the initial interview, I asked the stand in manager what the worst part of the job was, she said “the phone” – I didn’t quite get that. After a year of having a busy phone with you 24/7 answering calls politely at 12, 1, 2, and 3 in the morning, and answering them again when the person phones back 10 minutes later (just as you’ve fallen asleep) to reconfirm that you have no accommodation available. I finally realized what she meant, waved my white flag and handed in my resignation.
I had become that highly strung girl who had no life outside of work. My relationships suffered, I lost touch with family and friends (or people lost touch with me, since I wasn’t the one making the effort anymore)
I’m one of those crazy people who gives a new challenge their all, who believes that with hard work and tenacity you can change an organisation for the better. But sometimes, it’s just not worth the toll. I learnt a huge amount about the industry in that year and also a lot about myself. It’s now 3 months since I quit, and I am slowly starting to unwind. Starting to find my way back to my new self. I can breathe again.
It wasn’t all bad, I met some of the most amazing people. I was able to become part of a team I was proud of. So proud. The guest house staff are the only reason the place runs during trying times and numerous half interested managers. They have the most amazing personalities and a work ethic that needs to be seen to be believed.
There are hundreds of thousands of people who work in hospitality. Be it the quiet house keeper who has to clean your bomb site of a room the next morning. The cook who has to start at 4:30 in the morning because you want to leave early. The barman who needs to work until you’ve drunk enough – even though he’s already worked a full day shift. The guy who needs to stay awake at night to check you in – because check in times do not apply to you. The shuttle driver who needs to get your drunk ass into and out the vehicle, and sometimes help you to your bed. The gardener who washes a car park full of cars on a freezing cold winter’s morning. You guys (and girls) are my heroes.
My tiny bit of advice (remember: Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth) for anyone who thinks that they want to join the hospitality industry, is: Beware of jobs that eat your life.
Time is precious – spend it well.