Barista No More
I’ve been a barista for eight years. Six years at Starbucks and two years at my current — not so current — which was a mom & pop.
Because of COVID, I haven’t worked in two months. Neither have my coworkers. The owners continued to work by themselves. Two weeks ago, the schedule was posted, and I wasn’t on it. I wasn’t expecting to be. But most of my coworkers were.
So I thought, “Hmmm. If my coworkers are going back to work, I guess I should too.”
And, it was about time. I had enough of Netflix and staying up until 5am watching MTV’s The Challenge with my roommate. I bought two seasons for 25$. Two seasons I’ve already seen. (Shoulder shrug)
The owners are a married Buddhist couple. I emailed the female owner telling her I’m ready and excited to return to work.
She normally responds quickly. She prefers email over text and/or call.
I started to freak out.
“Did I do something wrong? Do I have a job? Did I get fired?”
Then my anxiety turned into anger.
I’ve worked very hard for the owners. I’m one of the managers and helped them with routines, recipes, marketing, events, and hiring.
I worked 12 hour days. Open to close. 60 hours a week during summer. 40 hours a week while going to school full-time.
Never sick. Never late. Worked every holiday, not taking a vacation or day off except for my birthday.
Lost friends because I had to write them up. I wrote one of them up, and he tore the paper up in my face and quit on the spot. I haven’t spoken to him since. Pretty funny story.
“I’ve worked my ass off for you. I’ve practically killed myself for you. I’ve lost friends. And now you can’t email me back. Now you’re going to get rid of me?!”
I repeated this to myself for a week before I decide to call the owner’s cell.
Sent to voicemail.
So I text her, “Call me when you get a chance.”
I was so mad. Sad. And anxious at the same time.
“How could you? Like, really? Are you serious right now?”
That night — the night before Mother’s Day — I decided I was going to go to the shop and confront her the next morning.
I couldn’t sleep.
I tossed and turned the whole night. I kept replaying how I thought the conversation was going to go.
I envisioned myself swinging the door open angrily, taking a couple of steps into the shop, putting my hands on my hip, looking her dead in the eyes and saying, “What’s going on?”
She would give me the “oh shit” look like she saw a ghost and realize she made a mistake.
Then a “regular” would come in and I would explain how she’s screwed me over and the customer would take my side.
As I’m leaving, I would ask the other manager I work with — one of my best friends (and pretty much my ex), “How long have you known?”, with a disappointed, shocked look on my face.
I know. Kinda dramatic. But…
That’s Not How Things Went Down
9am rolls around. I haven’t slept a minute yet I’m energized — full of adrenaline.
I got dressed. I picked out my clothes the night before. Black skinny jeans. Red and black flannel-hoodie; gray, Yeezy Adidas; gray beanie.
Went to the bathroom and without realizing it, I was practicing my lines while I was brushing my teeth. Toothbrush in mouth, gesturing and throwing my hands around like I was a rapper in a music video.
I was nervous the entire drive. I don’t like confrontation, but I knew it was inevitable.
Normally the drive is fifteen minutes, but it took forty with a freeway closure. The closure happened to be at the exist I needed to get off at. I haven’t driven my car in weeks because of COVID, so of course this would happen today of all days.
I parked my car in the empty lot. I see a little girl playing outside the front door of the shop. Maybe four or five years old. Blonde hair, big, blue eyes. Her face brightens, she smiles, waves, and exclaims excitedly, “Hey, I know you!”
I ignored her; I was going into the shop guns blazing.
Her parents are two of my favorite regulars. Christian folks — friendly and always positive despite having four kids they homeschool.
I walked into the shop and was shocked to see the other manager (my friend and ex) to my left, inches away taking orders.
My anger got the best of me. Like, I couldn’t help it. I just looked at her and said, “What’s going on? I’ve contacted (owner’s name), and she’s not responding. I know you know what’s going on.”
She gets flustered and directs me to sit down. I didn’t realize I cut off the Christian folks who were waiting in line.
They see I’m mad and don’t say hi. It was awkward. I was sitting there, pretending to be on my phone to avoid any social interaction.
When the couple leaves, the manager comes to talk to me, and I ask where the owner is.
She says, “I don’t know.”
I continue to press her for answers until she suggests that she’ll text her. I said, “No! Call her!”
She calls her and tells me she’s on a walk. I call the owner immediately.
She was pissed. Real pissed. Like I haven’t been yelled at like that since I was a little kid.
I guess I’m not as good of a worker as I thought because she let me know every mistake I’ve ever made, and took some jabs at my character while at it.
“You care too much about what people think!”
“You have four AA’s and couldn’t write an appropriate business letter!”
“You can’t count money for the life of you!”
“I hate when you say ‘I don’t know’ to my questions. Find out!”
“You’re not as good of a person as you appear!”
Yes, I have four AAs. And I guess I could lie instead of saying “I don’t know” but I’m too good of a person to do that. (Sarcasm)
“How dare you! You’re gonna pull this sh** on Mother’s Day?! My first day off in months! After all we’ve done for you. Go home Bryce! Don’t come back to my shop! I’m hanging up the phone. Goodbye!”
Well…that didn’t go as planned. I definitely messed that up.
But on the bright side, here are 4 things I learned from being a dumbass:
That was the best job I’ve ever had.
The owners were so lovely and generous. They’d randomly throw 20$ in the tip jar, provide us with coffee, food, other drink, and herbal supplements for free.
I got to choose my hours. I got my friends from Starbucks hired.
I didn’t have to wake up early and we weren’t open late. I would wake up at 3:30am at Starbucks. And, some of the stores I worked at didn’t close until 11pm.
We weren’t busy. It was such a slow, chill job. Coming from Starbucks, this was a blessing.
And I got to watch basketball on the iPad, which was right next to the cash register. During playoffs and March Madness, this was a real treat.
The owner was right about everything she said. I can tell she’s felt this way for a while but kept quiet because she liked me.
I haven’t been the best worker. I haven’t been giving 100%; at times, I did. But, for the most part, I did my job.
I’m going to miss that job. I wanted to stay there until I finished school.
We shouldn’t have to lose something before we realize its glory. Value the good things in your life. Give them the appreciation, nurturance, and respect they deserve.
I lost my favorite job and close friend.
It hasn’t been easy. I’ve been feeling emotionally heavier and denser.
The sadness and depression hit the strongest first thing in the morning or when I’m home alone watching tv.
This is a breakup. But,
I provide compassionate affirmations anytime I’m feeling down or catch myself thinking about them.
When I notice myself getting sad after replaying the joyful moments in my head:
“It’s OK. Everything’s going to be OK.”
When I feel anxious and nervous knowing I have to find another job:
“It’s OK. You’ll figure it out. You always do. You’ll find a better job. Relax.”
When I’m on a walk, listening to new R&B music, and start to get angry because I’m hurt:
“It’s OK. Relax. It’s OK. It’s over.”
Saying “It’s OK” with the same compassion I would give my best friend, brother, or any loved one, helps me process the pain, supports my ability to remain present, and the power to move forward with confidence.
It’s like hugging yourself when you need it most. Or, wrapping yourself in a blanket of peace, safety, and encouragement.
The cut is still fresh, but day-by-day, I treat my wounds with care.
In time, this pains intensity will die like a candle in the night until it’s memory is a vague flicker.
While on a walk, working out, or watching tv, I rehearse what I wish I would’ve done, and how different my life would look as a result.
I would still have a great job, a close friend, and less anxiety about finding a job.
I get mad at myself when I think about it. I’m going to school to become a marriage and family therapist, yet I couldn’t handle my anger. Ridiculous.
“What do they think of me?”
“Am I not who I think I am?”
“I don’t practice what I preach. How could I ever be a therapist? I don’t feel comfortable giving advice anymore. How could I after what I just did?”
It’s OK and healthy to be mad at ourselves, to be disappointed.
But how long do we need to beat ourselves up? Or wish for a reality that will never exist?
Recognize what you could’ve done differently, then move on.
When I catch myself replaying the past, I stop and say,
“It’s OK. You’ve made a mistake. It’s alright. Relax. You’re still a good person. You’ve learned. You’ve gotten better. You’ve done so much good. It’s just a mistake. It’s not the end of the world.”
When my inner dialogue is gentle, I’m less concerned about the opinions of others, and how they view me or my mistakes.
I know what I’ve done wrong. You can hate me or put me down. But I’m not going to do that to myself.
My anger was valid, but my reaction wasn’t.
We’re 100% entitled to how we feel. It’s our feelings, our perspective. It’s who we are at that moment.
My anger was valid. I felt betrayed and anxious, assuming I needed to find another job. At the core of anger is fear, anxiety, shame, and guilt.
I could’ve expressed my anger differently after reflection.
I could’ve walked into the shop after recentering myself, waited in line, made conversation with the Christian couple, and give their daughter a high-five. When I got to the cash register or wait until the store is empty, I could’ve, with a calm tone, ask my friend how she’s doing, and how I would appreciate it if she would tell me anything she knew, and to have the owner contact me. Then I’d smile, say, thank you, and leave.
Anger expressed inappropriately is isolating. Lashing out causes people to keep their distance because they’re scared or fight back, which only leads to more destruction.
My firing could be for the better.
I’ve been given the opportunity — not by choice — to re-examine the direction of my life and ask myself questions that I haven’t had to.
“What do I want to do?”
“What jobs should I explore?”
“Could I make money doing something I would really enjoy?”
“Can I get a leg up on the competition as a therapist?”
My brothers been a waiter and bartender for ten years and makes more money than me part-time. His girlfriend and my roommate’s girlfriend are waitresses, so I have connections.
I’m going to look into Postmates and Doordash because I love driving. Being alone and listening to music are two of my favorite activities. (I’m listening to a Spotify playlist called R&B Love Songs 1990–2020 as I write this).
Speaking of writing, I’m going to write every day. I want a following; I want to be known for something. Call me vain; I don’t care. It’ll only help my credibility as a therapist. And If I could make some extra money, so why not?
Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to get my job back at Starbucks until restaurants open. But, I guess that’s the price you pay for being a dumba**.
At least I’ll have a job — gratitude. See, I’m learning.
Dream Chasers is my email list for those who imagine a future different than their present.