Who likes days off? Not me! When I have time off of work, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. I don’t have homework, and it’s not like I can truly bring work home with me. The best way to bring Starbucks home with you? Buy a coffee maker, maybe a French Press (I may or may not have one), and have some Starbucks coffee while you sit and do whatever. That’s all fine and well, but it’s the sitting that bothers me. I’m a get up an go kind of girl, so of course I took to a Starbucks cafe’ and wrote letters. I talked about my Starbucks giftcard collection, which I pulled out of my Starbucks bag, and plopped on the leather couch in the corner with my Earl Grey Tea Latte. I have an awful case of the “I love everything about my job” syndrome. I made fun of my Barista Trainer, Melissa, for coming into work on her days off. Now I’m a Barista Trainer, and I go into work on my days off.
To my credit, though, I did laundry, signed up to be a volunteer paramedic for the Rock n Roll Saint Louis Marathon, roped my dad into taking a trip down here to be a volunteer paramedic with me (he was a paramedic for 13 years, as was my mother. We’re a family full of medical geeks. My brother got out with a business and psychology duel degree, but still audits anatomy classes for fun), mailed a package, and called around to different apartments to make sure that I would have a place to live when my lease is up. Laundry day is the one day a week that I don’t reek of coffee, so of course I go to Starbucks and hang out in the cafe’ long enough to where I feel at home again. If I could make a Starbucks air freshener, I would. Who wouldn’t want to have their kitchen always smell like freshly pulled espresso shots, steamed milk, and warmed up cookies?
I digress. Rob, the man that keeps my heart, went out of town this weekend to shoot a video for his band’s new single, and I stayed home because of work. While I surely will miss him, it gives me a wonderful amount of free time to become enthralled in my letter writing. While I was sitting in Starbucks, I penned a love note to the baristas, and secretly tossed it behind the counter while no one was looking. That particular store needs a lot of love, and I like to visit as much as I can to see how they’re doing. It’s been very unstable since it opened, and there has been a lot of negativity surrounding the recent and sudden quitting of their store manager. Besides that, baristas are often the brunt of every bad mood brought in by a caffeine-driven smile. They often times don’t receive thanks for what they do since people are in a hurry, “haven’t had my coffee yet,” or have just generally come to expect that baristas are emotionally comparable to the espresso machines themselves. Yes, many of us do live and breathe our jobs, but a kind word (or a mean word) can make or break the feeling of the day. More Love Letters has a ‘Barista Appreciation’ sort of event, where Hannah has penned letters specifically to baristas thanking them for all of the times that people are rude, inconsiderate, and lacking appreciation. When I read that on the website the first time I had visited, it really warmed my heart because it’s something that is particularly relevant in my life. Thank you, Hannah and More Love Letters for warming the hearts of the New York baristas. Warm coffee, warm hearts.
So one of the letters I wrote today was to a girl named Hannah who is struggling with something almost every young woman has struggled with: making and keeping friends in high school. Sure, men also face the same struggle, but scientists and relationship analysts have proven that the ‘mean girl’ mentality can be a much more intense form of bullying than many people realize. Junior Year of high school is THE year where young women everywhere suddenly grow up and grow out. For whatever reason, lifetime friends can become sudden enemies this year, which is what happened to me when I was in high school, and is what Hannah is currently going through. Having an older brother, no one really warned me about this weird phenomenon, and I felt extremely alone for quite some time. My friends that I had made were no longer my friends, and I didn’t even know why. Well, I did know why, it was just very complex, and there were no particular details. Just teenage mean girl complexity. Hannah’s friend group “was ravaged by drama, and Hannah was so heartbroken. She feels like she’s starting high school all over again, not knowing who to sit with at lunch or in class,” her sister said in her email. “Hannah is such a great girl, and I just want her to know that she’s better than all of this. A lot of people forget how hard high school can be once it’s over.” I think a lot of people really try to block out the bad memories and substitute them with stories that become more embellished and elaborate as we go on, refusing to acknowledge tougher times like they didn’t exist. I made sure to include my story in my letter, hopefully showing Hannah that she isn’t alone, but not minimizing the way that she feels. It’s tough growing up, and that moment that you feel alone can really impact how you feel about yourself as you get older.
If there is one thing that I’ve learned to embrace, it’s change. Embrace the weird things about you, the things that make you really stand out, and people will gravitate towards your confidence. Open your heart to new possibilities of friendship. My “second” group of friends from high school are such wonderful people. When we’re not busy conquering the world in our own ways, we still do the best we can to stay in touch. When that sudden change hits, you need to adapt. Accept it for what it is, and realize that change happened because it wasn’t the path that you were supposed to end up on. It was a time in your life that you were meant to learn from and move on. Your friends should make you feel good about yourself and your relationships with others. If there is drama or negativity creating a monster out of your friends, then they aren’t your Cinderella fit. There are people out there that were meant to love you for who you are and who you’re becoming; they are your soul-friends. Maybe a drastic change will bring them into your life, or maybe they’ll slide in without you ever realizing that you didn’t have them to begin with. Soul-friends have your heart on radar. When you feel lonely and are in need of a friend- when you feel that no one will ever love you again- that radar goes off like a siren in a fire station. Whether it happens right away or not, your soul-friends will enter your life, and you will find yourself happier than ever. So, Junior Year Hannah, things will get better. Your soul-friends are on their way.
With love and love letters,
Day three of love letters. I pre-wrote a few to take to work and drop around on my way. I decided to wait until most of all the other baristas were busy on their closing shifts before I dropped my letter in the lobby. It was gone when I checked later, so here’s to hoping that someone took it home.
Today in general needed a lot of love. We had a lot of negative energy walk through our doors at Starbucks today, and I tried and tried with all my might to keep people in good spirits. I was on bar, so I didn’t have the face-to-face interaction with customers that I usually get while on register. Whenever I’m on bar, I do my best to sing whenever I can to keep those that are waiting a little bit entertained. My regulars get nervous when I’m not singing while I’m on bar; it must be a bad day for Jen if she isn’t singing. Today included a lot of Billy Joel, Weird Al, and Etta James singing as well as a few syrup smiley faces when applicable. All was fine and well until a “past barista” from the store sat at our bar (we have a counter and bar stools by the espresso bar and hand-off plane) and decided to start telling anyone who would listen about how awful the store was, and about Starbucks being a bad company. I VERY strongly believe that Starbucks is a fantastic company, and I love my store beyond how much I should love working. I did my best to counter this man’s slander with positivity, but had to tell him that I wasn’t interested in further conversation on the topic. A coworker of mine took him outside on his break, and I suppose he told him that his behavior was unacceptable, because the man left and my coworker returned red-faced and raging. I wrote my coworker a little love letter to lift his spirits and tucked it in his apron. He found it later and beamed that it made his night. Love letters make everything better.
Shortly thereafter, a couple came in, seeming pleasant enough, and ordered a few lattes. They tucked themselves away in the corner of the cafe’ and proceeded to talk over coffee, as most cafe’ customers do. Within ten minutes, the woman was sobbing and the man was cussing and degrading her. It was a very unpleasant scene, and it made everyone uncomfortable. Unfortunately, we had opted not to say anything due to the nature of the argument; it seemed very domestically abusive, and on-the-spot intervention by anyone less than law enforcement can cause a violent backlash once the couple retreats into privacy.
Besides those two incidents, the general weekend-worker population finds themselves in the throws of frustration by the end of the day, so the mood drags quite a bit as the sun goes down. Here’s to you, Weekend Warriors. To the night-shifters and the day-off-called-in workers. To the abused and the unamused. Thank you for all that you do. You make the world a better place with every contribution you make. I can’t express how much I appreciate you. Things will get better, and there are brighter days ahead. I hope you find love wherever you keep it; tucked away or in the open, waiting in the wings or merely waiting for it to happen. You are loved. You are appreciated. You are wonderful.
Days like these remind me that The World Needs More Love Letters. Take some time to write to the ones you love, the ones you just met, and the ones you don’t know. Everyone could use a verbal pat on the back, a hug drawn in cursive, and those xoxo’s that mom used to put on your birthday cards. Go forth and love.