Category: Changes

starting over

I moved to Denver out of anger.

A year ago, I was at Barista Camp, sitting at a symposium about running a cafe. Everything that people suggested for what a good owner/manager does, I just kept thinking about my Boss Man. “But that’s what my boss already does,” I fought back tears.

I was living my dream a year and a half ago. Dream job, dream roommate, dream boyfriend, dream circle of friends. Life was amazing, and I was thriving under the pressure.

When the walls came crumbling down, I didn’t know what to do. When after months of putting all his effort into getting a fair shake fell through and my boss made the sad decision to close our store, I was at a loss. I was bitter, angry. I wanted to flee the midwest, start running and never look back. Without realizing it, without meaning to, I started shutting down. I wrapped up the infection in my soul and ignored it.

Phoenix with G? Louisville with Emily? Seattle with Janice? Did I want to go to Boston, because of the song? Did I want to go to South Carolina, because of the travelers from a train in Ireland? No, I decided. I wanted to go to Denver. Denver, for the mountains. Denver, because it was far, but not too far. Denver, because they told me there was a thriving coffee scene. Denver, because I knew the Chaser would love to follow me there. Denver, because moving to another state alone was scarier than moving to another country for the same reason.

Denver itself was a flip of a coin. But fleeing? That was from anger. That my dream First World had been shattered, and I was done.

Anger is a fuel. But not necessarily a good one, and very rarely a healthy one.

I ran on it until I could run no more. And then I found myself complacent. I’d run out of steam, I’d run out of passion. I felt alone in the city, restless in my job, trapped in my townhouse, and discontent in my relationship.

Then, somebody made the mistake of asking me a question.

“Are you happy?”

That is who I used to be. My level of normal was at most people’s really good day. And I no longer was. I was no longer curious, excited, passionate. I was no longer confident, creative, overflowing, or easily delighted. I was sinking. Day by day, complacency was replacing my soul.

Saying “no” to that question was a shock to me.

This last month has been like a shockwave through my system.

Two dear friends moved to Denver with their significant others, and I’m finally started to develop real relationships with people I met here. I’m single for the first time in two years, and cautiously starting to question who I am and what I want. I put in my notice at my promising management job so I could step back into the role of student and coffee geek.

Life is scary.

But for the first time in a year, anger is no longer my fuel.

I’m allowing myself to feel for the first time in far too long.

There’s a lot of bottled up pain, a lot of displaced emotions that I’m finally letting myself examine and deal with.

I’m starting over.

It’s scary.

But it’s time to heal.

On turning 24, and then some.

December is often a time for reflection – it’s the end of the year.

For me it’s always been doubly so – with my birthday at the end of the month it’s the end of my personal year as well.

This year is even more – I graduated in December a year ago. Hashtag baccalaureate, k?

-1

Since before I can remember, the my hometown church has ended its Christmas Eve service with Mannheim Steamroller’s rendition of Silent Night while everyone stands in a circle around the darkened sanctuary with candles flickering. As I stood there tonight, I pondered the shifting of generations. Girls I went to high school with now stand with fidgeting munchkins, stepping into the role of wife and mother. Meanwhile the children we babysat are now the high school leaders, singing boldly, volunteering often, and carrying the community on their shoulders.

It’s been a ridiculous year.

Traveling the world, traveling the United States. Getting promoted, my work shutting down. Independent to dependent to independent. Painting and crocheting. Writing and reading and being on three different phone plans. Everybody moving. Also, Reddit. It’s a thing.

Claire makes me laugh.

I move to Denver, CO in a week. A new year, a new state, a new bout of trying to figure out this life after college. I’m on the cusp of something big, the edge of growing up as I leave my college town.

For once, I don’t have much to say. My ponderings have all been written in journals, or discussed with friends. I’m at peace.

’twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

136 South Dubuque Street

You may have heard by now the sad news: As of November 1, May’s Cafe and the Wedge Downtown will be naught but a beautiful memory. Just as I accepted that I was going to be here for two years, reality burst my glorious bubble. I knew I would leave some day, but I expected it to be on my terms. May’s was always just supposed to be there, with or without me.

I transferred to the University of Iowa as a junior. I was lonely, lost, and doubting that I would ever make a home in this city of 100,000 citizens and students.

This is my fourth August in this city, and I would consider myself as local as one can be without actually being born here.

I’ve watched Greta grow from a freshman to a senior. Watched the benches in the ped mall be painted and repainted. Listened to the debate about the validity of tree scarves when there are so many homeless people without. I’ve taken pictures with Herky, applauded local theater troupes, attended folk concerts, volunteered at the ReStore. The faces of Iowa City started to change: a mass of strangers became a blend of friends. I thesised, I graduated, and I became one of the rare ones to stay in this transient town.

Through the last four years, classes have changed, friends have moved, priorities have shifted, my address changed. The only constant: 136 South Dubuque Street. A little coffee shop in the middle of the ped mall: patron, barista, manager.

136 South Dubuque Street.

Capanna taught me to make coffee.
May’s Cafe taught me to appreciate it.

Capanna taught me to hide my clumsiness.
May’s Cafe taught me to (mostly) overcome it.

Capanna taught me to build relationships with people I saw for 45 seconds every day.
May’s Cafe taught me to keep a smile on my face when people were treating me like subhuman for the third day in a row.
(By the way, the regular patronage of 136 South Dubuque is unreal. People are so genuine, so kind. 98% of our customers are either neutral or fantastic. We are human beings at my shop.)

Capanna taught me to problem solve for myself.
May’s Cafe taught me to troubleshoot for other people.

Capanna taught me to listen to people smarter than myself.
May’s Cafe taught me how to search out the answers when all the smarter people had left.

136 South Dubuque Street.
Two cafes.
My story.

I’ve poured my soul into this shop. As a full time student, I would work here 20-30 hours a week, then study or hang out with friends another 10-15 hours. I was proud to be part of the transition team from Capanna to May’s, loving the people of Iowa City and glad that I could stay with my regulars. It gave me such joy to return after my internship and continue the craftsmanship I had quickly grown to love.

The fours supervisors started running the cafe last November when our manager moved to Minneapolis. By March, Claire and I were co-managing, and in July I was holding the position alone. It startled me to watch myself grow – do I really have it down to an exact time how long it takes to do first day training? Did we really just develop and implement a new menu? Did we really just participate in (and host!) latte art competitions? Is this really my team? Did this new girl really just analyze her shot and tell me what was wrong with it and how she thought she could fix it? These beautiful baristas, excited and passionate about their job? Is this still the culture, where the staff comes to hang out for hours on their day off just because they enjoy it so much?

And then there was Steve. Boss Man, as I call him. Muffin Man, as Hiba did. “Good”, as all called him. I have worked for many people. Bad bosses, good bosses, and Steve. The man who believed in me. The man who introduced himself to everyone working for him, and made sure he knew their name and personally asked them questions so he would know their story, too. The man who believed in investing in his employees. The man who spentevery. single. day. at his store on the floor. If something broke beyond my expertise, I would just walk up to him and say, “Steve, help.” If I was running low on something, or needed new equipment, I would just shoot him an email and a week later it would magically appear on my shelves. The man who told a coworker who needed extra cash, “Yeah, I wasn’t planning on being open the day after Christmas, but if you want to, go ahead and open the cafe for a while. We might sell a couple of coffees.” The man who would buy a slice of cake for you on your birthday if you wandered into the shop, and if you were going through a family crisis would make sure that you got a hug and definitely didn’t pay for that breakfast sandwich – it was on him. The man who knew the name of just about every regular customer in the shop – who was surprised that he hadn’t heard about our latest “Snickerdoodle Lady” before she gave us a thank you note. The man who poured blood, sweat, and tears into his shop, trying his best to make it a good business and a good place to work.

I once was chatting with a stranger and mentioned I worked at May’s Cafe. “Oh no,” he interceded. “another Disciple of Steve. I hear people come back for his parties that worked for him in the ’90s! Steve, the great and wonderful.”

Not long ago, a worker from the Wedge was getting a different job. When I jokingly protested, he laughed it off. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll see me again. No one ever actually leaves the Orbit of Steve.”

I am so, so blessed to have worked for that man. I do hope everyone someday gets a chance to work for a Steve.

I’ve spent a lot of time weeping since we got the news. I weep, not because I’m afraid, but because I’m grieving. I know people will be okay. My staff could easily jump to another of the half a dozen coffee shops around downtown, and Steve (!) is personally asking if people have another job they can go to or if they need help. I know Steve will be okay. I know I will be okay. But still I grieve. May’s is me and I am May’s. May’s is every one of my baristas. May’s is every one of my regulars. May’s is Linda-large-latte-no-foam. May’s is Danny-70-30-house. May’s is Abbie-iced-cafe-miel-and-a-warmed-up-muffin. May’s is Jake-triple-americano. May’s is soaking children trotting before their mother to the restroom. May’s is the weekly cappuccino and scrabble meeting. May’s is a daily game of speed chess. May’s is finding the small table or the one with the coffee mug painting. May’s is dissertations and bible studies. May’s is conference attendees and permanent business folk. May’s is different students every semester. May’s is a bottomless cup of incredible coffee. May’s is you, Iowa City. May’s is me.

I stayed in this town after I graduated.
I stayed for Steve. I stayed for May’s. I stayed for home.

I literally have no idea where I’m going now. I doubt I will stay in Iowa City. I doubt I will stay in the midwest. The future is wide open. Usually that would be a beautiful thought, but today I just look at it. I turn it over in my mind and I put it back on the shelf. Because today, I’m still grieving the loss of my 136 South Dubuque Street.

IMG_2824.JPG

IMG_2858.JPG

IMG_2897.JPG