By Tenzin Jamyang
2010 was an eventful year for me in many ways. It was my first and probably the only year when I got to live in the city, New York City that is, for the entire length of its span: Partying into the wee hours of the morning and blowing my money away as if I were the heir apparent of a kingdom. It was the year after I came of age, and felt if I was coming into myself more and more as the months passed by. I also started developing a strong affinity towards literature, and finally found an excuse to pursue institutional learning—an appellation not without a pejorative undertone—once again; in effect I was going to give college another chance. I had played with the idea sporadically and perfunctorily until one day, brimmed with frustration from taking everyone’s non-sense, as a server at a restaurant (Tokubie 86), I decided to sit down and forge a letter filled with such redemptive sentiments that would evoke the sympathy of even the cruelest debt-collector. And forge I did.
I know many of you go to restaurants and think about servers, or waiters as they are called in some parts of the world, as someone who fakes a smile, scribbles something on his pad, and then shows up only when it’s time to flex your wallet. But from my experience, I can attest to the physical and mental toughness that this profession demands. For some people it is a fun profession because they enjoy being of some service, but for those who are just not right for this, it is an everyday torture. I was a member of the latter group: a group which consisted of people who thought it was just a transitional gig before his big break; those who saw this profession as something beneath them; those who always changed the subject when obliged to respond to “what do you do for living?” in front of a bunch of successful former high-school acquaintances. If you love being a server, then any form of hard-work becomes fun. For me, however, it was a drag even when faking a smile; I felt as if I was selling myself when shouting “Arasi masei,” as required by the management to make patrons feel themselves at Japan. I remember thinking once, “if not for those generous scholarships, my parents would have probably made their worst investment to date.” Those months of serving tables were nothing— besides a poor excuse for making ends meet— but hours of stress, finding new bottoms for my self-esteem, and finding out everyone else doing things more interesting.
On December 22nd of that year, as usual, I was crawling my way to work and literally two blocks short of getting there was when I received an email from my college. It was a confirmation with details about my accommodation at Union College—the recipient of the aforementioned letter. I still remember being at the door of a Starbucks café and telling myself, “The hell with Tokubei, I am going to finish “Brave New World” today.” My euphoria only got amplified with each cup of coffee, and after justifying and putting an objective spin to this emotion, the happiness still felt like an absolute reality—an emotion strong enough to duel with the desolation of death. After several attempts from my colleagues to contact me and understand my absence, ask they did, but I did not tell. I was not the one obliged to tell any longer. Obama, on the other hand, was completely revoking “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that day.