What is Normal? Reflections on mental health and the hospitality industry

Mental health in the hospitality industry
Alex Haupt, 101 Gowrie

Guest blog by Alex Haupt from 101 Gowrie.

Editor’s note: at the end of September, I attended a talk run by Creative Mornings Amsterdam where Alex spoke on the topic “Muse”. He ended up talking quite a bit about mental health and I was really inspired by his presentation. Afterwards, I decided to ask him if he’d be willing to contribute to my blog, and you can see his thoughts below.

What is normal?

“Normal” is defined as:

  • The usual, typical, or expected state or condition
  • Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected

Why? This is a question I have always asked when it comes to conforming to “the norm” or being “as expected”. Working and living will always be stressful, but if you think of fulfilling what society asks of us, to be part of the “norm”, that adds to the stress.

But the only answer I could find for the “why?” is to go against what is deemed normal, and think and act freely as how I want to be. This is the closest I feel I will get to being mentally content, and striding towards mental stability and happiness.

In an industry (hospitality) defined by being irregular and adventurous I found a safe haven. But I am also faced with an internal imbalance posed by the ironies and expectations of what is perceived as“normal” in this industry.

To be irregular and adventurous can be lonely, especially once you reach what an individual can define as “the top” of the industry. Your colleagues don’t talk to you the same way anymore. Whilst everyone is enjoying their time off, you are working overtime to organize your staff’s week, and when everyone is talking about holiday plans you’re thinking about how you’re going to make sure everyone gets paid on time.

For someone who has pre-existing mental health issues this is a very toxic relationship that is prone to faulting and has happened in the past. But with the blessing of resilience and individual thought, I am now able to combat and create change towards the ironies and shortcomings of this beautifully irregular industry.

How? By creating our own little bubble at 101 Gowrie in Amsterdam and by creating the type of change that can lead to a better future. For example, we ensure our staff is able to get regular rest periods, everyone eats well during shifts and that everyone is empowered to achieve the best possible performance they are able to give.

The persistent pessimist within me has come to the conclusion that as an individual, I cannot make large scale, global or city-wide change. But I now know that I can create change within my own universe, and that is what I strive to do . We are not able to please everyone, so I and we stay true to what we believe in as a collective, and as individuals. The big goal at 101 Gowrie is about achieving what we would like to achieve as a team, not what someone else wants us to achieve, or what society expects of us.

My friends, family, colleagues, people, and network… If I can positively influence a single person’s life for the better that is my victory. If I am able to create change within my industry, I would be ecstatic but do I want to be defined as normal? Never!

We are beautiful because of our flaws and our differences. It’s what makes us individuals. Whenever I feel lost or in doubt I always remind myself that I am who I am and if someone doesn’t appreciate it then fuck them

You can watch Alex’s talk at Creative Mornings below, starting at around 1:13 and lasting for approx 20 mins.

I highly recommend watching it if you want to know more about him, and the thoughts behind this article. In the talk he mentions his experience in the hospitality industry and some of the more difficult things he witnessed or experienced first-hand that contribute to poor mental health.

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Currently working in marketing and comms in Amsterdam. Passionate about all things digital, writing, dancing, travelling and much more. Mental health blogger and advocate.

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