All my Life Skills, I Learned at McDonalds

“Seriously?” I said, looking at the disheveled pickles and condiments sliding off the cold hamburger hiding beneath the smashed bun. I envisioned the creator looking out the drive-thru window under the golden arches, saying to herself, Oh, it’s her. I hate her. Wait ‘til she gets this! It wasn’t the first time I received a less-than-stellar product from a fast-food establishment, but it was the first time, this seemed… deliberate.

Like many teenagers from an era before dating apps and TikTok, my fist job was at the local McDonald’s—a job that thankfully got me through the teenage years and college. While my career took me down a path that drifted away from building Big Macs and deep-sea breaded fillets, if I lined up all the jobs I have held in life, the one that taught me all necessary life skills was…

McDonald’s.

Here are the top 5 life skills I learned, working at a fast-food restaurant…

5)           Respect your boss – Just as you’re taught to respect your elders, the same goes for the person who hired or manages you. Truth is, if you’re not clicking with your boss, it’s time to find a new job. And it’s OK to know when it’s not working. We spend too much time at our jobs to not like the people we work with.

4)           Don’t be an a**hole­­­­ – While this sounds simple, it’s probably the hardest rule to follow on a daily basis, and easy to forget when faced with someone who is testing our nerves. Take the highroad, even when that someone is being a jerk. We don’t know what kind of day they’ve had or what they’re dealing with in their own lives. Acting like an a**hole is the one thing we don’t need to pay forward. Just, don’t.

3)           Enjoy the Big Mac special sauce – Life is what we make it. While we have no control with what is thrown at us, we can control our reaction and attitude. Have you ever encountered that cashier who genuinely seems to love her job? Her job and boss may be spectacular, but it’s more likely that she simply approaches her job with a smile and a fresh attitude each day. There is good in every job, we just need to see it and embrace it.

2)           Show up. This should go without saying, but you’ll be ten miles ahead of the other guy if you just show up for everything in life­­—physically and mentally. That includes returning messages in a timely manner and staying off your damn phone when you should be working. Yeah, I said that.  

1)           Build better burgers – Take pride in whatever you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re creating, teaching, or providing a service. If you take pride in what you do in the workplace, it tends to carry over in everything else in life. And will benefit you in endless ways.

And to the person who served me that flat deranged hamburger, I can only say that I hope your day got better. I know mine did 🙂    

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Embrace Your Inner-Weird

If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.

~~ Tallulah Bankhead

As the Kalamazoo Growlers put the screws to the Rockford Rivets on a recent Saturday afternoon, a group of 50+ year-old people (men and women) sat under the baking sun, discussing what age they would choose if given the opportunity to travel back to a younger day. Not surprisingly, no one wanted to be in their twenties again. After all, most twenty-somethings in my day were cash-poor and working at McDonald’s to supplement college classes and nights at Wayside.

But what was surprising is that no one in this lively group wanted to relive their thirties either. The overwhelming go-to age to revisit if given the chance?

Forty.

Because it takes forty damn years to finally get comfortable in our skin and accepting of who we are. So, with help from the rear-view mirror, here are the bits of wisdom I would share with my 18-year-old self…

Heidi and Silvia Camping - 5-85

My sister & my 24-year-old self.

Embrace your inner-weird – Part theater geek, part tomboy—I knew I wasn’t your average kid way back then. I just didn’t know that I could celebrate my quirky inner-weird. Remember that oddly talented girl in school who didn’t care what people thought of her? Be her.

Relax – If only someone had taken me aside when I was a mere twenty-something and told me to relax—that I was only halfway to becoming my whole self. While teens envision 30-year-olds as being grownups, the truth is, at 50+ I’m still looking forward to reaching grownup status.

Take that summer job at Yellowstone – Or the camping trip with friends to the U.P. The point is, celebrate your newfound independence. You may think that you have your entire life to travel but life is about twists and turns, and before you know it, you’ll be pushing a stroller through Disney World and holding your mother’s hand in the nursing home. Yep, it goes by that fast so it’s OK to be a little selfish now.

Make your own mistakes – Oprah Magazine once featured the following tips for succeeding in life – “Learn from the mistakes made by others.” I could not disagree more, for I have never learned from watching others make mistakes. In fact, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not living. Legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead had it right with her wisdom that mistakes should be made often and earlier. Don’t spend your life on the sidelines watching others have all the fun—make your own mistakes. Heck, I don’t even care if you make some of the same mistakes twice.

The advice I would give my younger self? Embrace your inner-weird and enjoy the ride—mistakes and all!