The Closing Shift Lens

I almost always work the closing shift at the coffee shop.

It’s usually quieter at night. I can watch the sunset through big bay windows, read in my down time if I’m lucky and chat away the night with co-workers and quirky regulars. It’s not half bad actually.

The closing shift does have some negatives though. Not only are there far less customers than the morning but also less positive attitudes. Customers haven’t woken up eagerly looking forward to their morning cup of joe. No, I’m serving some people that have had crappy days, people that need an afternoon pickup, people who just want the day to be over.

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And sometimes, by the end of the night, I think their exhaustion has rubbed off on me. I’m so ready to wipe the counters, the espresso machine, dump the remaining coffee and prep for a whole new day.

Serve customers. Clean up the mess. Start all over.

It’s a cycle. But it’s missing something.

My closing shift cycle is missing the part where I get to see everything through new lenses. It’s missing the part where I walk behind the counter to sparkling counter tops, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and start my day clean.

What I’ve been seeing instead, is the dirt and grime at the end of the day. When all I see is splattered opportunities and spilled mistakes, it’s difficult for me to remember what it looks like at the beginning of the day.

What am I learning though? That every day can start new. Yesterday could have been messy and less than ideal; Today is clean and prepped for a whole pile of possibilities. No matter how many lattes I dropped the day before, the floors can always be wiped spotless the next time around (although I may have to pay for a few of those mishaps).

The last blog I wrote was about me choosing the future with a positive outlook. I think lately, my life has been day after day of lessons – lessons of choosing, having options, and just deciding to turn things around. I don’t believe it’s a mistake that I work closing shifts or don’t always get to see the neat and tidy part of the coffee shop. My life hasn’t been neat or tidy, but I’m learning that even the uncertain and unorganized seasons can be changed.

Thanks for reading about my lessons. I hope by following me, you too can know the choices you have and the hope you can hold onto to turn your season around.

// xx

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Windblown Changes

There’s a window at the coffee shop I work at. Behind the barista’s counter, behind the dishwasher, there’s one, big window facing Lake Michigan. In the summer, the baristas gather near the window during lulls, hoping for a cool breeze, some relief to the beating heat. The window was wide open then, with a barely-there screen separating the outdoors to those stuck inside the working walls of espresso machines and surly customers. During the summer, the window stays open all the time. It has to be jimmied shut (I mean, I’ve heard a hammer and a crow bar are sometimes necessary) so we aren’t allowed to close it. No questions asked, the window stays open until it gets cold. Sort of like turning on your heat, you wait until you just can’t wait anymore, probably when there’s already a foot of snow, a frost advisory, and you’ve had to shovel once so far. That’s how our window is, once we close the window, it stays shut for the winter.

Last week, I came into work and it was some time before I noticed something was different. The other baristas swore everything was the same, but I had this feeling, something was out of place. And then I saw it… the window. The window was closed.

I am a little embarrassed to admit it, but my heart twinged a little. I was hurt. The window was closed and no one told me? How did this happen so soon, it’s only November!

Later, I found out the owner had walked behind the counter one night when the weather dropped below 40 and made the executive decision to shut the window. Obviously, she didn’t need my new-employee approval to close the window, but she could have asked, right?

I don’t mind change. I actually kinda like it. The newness, the fresh looks, the brand new challenges that change bring, they keep me on my feet. But I only tend to like change when I know it’s coming, when I have time to talk myself into it, consult my faithful lists, and prepare accordingly. When I know it’s coming, I like change.

Somehow though, every year, more specifically every three or so months, I’m surprised by seasonal changes. They hit me like a slap in the face. *Ouch* How come no one told me it was already time for the leaves to start falling? Or, I didn’t get a personal invitation to spring? Or, I just wasn’t ready for the window to be closed. The kind of change that hurts.

Graduating college felt something like that. Sure, it was inevitable for me, like the seasons, but I just wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t ready to actually see the window be closed, even though each of the baristas had told me at one time or another that we don’t touch the window and when the boss finally does, the window is closed for good. I wasn’t ready to actually graduate and find my successful, career footings, even though professors and meetings and final exams were all building up to the culminating graduation. I just wasn’t ready yet.

Yes, I had time to prepare. Plenty of time in those four years, actually. It happens to other people all the time! They graduate, they find jobs, they move on. So how is it different with me? I had my trusty lists, I talked myself into it, but then what? Then I got rejection email after rejection email. One after another, employers were passing on what I had to offer. My encouraging motivation and excitement for finding a steady, full-time job was thrown into the wind with each “Thank you for your interest, but…” line I read. I just wasn’t ready for that yet.  No one told me what to do if I can’t find a job. No one prepared me for how to get back up on your feet after hearing so many reasons why I’m incompetent or unqualified. No one told me what to do or how to handle this seasonal change.

I shouldn’t be expecting a personal invite to winter, like I shouldn’t be expecting a handwritten instructional guide to “the post-college, job-searching, in-between-life” months (or years). It just happens. And when it does happen, we figure it out.

Sometimes seasons change, whether we are ready or not, and sometimes we work at coffee shops with windows that shut. We put on a coat, we apply for another dozen positions, and we keep going.

___

P.S. I probably should mention, as you may have noticed already, I changed my blog’s name (yes, again). The title now reads, “Steeped in Sunshine.” The phrase comes from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist:

“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing.”

More than Dickens poetic description – and my love for a well-steeped tea – I know all too much how the sun and the seasons can affect moods and emotions. I think rain or shine, snow or sleet, our lives have the opportunity to feel steeped in all the sunshine life has to offer us. We can live each day as if it’s the sunniest, most perfect day there ever was, and that’s how I want to live: Steeped in Sunshine.

Thanks for reading today, on this ironically dreary day.

-Al

Barista Virgin No More

I recently started working at this quaint, Californian coffee shop. There’s a bike on the wall, more gluten free items than any other food, and wooden everything else. It’s perfect and I love it. Just one thing: I’ve never been a Barista. This may have slipped my mind when I asked the owner if they were hiring and she said, “Yes we are, can you be here at 1?”348s

I didn’t think it was that important. The owner seemed to think I was fit to enable coffee addicts that believe Starbucks is too mainstream. (Amen!) I faked it until I made it, or until my boss asked me for a Cafe Breve and I didn’t know how to begin.

But after three days of training, memorizing Pinterest charts of different coffee ingredients, and deciding whether to greet customers with “Morning!” or “Welcome,” I’m in. This Barista virgin is one no longer.

Need a cappuccino? I’m your gal.

Need an americano? Call me up.

Need a frappuccino or an upside-down half-something macchiato? Get out.

But for the rest, this girl knows her way around the espresso machine.