It’s 3:15am. Samantha James’s “Rise” comes on.
My body tosses over to my phone and hits the side button to snooze. Ten minutes later, another song comes on.
3:30. 3:40. 3:45. 3:50.
A different song comes on every five minutes until 4:20am and I force myself out of bed.
I splash my face, brush my teeth, tie my hair up and throw on some clothes until I’m out the door in my car driving over pitch black hills in the middle of the night.
Sometimes I have a Fleetwood Mac album on. Or maybe Bird & the Bee’s A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates’ cover album. Or even Kate Earl or Norah Jones to lull me into a soothing morning soundtrack as I watch out for deer or blinking red cars lighting up the streets.
“Morning. How are ya,” my opener and I lazily slur to each other.
We crawl towards the front of the store as he/she unlocks the door. I walk through the lobby to the back counter to turn on the machines, empty the urns, type my numbers in and grab my apron.
“Count your drawer in first,” my opener will say.
This has been my life for roughly the past nine months. I’ve learned the Peet’s standards of ringing up customers and remembering their drinks, giving out “second chance” mess-up cards when we mistake an order and politely addressing customers when they complain about their bad day and want their coffee handed to them no fuss ASAP.
Working in this environment has allowed me to grow a new respect for those who work in customer service. And moreover, it’s allowed me to grow some thicker skin.
“I’ve come in here so many times and you never have anything ready,” one customer might say.
“Why don’t you give out free drinks with purchases anymore?” another complains.
“I ordered something else,” another says as the bar line is backed up ten drinks and blaring red at us.
It’s so easy to see how this can all get to your head. People can make your job harder than it needs to be by demanding you redo their order, clean up their fallen drink or request something else than what they actually ordered. But at the end of the day, you have to tell yourself that this all doesn’t even matter. What people say to you or the work you’re doing has no say on who or what you are.
The other day, the sibling of one of my favorite all-time musicians reached out me. They gave me advice and words of encouragement when it comes to living a life of music and writing and doing your soul’s work…
“My sister and I have been songwriting for over a decade and we’ve always worked back and forth off each other and I help her stay accountable to all the amazing songwriting tips she’s reiterated to me. But I’m happy to share the wealth of accumulated knowledge with someone I believe in.”
In moments like this, I can barely believe myself. The world works its magic in mysterious ways as I find that it’s always trying to tell me something… To remind myself of who I am.
But the more and more I’ve worked, racking up almost 30 hours a week, the harder it’s become for me to stay inspired.
What happened to my ambitious, restless soul? I ask myself. What happened to my constantly chasing stories and interviewing artists and contributing articles to all these publications? What happened to my hunger?
My drive to write and interview artists in college was my mere search for answers — my search to get into the head of these musicians I looked up to, to somehow emulate their lifestyles and see how I could fit myself into the world of music, or just see how that world worked. It was my attempt to identify and humanize with them.
But as time’s gone on and I’ve personally seen how that “other side” lives, I don’t feel the need to search for answers anymore. I want to be my own answer.
At work, I’ve realized that I’ve become a reliability. I caught on to how the job works fast; I’ve managed to keep my naively optimistic and happy self alive, leaving any personal baggage or negativity at home; I’ve trained newbies on how to brew coffees, ring on register or set up the pastry case; and I’ve always sucked it up and did my job, even if days were slammed or I’ve worked consecutive sleepless nights.
“You’re my right hand Rachel,” my manager tells me as she throws up a high-five.
I laugh, high-five her back and quietly think to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Sure, I do love the fast-paced work environment. I love being on my feet and slinging drinks back and forth. Work proves an easy distraction. But that’s all it is. A distraction.
“It breaks my heart to see you discouraged. You don’t see what I see. You have it. You just have to tend to it, chisel away at a marble mass as long as it takes until you’ve created something brimming with the charge of the soul, beautiful, symmetrical and can stand against time.”
Ever since I was thirteen, I felt like I had this song inside of me, waiting and struggling to get out. I’ve written songs in secret and recorded unfinished demos… I’m not saying that I think this is finally my release of them, but I think I’m getting a little closer.
This temporary “break” of mine has been a feeling out period for me — to see where my heart takes me to next, to find what it is my drive wants to do, and to recognize where I actually am in my life (and how young I still am).
More often than not, my job has put a smile on my face. Maybe it’s my coworker busting out a Rolling Stones tune and I can’t help but mumble and nod my head in musical glee; or maybe they’re playfully bumping into me as I pour coffee and they make a funny impression of me; and sometimes it’s a regular who walks in and asks me how my day was or how my writing’s going, and I ask them how their family or kids are or how their summer’s going.
It’s those little moments that get you through the day.
And when they have us working morning to night with no regards to weekends or holidays and severely underpaying us for the work we put forth, you can never take a job like this too seriously.
“You are talented, you are unfinished in the best way possible, you are quick, you are fierce, you are powerful, you are beautiful. Claim your life, Pina.”
With love and honesty,
Rachel ala #CoffeeRachel