I often reflect on the various turning points in my life that lead me to a major life event. I'm not that into contemplating "alternate dimensions" that result from different decisions as much as the statistical probability of a result I'm experiencing or have experienced. How easily could my life have been drastically different and at what points did my direction veer strongest that way?
"Sonder" has long been a pretty important part of my vocabulary. But I think it misses something all the more powerful: what happens when you engage one of these "extras" cast in your life? Personally, I prefer more rounded characters than flat-- dynamic cameos, if you will. Even those who make the briefest of appearances in your life can greatly enhance your reality if you are willing to let such a moment transpire. It's pretty uncomfortable to start this, but once you make it a habit, well, at least I have personally found that it deeply enhances every day.
Yesterday on the way to my shift, I had the most incredibly pleasant experience at Arby's. The kid running the drive-thru was just so professional, efficient, and just downright delightful. I'm an easily satisfied customer but I'm extremely difficult to delight in this way. I left so inspired to provide my customers the same level of service I was given so they could feel as uplifted as I did. I wouldn't say my drive-thru performance as far as engaging and delighting has hindered much, but my entire mood has been impacted by my financial and career struggles as of late. Just while doing his job, he truly helped me view things differently, even just for a moment.
Sure enough, I was assigned the drive-thru when I got to work a few minutes later. I personally enjoyed far more of my interactions than usual, in spite of the Unicorn Fiasco that was fizzling out. I definitely had far more truly and deeply inspired moments amidst the already great evening. A few began with asking about their day while one of my partners were making their drinks. One was from a beloved regular with a quite complicated drink praising me for how quickly I remembered her order over the past few weeks. Another was a lady just as amused as she was disappointed with the unicorn shortage who valued my insight. Yet another was a couple I had the opportunity to introduce to the Clover and Rwanda Maraba, my most favorite Reserve Roast. It's actually quite rare for me to get to share my passion for coffee with a customer who shares the same enthusiasm; usually we just connect over our mutual appreciation of caffeine and sugar. Any of these interactions alone would have made my night. But for all them to happen has been a fantastic motivator for me, even still today as I reflect on it.
As a disclaimer, we were pretty slow and overstaffed, so last night allowed for more of the human connection than most typical Starbucks shifts do. Usually I don't get the opportunity to come back and ask what their day has in store or ask them where they got their top. But I seized it because of the sincerity of the transaction I made with that Arby's kid. I do hope he goes far in life and I will very likely make runs through their drive-thru instead of McDonald's for a while.
I've made friends and even business connections with people I met from the other side of the counter. I've learned and inspired and walked away with so much value added to my life, if not as much as I would like in my bank account. I really can't fathom how some baristas could become so burned out on this concept and it's potential. Coffee is a great catalyst, but not like the people who love it. And even those who don't. Those Frappuccino lovers are still important, too...
So I encourage anyone and everyone to open your life to the passerby's and extras and enjoy the dynamic human beings they are each and every day. Sure, you never know when you'll meet your soulmate or future business partner or learn something that really magnifies your perspective. That's all important, even though cliché. But also allow yourself to bask in the inspired moments, or even instants, you share with strangers and acquaintances, in the possibility each of them holds. Embrace humanity and watch all the improbable, beautiful reality that unfold around you because of it.
By the way, I'm just getting started with the cheesy existentialism. I hope you're enjoying and stick around.
(formerly "Bare Barista Threads" and "Memoirs of a Pizza Girl")
With a year of delivering pizza, two and a half years as a barista, and some more time in the trenches, I have plenty of stories, thoughts, and musings. The days that threatened to break me all the while built me. I want to help others in my profession view their work as an opportunity, too. This is my soap box.