This past June, I attended my five-year reunion for Providence College. It was a nostalgic event to say the least as I was reunited with classmates I had not seen in years. Our accommodations for the weekend were our old dorm rooms and once we had everyone back together, it was like nothing had changed in the past half a decade since we left campus.
If you’ve ever attended a reunion, you know that the primary question that you’ll be answering is “what are you doing these days?” If you’re not keen on keeping up with others on social media or just have a spotty memory like myself, this question allows you to tackle current living, marital and occupational situations in one fell swoop. If you go to college, it’s expected of you to follow the major you’ve chosen into the appropriate career path upon graduation. Providence College is a great school with overwhelming credentials. Most of my friends are now working successful jobs throughout the business world and living in Boston or New York City. So you can imagine that when you tell your peers at a five-year reunion that you’re still bartending, it’s inevitable that you’ll receive some perplexed looks.
“When are you going to get a real job?” “When are you going to use that fancy college degree?” Two questions that most bartenders who graduate from school and stick to the craft are all too familiar with. After college, I was unsure of my direction in life and even at 27 years old, I am not completely sure what I want to be when I’m older (other than a pirate of course). However, to say that I’m not content with my choices to this point would be a lie.
Being a bartender has opened so many doors for me and has allowed me to create relationships with people that will last my lifetime. I’ve met my lawyer through bartending (shout out to Craig Hein Law). I’ve met my mechanic through bartending. I’ve met role models and people I idolize through bartending. But most importantly, I’ve met some of my best friends through this path.
Being a bartender allows me to travel when I want. If I want to work, I pick up a shift. If I don’t want to work, I give a shift away. If I want to spend a few months down in the Virgin Islands with my St. John friends, I’m able to do so in the off-season without worrying if I’ll have enough sick time to cover the trip or how far behind I’ll fall in my paperwork. The blessing of being able to travel at your convenience is often overlooked but I promise it’s worth every prayer. Although bartending has been a very profitable profession and has allowed me to live a comfortable life here in Newport, the piece of mind and flexibility associated with the job are just as rewarding.
Some people are cut out for the daily grind. Some people live to be ‘weekend warriors.’ Some people don’t mind sitting behind a desk watching the clock tick towards 5pm. I suppose I’m just not cut from that same piece of cloth. Although ‘real world jobs’ and ‘restaurant jobs’ are very different, they are also extremely similar in more ways than one. I also try to make pissed off people happy, just as you help your clients in any way that you can. I’m confident that I can hang with just about anyone in the sales world. Sales is sales. I could sell ice to an eskimo or crack to a cop. I could go door to door selling doors if need be. However, just because I’m selling an ‘oaky, buttery’ Chardonnay to a middle-aged woman named Diane, doesn’t meant that those same skills would not translate to a traditional sales position.
Last week alone I had two people tell me that they admire my lifestyle. Life in Newport followed by a few months in the Caribbean is an easy sell for anyone. I hear stories everyday of people wanting to quit their everyday job and travel but for whatever reason, they aren’t able to make the commitment. By no means am I trying to discredit a regular day job and trust me, I am definitely not trying to glorify being a bartender. I’m just saying that right now, it’s what’s for me and what makes me happy.
In my eyes, success isn’t necessarily measured in job titles or bank accounts. Too often, people get lost in the thought of how they’re perceived by others. Perception is deception. “Do you know who I am?” is a phrase that can’t die quick enough and God bless the bartenders and managers at the Cooke House who I’m sure hear this far too often. If you live a life that you’re proud of, what more could you want? Other people’s exceptions for you should not define the expectations you have for yourself. Maybe one day I’ll settle into a career and live a more traditional lifestyle but for now, I’m quite content. Next time you attend a college reunion remember this article and hopefully you’ll be able to confidently tell your peers, “I’m a bartender and I’m just fine with that.”
Tyler’s Two Cents: Thoughts from Behind the Bar is a weekly lifestyle column, written by Tyler Bernadyn. Tyler is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award winning $10 entree dinner special.
Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.
Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn.