Today was a rough day for one of my co-workers. I mean a really rough day. I mean break down at the coffee bar in the middle of work kind of day.

I would like to say this not normal, but when you work a job giving service to people BEFORE they get their morning coffee… you get some pretty nasty people who like to blame their “inability” to be a decent human being on the fact that they haven’t gotten their non-fat, light-ice, three pumps, double tall skinny mocha with no whip cream at 35 degrees, thank you very much.

One lady came up to our manager and told her that our coworker had not made her drink correctly. Maybe she had forgotten no whip cream. The customer did this not necessarily kindly, but not rudely either.

My coworker overheard this and, after having dealt with an exceptionally rude customer before this one, she just couldn’t take it anymore and knelt down and just cried.

Our once-packed store, miraculously emptied in a few seconds– without any of this drama being noticed by the customers. She was able to escape to the back and our managers hugged her and one of our co-workers drove her home early.

Now, I’ve never openly cried at the bar before, but I definitely had an off day where I just kept dropping the tea bag tag into the drink or completely forgetting how to make iced drinks or having customers get frustrated at how slow I was at preparing something that they just left. That day, I took the job of mopping the back room alone and I just teared up at the fact that that day, nothing had gone right and with my four-year degree, I was making coffee and doing dishes and mopping a floor.

That day, a guy told me my shots were wrong and I was so nervous I had to recreate his drink five times. Another time, a lady got so fuming mad at me for asking her if I had put enough half-and-half into her drink that she almost walked out of the store.

Even though those people were in the wrong for not accepting my consideration or for not asking politely for me to change something in their drink, we feel a lot of our sense of success based not on our actual success, but on others’ reactions to what we do.

Now, we can never fully separate others’ opinions of our success from our actual success. But, some people really are just going to be horrible people about things that don’t really matter– like if I added 1/32nd-of-an-inch too much steamed milk.

Sometimes we have to remember that other people forget we are actual people sometimes.

Even though I am just a coffee- machine to that lady who won’t drink my latte, I am more than what I do and if I am successful to those I love, to myself, and to the decent people I run into, then I can forget everyone else.

For some people, their coffee may be one of the many things that hasn’t gone right today, especially when I work in a hospital next to an emergency room.

So, I forget they are human too. That sometimes they really can’t keep it together and when they shout at me about their non-fat, three Splenda Latte taking too long to make, they are really shouting at the fact that they are on hour twelve of a fourteen-hour shift or that their mom had a bad reaction to chemo.

We hurt each other a lot, but I wonder if we all really knew what each other was going through if it would make our falling apart okay.

Their yelling wouldn’t be at me.

And when my co-worker cried, it wasn’t that last customer, it was everything that had gone wrong that week.

And when I cried it was because I failed at the dream I had for four years, not the fact that I couldn’t get the tea bag tag to stay out of the cup.

And as I cry writing this post, I know it’s because getting over feeling like a failure will take a long time. That it will take some time for me to feel like being a barista after graduating college and turning down a job teaching in Japan was not a move of cowardice but of necessity for sanity and happiness. And it is totally okay for me to feel this way. I am a human and I am what I feel and experience. This is my life and as long as I keep trying I will not be a failure.

Life is hard. Life is really, really hard.

If I get out alive and happy,

If I get out having loved and been loved,

If I get out having changed one other life for the better,

I will have been a success.

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