Photo by Youdontsmellbad via Wikimedia Commons.

Jasmine France–University of Baltimore grad student in Integrated Design–found the courage to pursue her biggest dreams by learning to shuck oysters. We hope you find her micro memoir as easy going down as we do.

The most challenging part about shucking an oyster is not cutting the belly once you’ve got the shell open.  It’s an easy mistake. When the shell finally gives way, your instinct is to slice straight back through the belly and quickly reveal your masterpiece. Unfortunately, this ruins the oyster. The trick to getting a “pretty shuck” is to tilt the knife above the belly, so you can detach it from the shell without slicing through it… it’s a lot easier to demonstrate than to explain.

“They look like vaginas!” I said–probably a little too loudly–once I finally got my first “pretty shuck.” My coworker agreed with me. Now that I think about it, I didn’t know if she genuinely agreed with me or just wanted to make me feel welcome. Either way, it worked.

It didn’t take long for me to get the hang of a “pretty shuck” in hindsight. I’d just started at The Local Oyster about a week before, and I was already beginning to find my groove.

Now, I’m staring at a backed-up queue of over 80 oysters! No lie, five plates of a dozen and four of a half dozen, that’s 84 oysters. I don’t mind, though; it goes by fast.

The thing about shucking is, you don’t have to interact with customers much. You may say “Hello!” or “you’re welcome,” but mostly, you put your head down and shuck. I enjoy the silent autonomous work; I find my mind often wanders to great places.

Today’s stream of thoughts is particularly reflective. Suppose you had told the me from 18 months ago that I’d end up at a Netflix-famous seafood restaurant in Baltimore, shucking and eating oysters of all things. In that case, I’d have asked you if you were on drugs and, particularly, what kind. At that time in my life, I was broke, directionless, and unemployed. Not to throw shade at me, but I lived on the struggle bus.

Don’t get me wrong, becoming an oyster shucker was not part of the plan. I’m always tired, dirty, and smelly after work–not my favorite way to be. In fact, being in the restaurant scene was only supposed to be temporary. I had ambitions of becoming a successful marketing professional and only entered this business with the sole purpose of feeding myself and paying for my bachelor’s degree. I was so sure that by now I’d be working in a big city like New York, Chicago, or Atlanta, but that didn’t happen. After nearly 10 years of putting my dreams on the back burner, I’m happy to say that today is one of my last shifts.

Leaving is bittersweet, but my coworkers will always be my first Baltimore family, and The Local Oyster will always hold a special space in my heart. It’s a memento of when I finally started to live my life the way I wanted. I got into grad school, moved out of my hometown, and finally feel…FREE! Free of limitations and free of expectations. Not to mention, I’m moving on to an exciting new career in digital content marketing, exactly where I’ve wanted to be since I graduated college.

I’m so excited.  I’m so proud of myself. Should I write a book or something? Yes, I should! I could call it–

“Excuse me! Can I please have some horseradish and some hot sauce?!”

I guess she has been standing here for a while.

“My apologies,” I say, “here you go.”

I smile; she doesn’t care; she just wants her sauce. If she wasn’t worried about spilling it, I’m sure she would have snatched the bottle from me.

Anyway, only 54 more oysters to go.