I KNOW WHAT you’re thinking, this millennial is about to go on about how her peppermint mochas gave her enough energy to get through her midterms. I’ll save you some time and cut through the Venti size bullshit. This is a story about struggle of the soul. Struggle of a 20 something year old stuck in society’s shallow soul sucking expectations.
I’ll start with the random Tuesday in October when In fact, I was drinking a peppermint mocha— but that’s not the point. Anyway, my peppermint Mocha and I were making our way down the mundane path of interstate 405 to complete a not so mundane job, a psychiatric assessment for one of my new clients. At this time I’m a 20 something year old therapist trying to help kids find happiness in one of the rainiest cities in America— little did they teach us in social work school, making kids happy is super difficult (I find out later it’s not so difficult- double chocolate chip Frappuccino’s usually do the trick)— anyway, I start to feel my chest ball up, freeze, start on fire, freeze again and nearly make me never want to drink a peppermint mocha again.
Then I realize— it’s not the coffee that is causing me to struggle for air, to feel so close to fainting that I pull to the side of the busy road, it’s.. its.. my mind goes blank. What is it? I see my clients have them daily. I lose track of any words… A panic attack. I’m having a panic attack. Damn it.
I then realize I’m having this attack on one of the busiest highways. My panic attack amps up causing my breathing to go a mile a minute. I’m sucking at any bit of air I can get, all the while crying because I paid 4.95 for a drink that’s getting cold. I reach for the tissues in my glove compartment and get a glimpse of myself. A 20 something year old with 20 something reasons she shouldn’t be looking like she’s 60 something and in pain and regretting so many choices. And so tired. I vow then to never look at myself again and wish that I had A) a really good concealer for these bags under my eyes and B) a purpose in life that didn’t make me feel like my soul was surrendered.
A MONTH LATER, I’m handing off a grande peppermint mocha to a 20 something year old with the same look I had in the mirror that day in the car. I smile at her, wishing her a great day, knowing deep down the highlight of her’s is likely this drink. And yes, I didn’t mention but I work at Starbucks now! Free peppermint mochas! And freedom from feeling like a fake! Freedom from feeling I need to fix every damn thing I set my eyes on!
I quit the therapy job a few days after the car conundrum. Maybe a few weeks after— it all blends together now. Therapy is wonderful, social workers are amazing! But I couldn’t shake how shattered I felt every time I did the work. Then the universe did it’s thing and good old Starbucks found me. The universe didn’t have to work too hard since I was already there once a day, but still! Everything felt aligned.
I thought it would just be a part time, put-on-a-fake-smile-and-do-your-job, job. But it wasn’t. I found myself smiling everyday when I got to see regulars customers. I saw scared pregnant women become amazing moms (not at the store but you know what I mean). I saw med students become doctors. Husbands become widowed. Puppies become really cute slightly bigger puppies. I saw Barack and Biden come have a nice quiet coffee together. Barack winked at me and said, “I’ll take the usual.“ Just kidding that didn’t happen but how freaking cool would it have been?
What I really saw was real people. I saw real people struggle and grow. And for once, I didn’t have to do anything besides observe, serve and surrender the urge to “fix it.” My life had been grey until I found the green apron. I saw myself, a lost, educated but not enlightened soul become a slightly less lost, Reiki energy healer. Serving coffee to others convinced me that I owe it to myself, to serve myself. Serving myself became soul searching, which led to a long, incredible, and at times, less than beautiful journey— a Starbucks spiritual awakening. Mostly just a spiritual awakening with lots of free coffee. In that way, Starbucks saved my life.
I drink a few less peppermint mochas now and practice a little more meditation. Sometimes I do both and it’s great. But hear me when I say, I don’t think we need to quit our jobs and work at a coffee shop to find ourselves. However the truth is, if you’re stuck on the side of the road looking in the mirror asking yourself where in the world you lost yourself, look back in the mirror and commit to getting your light back, even if it means you’ll be making mochas for a few months. You matter more than money. You matter more than your misconception of what you should do.
Make the Mocha, or don’t. Either way, make the most of the moment when you decide you matter more.