Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz!

On March 1st, I will have been working at my current job for 2 years. I never thought I would be capable doing anything for 2 years straight, let alone working at a specialty coffee shop in Los Angeles. Part of me feels that it’s something to be proud of, but another part of me does not. Is this why I moved here? Drove cross country immediately after graduation to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, only to become a barista?

That is not to say that there is anything wrong with being a barista. My mother was a barista, and I fondly remember stopping at the café she worked at in the mornings on the way to Kindergarten for a hot chocolate. I have absolutely loved my job at this café, learning about all the nuances of coffee. When I first trained for this job, we had to have a cupping where we tasted all the different kinds of coffee that my shop had. I absolutely hated it- being forced against my will to drink sips of black coffee was akin to torture at the time. Sure, I liked coffee! If by coffee you meant my tall hot skinny vanilla latte I got from Starbucks. I was a caffeine addict, mostly subsisting on Diet Dr Pepper and the occasional latte. But coffee itself held no real interest for me.

Within a month I was only drinking coffee black. I had quit drinking soda at the same time I started this job, but luckily did not have to go through any sort of caffeine withdrawal. I came to love the flavors of the different coffees we had. I loved learning about how it was grown and where and why. I missed learning, something I took for granted in school and rarely made the time to do myself. I had also never had the experience of working at a job that I was truly passionate about. Every job I’d had in the past, I had hated for one reason or another. When I was in high school, working retail gave me tremendous social anxiety. In college, my part time job at the dining hall interfered with my drinking (for only two 4 hour shifts a week). My job at the pizza place had horrible customers who would sexually harass me, and my job at the salad place had a manager that made me want to tear my own hair out and eat it.

But this coffee shop was different. The customers were nice, for the most part. The café I worked at had a slow, chill atmosphere. We weren’t constantly in a rush, and I really liked all of the people that I worked with. I liked working in coffee, and I came to care deeply about the café. It was working at this café that I met one of my dearest friends, James, my mentor in all things fitness and nutrition. He is a mentor in many other ways, always motivating me to write and even just motivating in general. I cultivated genuine friendships with my fellow employees and some customers, and really felt like I was finally putting down roots where I wanted to be.

But there was the part of me that wanted to write. That part was struggling. I made so many connections, met so many people who’d read my blog and told me that if I wrote something then they could read it, help me edit it, and help me make a break into writing for television. How exciting!

Two years later, I feel no closer to that goal. I have had 2 years of my life to write, and I feel as though I have written next to nothing. I know that I have had a lot going on- I’ve been working a full time job, working a program of sobriety, going to the gym 4 days a week 3 hours at a time. I’ve been in a relationship for almost a year now. I’ve got so many things on my plate. Excuses. I have so many excuses on my plate. I want to write a sequel to the show “13 Reasons Why” but instead of 13 reasons why I kill myself it’s 13 reasons why I never have enough time. Of course, in order to do that I would need to actually write something, so maybe nevermind on that one.

After my boyfriend moved in, I was lucky enough to be able to go down to 4 days a week at work and still make it by just fine financially. I got promoted at work, got a raise. Things were going great. But even with that extra day, I still didn’t manage to find time to write. I knew it wasn’t time that I needed, it was willingness. But I couldn’t seem to find the willingness to write. I had found the willingness to give up drinking, the willingness to depend upon a higher power to get sober. But I could not give up my will when it came to procrastinating my writing.

Eventually, as people left the café and new people came in, I started to take on more responsibility. As of about a month ago, I have been at this café longer than anyone else there. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I was eyeing the role of Assistant Manager. I wanted more money, and more responsibility. I should always be moving up, because if I’m not moving, I’m standing still. And if I’m standing still, I’m going down.

The position of Assistant Manager opened up, and I applied for it. I was sure I was going to get it, mostly because of conversations I’d had with the manager where he basically told me he was grooming me for the position. But I’d had conversations with one of the higher ups at the company that told me they were looking for Assistant Managers to eventually manage their own cafés. The role was a stepping stone. I knew I could do it, no problem. Managing a café did not intimidate me. But it also was not what I wanted to do.

Today I had my interview. I had in my mind all sorts of things that I would say about why I wanted more responsibility, what I thought I could offer my café. Why I knew I was the best person for the job. But I sat down with the manager, and he asked me a question. Did I want to manage my own café one day? He reiterated that the Assistant Manager position was supposed to be a temporary one, and that if managing was not something I was interested in, then it was not the job for me.

I was torn. I wanted to move up. I didn’t want to stand still. But I knew in my heart that this was not the path that I wanted to go down. I have had several jobs, that I loved and hated to a degree. But I cared about each of them and I tried my best, because I don’t know how to do any differently. And I love this job more than any job I’ve had before. But I do not want to have a career in coffee. I have bigger dreams than that. And I couldn’t make a commitment that I knew I would break.

So I told him that. He thanked me for my honesty. He told me that he would still love for me to take on more responsibility, and get paid more. And that if at any time I changed my mind, and decided I was interested in managing, that I could tell him and we would reevaluate. I thanked him, and left. I knew that I had just thrown away a huge opportunity, but the sense of relief and freedom I felt was indescribable. I was on the right path, I knew it. And I was ready to put the same initiative that I had for this job into my writing.

So when it comes to working at this café, I am not moving up. But I am moving in the direction that I want to move in, and every day is an opportunity to further myself along in that goal. I may have a lot of excuses for why I can’t write, but I only have one reason for why I need to. It’s what I’m meant to do.

-Theodore Dandy