One of my favorite professors from law school came into the coffee shop the other day.
“Well, hello!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing… here…?” she inquired, head cocked.
I quickly launched into my go-to explanation:
“After law school, I decided to get my Master’s in bioethics. So I am working here part-time and finishing my thesis right now.”
Never mind that that’s only a fraction of the story. What’s the real story? Why am I, a J.D. with a plethora of varied work experience, slinging Joe?
It occurred to me, sometime over the past few weeks, that my foray back into the service industry might be more than just a desire for simplicity. I have been trying to prove something to myself. You see, as a twenty-something “functional” problem drinker, I did a piss-poor job of meeting the expectations of a coffee shop barista. I was often late. Nearly always hung over. Surly. Angry. Unpleasant to work with. I didn’t play nicely with my coworkers and I snarled at customers. It wasn’t pretty.
Since sobering up, I’ve embarked on a number of “living amends.” The shame, the unbelievable shame that accompanied me everywhere I went, slowly gave way to a series of realizations. I had stopped showing up for my life. I was a sorry excuse for a dog owner. I rarely picked up my phone or returned calls. I often flaked on plans with friends and family. I procrastinated until I was so anxious, I could barely function. I spent more time under the covers, avoiding what I felt like was a collection of unbearable, undesirable, unmanageable situations. In a nutshell, I had stopped. I was stuck. In isolation. In misery.
Once I committed myself to a new way, a different path, in recovery, it was time to do. To do my life. Not hide from it. Be the dog owner I know I am in my heart. Care for my pets. Make plans with others and stick to them. Give a call now and again. Use my bed for sleep, not life avoidance. Engage with others, with myself. Show up– at work and school, in friendships and other relationships. Live.
How I conduct myself at the coffee shop today is light years away from the barista of my drinking years. I arrive for my shifts, on time, and, with only a couple exceptions, a positive attitude. I greet people with a smile. I try, I really try, to never roll my eyes. I let the piddly crap roll off my back. In essence, I am, every day, proving to myself that I am different. I can do this.
At the same time, I must confess… the “novelty” of the barista role has worn off. I have tired of waking at 4:30 am. The freedom that comes with a “leave work at work” job doesn’t make up for the lack of intellectual and spiritual stimulation. In a nutshell, I am bored. B.O.R.E.D. And when I get bored, I get cranky. Majorly crabbypants actually.
But, rather than just quitting and jumping into the next thing– how I operated for many years– I am slowing down. I am putting out feelers for other positions, for sure, however I am also considering using this time, channeling the “brain space” not utilized at work and its accompanying anxiety into finishing my thesis.
I think this is an opportunity. I have realized that my life’s calling is not to serve coffee and lemon poppyseed bread and I have recognized that completing my Master’s program is integral to my self esteem. Beyond that, I don’t really have to know. I just continually ask the Universe, Universe, what the f**k am I supposed to be doing with my life? One of these days, it will be clear.
In the meantime, I live. And I finish what I start. Before moving on to the next thing.
Peace and love to all.