How My Anxiety Prevented Me From Getting Paid

For fifteens months, there’s been a check with my name on it sitting in a drawer of a fancy Brooklyn restaurant. I think about it from time to time, as if it was a beautiful lover who I will never see again because I am very scared of retrieving him from a drawer in a fancy Brooklyn restaurant. “I will get my check one day,” I smile to myself. “When I am famous like Tom Brady. When I am famous like Tom Brady, I will have the courage to walk into the scary, fancy Brooklyn restaurant and get my check.” I stand on the 2 train and, in between contemplating how nice my scarf looks in a dark window, I think about this Tom Brady moment. How brave I will be! How right it will feel. Tom Brady plays football, I think.

I have avoided situations before. Call a doctor? Call the bank? What am I, a professional caller? I am more suited for laying dramatically sprawled on my bed, glaring suspiciously at an episode of Fuller House, and wondering if my friend is mad at me because I forgot to RSVP to her graduation party four years ago. I avoid potential conflict skillfully.  If I was a character in Game of Thrones, you would never see me. I would always be offscreen wrapped in a Disney Princess blanket and hiding under a beautiful apple tree.  However, I had never let this genius avoidance cost me money before. But like a White Walker once said, there is always a first time for everything! 

I had quit the ferocious, scary, fancy, danger Brooklyn restaurant after two months working there.  When I scroll through articles about feminism, I swell with pride at the thought that I am a woman who lives off her strong instincts. When I exit out of the articles and return to eating some very old yogurt, I understand that I actually am a woman who lives off extremely obvious warning signs. So when the owner of the scary, fancy, probably bewitched Brooklyn restaurant quite literally slapped my wrist and told me I was a "very bad girl" for not answering the phone on the second ring, I realized I must quit! When the maitre'd regularly yelled at me in a horrifyingly sassy way for completing a task he asked of me but then not being able to do different task he wanted done at the same time, I realized again that I must quit! When a customer touched my butt and was not immediately struck by lightening via the restaurant gods, I realized once again I must quit!  But not now; maybe in two weeks. Three weeks later, I quit. I am a woman who knows when to walk away, oh yes. I walk away after an appropriate amount of time passes in which I can formulate and sell a legitimate reason for leaving so that no one yells at me. I do not like being yelled at. People yell at lot in football.

I quit the job and life goes on. I get a day job I like. I actually move to the city. I watch some of that Cosmos documentary. I grow up. Then, a year passes and I receive an email from a woman who works at the ghastly, scary, frozen hell Brooklyn restaurant.  She tells me that for whatever reason, they still have a check of mine.  I read the email very thoroughly. I nod. I close the email. I vow to never open an email again. I consider what life will be like without technology. Maybe I will learn useful skills.

A month later, I have a sudden burst of energy. I do not know why; perhaps I had just visited Marshalls. For whatever reason, I open the email. I send the scary lady my address so she can send me the check. I feel good, like I had just been to a Marshalls store eight stories high! The check never comes. An email does. The check was returned back to them. I am informed that I must now come to the restaurant to pick it up. I think about how this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I feel grown up. I delete the email. I am a grown up who will never go back there. No, no.

“No, no, no, nope, bye, bye” I hurry back past the beautifully lit, awful trees that line the path to the disgusting restaurant. My boyfriend desperately tries to pull me back. We are so close to the door. We are so close to my check in the drawer. Yet I find this wildly unacceptable. I fast-walk back down the driveway, flailing my arms like cartoon duck trying to take flight. My boyfriend foolishly tries appeal to a sense of reason within me. “Katherine, Katherine, no, come on Katherine, we’re right here.” I scoff at his naiveté. Of course I know we are right there, that is why I am walking away very quickly! We both slow down once I have determined we are at least a football field length or whatever away from the grim, dastardly, sassy, scary restaurant. I do feel a bit ashamed of myself. My boyfriend was kind enough to come with me all the way from Harlem to Brooklyn just to get my sad lover check in the drawer. And I let down the team. But not a football one. Whatever.

While we waited for the train to head back to Harlem, I naturally tried to switch the subject to my avocado toast preparation methods, ignoring my boyfriend’s admittedly relevant question.  “Are you ok?” I do not know.  It’s not like this incident is completely without precedent. I was very nervous grocery shopping the other day because of — nothing. No reason. And you were foolish to expect one. 

All I know is that when I was standing outside the restaurant, nothing seemed more impossible than entering. How on this good earth could I actually step into the building with my own feet?  I was positive the atoms in the air would turn their noses up at me. I was convinced that the bartender named Adam would laugh and tell me I was the worst employee they ever had. I was sure the manager would see me and slap me in the face. Or worse: look at me with his eyeballs.     

When I tell people the shortened version of this saga, I always include the words “anxiety” and “panic attack” and “PTSD.” I grossly exaggerate the shit out of this situation to save myself from embarrassment, like a true blonde millennial. I appeal to my audience’s modern tendency to read articles on Facebook about how much anxiety can affect us. I am basically a monster. An adorable monster.  

I know it was my anxiety that prevented me from simply walking into a restaurant and asking for the check that is rightly mine. However, it was pointed out to me recently by a friend that maybe my mom’s wonderful compassion and willingness to help me a lot when I was growing up factors into this dilemma. I do not discount this idea. Do you think I am above asking her to make a call for me? I bet Tom Brady is not. He loves his mom. And football?

Images: Giphy

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