21 Sep Am I cut out for this?
Dear fellow self-doubting law student, a lesson from the most un-Karen Karen
I know your story. You’re an over-achiever. You were always one of the brightest of your peers. Despite your proven ability over the years, you are now up against an entire law school of over-achievers and now you are lacking confidence. Or maybe you did not excel academically but you found a path by other means to study law and now you are doubting your ability to keep up with the successful-since-high-school types. I know your story because it’s my story too.
I want to share with you a little wisdom I have learnt, a simple reminder that keeps my over-achieving (am I doing enough?) mind at rest. It’s a lesson I learned working in the kitchen of a busy inner-city café. The café is run by a Greek-Australian man who, after studying two years of a law degree, pressured by his migrant parents to pursue a ‘fruitful’ career, decided to instead do what he loves most: to cook. He opened and ran a number of busy cafes in Sydney’s inner western suburbs.
By the time he came to open the café that I worked in, he had developed an extensive all-day menu influenced by the various cultures and ideas of his staff over the years – very extensive. I worked in the kitchen with him on a Saturday, the day customers order all kinds of food at all inappropriate hours of the day. Pastas for breakfast, pancakes right before close.
I used to over-stress. I used to see those receipts stacking up and the pancake batter running out and panic. I thought everyone was watching me thinking: she isn’t going fast enough, she’s going to forget the recipe, she can’t handle it. I often made mistakes.
One particular day I incorrectly made a number of orders and I was profusely apologising to Karen, the lady who took orders and made all the baked goods. With one hand on her hip and a line of people waiting behind her to order, she shrugged “It’s just food, people,” and turned to smile at the next customer. I know, how very un-Karen of Karen.
A long anecdote for a simple lesson. The deadline for an assignment is coming up and you have left it too late – it’s just food, people. You made an error on an important project for work – it’s just food, people. You’re reading over the exam question and it’s harder than expected – it’s just food, people. You’re presenting in class and your lip is beginning to quiver – it’s just food, people.
It’s just food, and you are only human. You may chop a little faster or stir a little quicker, but the difference between your human capacity and the next is minute. If you are that bad, you wouldn’t be there – chef would kick you out. And if you are still breathing then you are still alive, regardless of what you have or have not done – it is just food. If you have worked hard enough to be studying a law degree, then you have it in you – you are cut out for this. You have to remind yourself that you have done things for the first time a million times over – and you have gotten through it. You can get through anything if you think, “It’s just food, people.”
And as a secondary lesson, not every Karen is a ‘Karen’.