At the Place Where Work and Magic Meet
There is a place in Nashville called the Loveless Café. The Loveless is less of a restaurant and more of an all-inclusive, southern cooking and hospitality experience. It’s on every tourist list you can find about things to do in Music City and to get in for breakfast on a Sunday morning would either take an act of God or sharing a bloodline with Mr. and Mrs. Loveless themselves. The property that houses the café is also home to an array of gift shops, a small event space and one large barn that sits at the back of the parking lot. The barn most often hosts weddings and receptions and is maintained by a catering team employed by the Loveless. I have been working for the catering team for a little over two years.
People want to have their weddings at the Loveless because it possesses a sort of magical charm that doesn’t exist everywhere. The space is beautiful, especially when adorned with twinkling lights and a chandelier that hangs from the middle of the room, and the biscuits and jam never fail to draw a crowd that is well acquainted with the hype of the Loveless’ recipe.
It is magical because it maintains a certain amount of mystery. The behind the scenes work of putting on an event is hidden from its attendees, the way the sweat and tears and lousy run-throughs of a theater production are hidden from its audience opening night.
But I have been backstage. I know that underneath those silky tablecloths are worn, folding tables. I know the place where all the dirty dishes and wine glasses and utensils get taken to, and it is grungy and unappealing. I have poured packaged orange juice into a pitcher to maintain the appearance of being fresh, and I know that the jams actually come out of a plastic bag. It’s like pulling back the velvet curtain and realizing that the Wizard of Oz isn’t actually a great and powerful wizard, he’s just some guy with a microphone and impressive sound system. Working at the Loveless has drained it of all its magic.
I have never worked a job that didn’t take the magic out of the experience for me. For all the jobs I’ve had, I would much rather just be an audience member, popcorn in hand, pretending that I don’t see the stage ropes that are holding the flying actor up. This thought has brought a lot of questions up for me over the last year of post-graduation. Will work always take the magic out of the experience and leave me feeling like a disappointed Dorothy who just realized the Oz can’t grant her wish? Should I always be looking for jobs that won’t break my heart to find out about the behind the scenes work of them, the way I have always avoided working at Starbucks because, Lord knows, I don’t need to know what’s in those drinks? Is part of adulthood coming to terms with the disheartening realization that work and magic can’t coexist?
But then I had a thought pop into my head this week. There are some jobs that deplete the magic source, but there are some jobs that we must keep doing because the work is the magic. I love when it is 11 am on my day off and the coffee I made earlier that morning is growing cold in a mug, and I am wracking my brain to put together the final paragraph of a writing piece. I love the fifty open notes on my phone filled with random thoughts and the chicken-scratched, indecipherable journals I keep and how finishing a draft of writing is like solving a puzzle. It is about as glamorous as strawberry jam being poured from a plastic bag, but it makes me come alive like nothing else. The magic is not the finished piece for me, the magic is the process—it exists not despite of the work, but because of it.
It makes me think of those actors in the theater production that I keep referring to. As hard and drilling and chaotic as the work is to put on a show, that is what they live for. They are drawn to the memorization of lines and the dress rehearsals and the tech week days that all end at 3 am. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t do it. If they were just drawn to the finish product they would be avid theatergoers but never performers.
I don’t know what it is for you, but if you don’t already know I would spend some time wondering. What do you lose track of time doing? Where is the place where magic and work meet for you? I might almost deem that place our truest calling. I don’t know that I’ve lived enough years in adulthood to make such a bold statement, but it is a thought that I’ve been wrestling with lately. I don’t think the answer is to quit all the jobs that don’t give you a warm, butterfly feeling in the pit of your stomach, but is instead to know that work and magic can coexist (and there are ways to nurture that place without being sustained monetarily by it just yet). Instead of constantly being disappointed by pulling back the velvet curtain, find the place where it makes you come alive to be backstage.