I’m not one who believes everything happens for a reason.
Life is too sporadic, too uncertain for every single thing in this life to happen for a specific reason.
Life just happens. We make meaning out of what happens. What happens affects us whether for better or for worse. But I don’t believe there’s any rhyme or reason behind it. One small second, change of plan, different action could have changed something, everything. But it didn’t…and life goes on.
I also believe that the best things in life happen when we aren’t looking.
So, around four months ago when I found a job posting on Indeed.com for an espresso bar barista at a gas station situated in the suburb over from where I live, I wasn’t looking for a life changing experience. I was simply looking for something to keep me busy between graduating from college in May and heading off on my next big adventure as an English teacher in Thailand
in September. A full time job where I could earn enough money to be able to pay for all my Thailand travel expenses without having to worry too much about finances, while spending the summer living in my parents’ house.
Well, September is here and I leave for Thailand in a matter of days. It’s a bittersweet time, as I find all endings tend to be. That said, this is, without a doubt, an ending I never expected to feel so much about. You see, when I saw that posting on Indeed.com and applied for the position, I had no idea that this job would fundamentally change my life.
I don’t believe that it happened for any particular reason other than that I needed to work and I was hoping to find a barista job because I like coffee and it sounded like fun…but I am so unbelievably glad it did.
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My first month as an espresso bar barista, I was terrified to steam milk.
Sounds silly, right?
But it’s a bit of an art, if you can call it that. The cup must be held to the milk frother at a certain angle and it’s important to listen for a subtle hissing sound when frother meets milk. If not done correctly, the milk can become too watery and/or the milk could boil.
Getting that angle down…well, it was a bit of a chore for me. My general anxiety over not messing up this job combined with the fact that I started working at the beginning of June–a.k.a the beginning of summer when not many hot coffee drink orders were coming in in general–left me feeling overly self-conscious whenever I was put to the task of milk steaming.
You see, the whole act of being in this position unnerved me at the beginning. I had been an R.A. all throughout college, so was familiar with interacting with people extensively on a regular basis…but I couldn’t help but feel that working as a barista was putting myself out there in a new and different sort of way…not within the confines of my comfortable college atmosphere…not with familiar faces that I saw everyday…but with new people, customers I would see once and never see again. AND I was serving them…not just interacting and building relationships. It felt so completely different than what I was used to and, as someone who has struggled with social anxiety for much of my life, it was scary. But I wanted to put myself out there. And I pushed myself. Because I quickly found out that this job mattered to me…and that I was learning so much from it.
— — — —
I can’t say this job would have been anything without the atmosphere. Without my coworkers. Sure, they drove me up the wall sometimes. Sure, there were those few coworkers I wanted to slap regularly…not so much because I was upset with them, but because they were just…well…annoying. But, after the initial uncertainty of “who is this new girl and why does she seem so lost” (well, because I’ve never worked in the food service industry before) passed, I began to realize how awesome this place I found to work for the summer really was.
It was the little things, really. Those summer evenings when drink orders came pouring in at an unnaturally quick rate (thanks to the free espresso bar drink coupons provided to patrons at the nearby hotels) and how the kitchen manager would run over from the kitchen to help me out. On those nights, I would often find myself working an hour overtime; I ended my work day exhausted and crabby and yet (despite my sour mood) someone was always willing to help from the kitchen.
It was the pat on the back I got from coworkers on particularly busy days when I was completely on my game. The patience and kindness as I learned the system of working there. Even the way many of my coworkers always seemed to find a way to give me a hard time about
something everything…it was just their way of saying, Hey, we’re glad you’re here. We accept you.
Perhaps I’m overly sentimental. It’s just the way I’ve always been. When something or someone affects my life positively, I feel so much for them. The vibes I get from some place or someone can fundamentally affect how I view them…and this place, well, it’s just screaming with good vibes. How could I not fall in love with it?
— — — —
On Sunday, my last day of work, my boss came in and said, “It’s finally your last day” — putting a lot of stress on that word, finally.
“What do you mean, finally?” I exclaimed, “You make it sound like I just can’t wait to leave.”
“Well, we’re certainly going to miss you, but I highly doubt you’re going to miss us.”
“Just because I’m going to Thailand on this grand adventure doesn’t mean I’m going to forget about you guys here. Of course I’ll miss you!”
My boss, mind you, has been giving me a really hard time about leaving, even though I told him when he hired me in June that I would only be able to work there temporarily.
But see, I will miss everything about the place. I will certainly be back to visit when I arrive back in the States, whenever that will be. My work this summer was an adventure in itself. The life of an espresso bar barista at a gas station certainly doesn’t have the same allure as the life of an English teacher in Thailand. But not everything in life is about grand adventures. It’s the little things–the mini, daily adventures–the smell of muffins baking filling up the entire kitchen, the small satisfaction when a customer tells you how good their latte is (and you can tell they really mean it). Often times, its those small moments that end up meaning the most. It’s the people you meet along the way. The discoveries you find within yourself. Allowing yourself room for improvement, space to grow. That is what’s most important. And I found all of that this summer at my job.
It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s how you make the most of the circumstances you’re given.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll fall in love with where you are along the way.
— — — —
So yes, this place changed me. The people I met. The experiences I had.
And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.