Posted in Current Events, Musing, NaNoWriMo, People, Wishes

another political rant

I can’t help it. I have to keep talking about politics. I’ve spent the last year and a half semi- to fully-immersed in a scene that I’d only vaguely cared about previously. Now that we’re at the climax, I’m almost bubbling over with the

I was two months too shy to vote absentee in the 2008 election while living as an exchange student on the other side of the world. So in 2010, I voted in the midterm election based mostly on what my parents talked about. For those of you who aren’t aware, that was the vote which ousted the Iowa judges who had legalized gay marriage in my state. By the 2012 general election, I had started to question the status quo and was going through a personal crisis. I was aware of the Republican candidates that came tromping through my university, but was out of the country during the caucuses and didn’t pay much attention until the general election.

Then things all went downhill. I changed my voter registration to unaffiliated and started glowering at the nonsense people were saying, wondering if anyone had ever taken a civics course. Mr. Olsen, my high school government teacher, would have never allowed anyone to pass his class with the amount of misinformation being propagated.

I was deleted on social media this election cycle.

I did not delete anyone.

I was furious sometimes at the things I would see show up on my timeline. I would shake my fist and go find one of my usual debate partners and vent about the inaccuracies and assumptions. I would see an article posted and delve into the sources, trying to decipher to conclusions drawn. Sometimes I would agree, sometimes I would roll my eyes at the bias. I would wander around the aisle, asking questions and demanding answers.

I am an unaffiliated voter. I did not delete you.

I’ve complained about the echo chamber before, of the dangers of being too tightly wound in a circle of like-minded people. I’ve complained about Facebook’s algorithm before of showing me more and more of the same things I’ve been clicking on until I believe that everyone must think exactly as I do because I never see articles that contradict me.

And so I keep you. I keep you even though I disagree with every argument you make, every meme you share, every article you post.

I keep you because I can be wrong.

I keep you because I want to see what you think.

I keep you because I want to see what you say, and see if I can challenge my own point of few.

I want to be able to understand where you’re coming from.

I want to be able to listen to someone who thinks differently than I do, and restrain myself from trying to bring you over to my side.

Call it a lesson in patience, and one that I don’t always succeed in.

But here’s the other thing.

January 20, 2017. We’re going to have a new President.

We’re going to have new members of Congress.

The world is going to keep spinning.

I’m going to keep being noisy. I’m going to keep advocating for the things I believe in. I’m going to keep voting, keep donating, keep volunteering. I’m going to do everything I can to make the world a better place.

And part of that? Well part of that means keeping you as part of my world.

Maybe on Facebook we’ll post contrasting debates, but sit down for coffee and talk about the illness your daughter is facing, how you’re applying for a program, or the trip you have coming up. We’re going to live in the same world, occupy the same space.

I may disagree with everything you say.

But we live in this country together.

I want to know what you’re going to say.

I want to know what you believe to be true.

I want to know where you get your information.

I want to know why you think one way or another.

What about you? Are you going to listen to me? Are you going to be able to sit down and have a reasonable, intelligent conversation?

Or will you delete me, because I say something you don’t like?

Will you insulate yourself, so that the only propaganda (because don’t fool yourself: that’s what we fill our minds with, no matter how much we claim to “research”) that you ingest is the propaganda from your favorite sources?

Will you allow the anger that you feel rise up in you when you read my contradictory posts to become so vehement that you sever our connection completely?

I’ve hidden the most frequent political posters, don’t get me wrong. But that was because they were cluttering up my feed to the point where I couldn’t see my friend’s wedding pictures, or recipes, or the less active friend’s thoughts on public affairs. I’ve hidden no one specifically for their beliefs.

Would you defend my right to disagree with you? Would you defend my freedom of speech? Would you acknowledge that I’ve done research too and drawn a different conclusion? Would you believe that I can be on the opposite side of the spectrum and still love you?

Like I said, I’ve been deleted this election cycle. I’ve tried to maintain a middle ground, reaching out to both sides to understand where they’re coming from. And with some, I’ve had phenomenal conversations. With others, the instant I bring my opinion onto their post, I disappear from their connections.

It is what it is.

I’m tired of trying not to get deleted you when I disagree with everything you say, because I’m the one you accuse of being too concerned about political correctness, without ever finding out what I think is actually important. So here I stand, and I hold my breath for one more day.

Because at the end of it?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Happy Election, everybody.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Current Events, Musing, NaNoWriMo, Time

a noisy year, you are

Whenever I’m babysitting a child under the age of about six, I’m careful to quickly avert my gaze if they ever trip or bump into something. Children, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, are notorious for reacting based on how their audience responds. If the young’un doesn’t think I saw what happened, they tend to evaluate how they actually feel instead of crying because they think that’s what they are supposed to do. If they continue playing, I know it was a minor bump. If they cry, alrighty, that actually hurt or scared them, let’s see what we can do.

Children have pretty short attention spans.

So do adults.

Let’s just take a moment to think about how absurdly noisy 2016 has been.

The Zika virus. The Brussels terrorist attack. The Summer Olympics in Brazil. The Orlando nightclub shooting. North Korea launching it’s largest nuclear test yet. Brexit. The US Presidential circus. The Baby Boomer celebrities starting to die in droves. Standing Rock protests. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile followed by the Dallas police shooting. Flint. Flint, Michigan was declared a state of emergency this year!

It’s been brutal.

For the less dire:

The iPhone 7 release. Pokemon Go. Finding the gene linked to ALS. The Cubs win the World Series. Leo finally won an Oscar.

It’s been busy.

The world is constantly turning, and we are constantly learning. Sometimes I wonder if we learn so fast that we remember nothing. Kind of crazy to realize we still have almost two months left in this year, huh?

According to legend, and perhaps even fact, on April 18, 1930, the BBC looked at the world around it. They then turned around and declared, “There is no news to report today” and proceeded to play music for the duration of the broadcast. Can. You. Even. Imagine?

My alarm goes off in the morning, and as I go to shut it off I swipe through Twitter stories and Facebook notifications. I drive past emergency vehicles with lights flashing on my commute with NPR catching me up on the latest stories in my state, country, and world. My mom forwards me newsletters from her financial advisors. My friends text me asking if I’ve seen this, heard about that, we really need to talk about the nonsense of this over here. Even making small talk with a cashier turns into tidbits about the storm due that evening or the animal shelter opening down the street.

I feel like everything around me is news.

It makes it so easy to forget, and to realize that just because my world moves on, keeps on spinning and absorbing new information doesn’t mean that these stories stop. Cubs fans will probably be celebrating for another 108 years. Families are still mourning the loss of their loved ones. Protestors are still being jailed in North Dakota. And dear Lord, we still have two days left of this never-ending election.

And yet, in three days we’ll be talking about Black Friday. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve already seen an article or two about various malls remaining closed until after midnight and REI has already sponsored a few ads for “opt outside”. So look, didn’t even have to wait for one monster to fade into oblivion for another one to start rearing its ugly head.

When I was a kid, I somehow discovered that one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, died on the same day as JFK. Even in my youth, I just knew that the creator of Narnia wouldn’t have been given proper recognition for his life and death because the world would turn its eyes to the popular, handsome president. Just now, when I googled their names to make sure I was remembering it properly, I realized that Aldous Huxley, author of monumental Brave New World, also passed away that day. Sounds a lot like 2016, eh? Who gets top billing? Who does the world care about the most? It seems like we only have the mental capacity to deal with one tragedy at a time, even though each of these men shaped society significantly. I’ve known several people whose birthday fall on 9/11 – their day of joy spent a solid decade eclipsed by mourning.

Everything is a constant battle for attention, a constant demanding for ratings, for clicks, for shares and likes. It’s an eclipse: what is bigger, shinier, more tragic, more shocking. We tear into people’s lives and demand they give up their privacy for our curiosity, demand answers to questions we had no business in asking. But funding for our cause only comes from the circus, legislation for our protection only comes from making noise, and the rise to fame or infamy comes with this sacrifice.

So here comes another story, here comes another insight, here comes someone with only the vaguest connection to the center clamoring to be heard. But it’s not enough, because there’s always something new. Even today’s brightest color can’t compete with tomorrow’s glitter. We move on, we forget, we are constantly sampling but never satiated. We form opinions based on headlines and get in bitter fights because we think we know better – all the polls say so.

The headlines are like the children. They make a noise and then look around to see if we’re watching. If we give them no heed, they’ll move on. Children have short attention spans. So do we. The media reacts to us: giving us more of what we beg for. This isn’t interesting enough, this isn’t new enough, this isn’t controversial enough.

Oh, dear 2016. You’ve been trained well. Every time we respond to your desperate cries for attention, you give us exactly what we ask for. You give us more pain, more divisiveness, more curiosity. As we roar in anger, you give us more and more. We have become the monster: we’re looking in a mirror.

Oh, you have been brutal.

But that’s exactly what we asked for.

Perhaps, just once, CNN will come on air.

November 10, 2016: There is no news today. Please enjoy the music.

 

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Lessons, Musing, People, Stories, The Barista, Travel

Wolf Girl and the Traveler

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It’s a fine romance but it’s left me so undone
It’s always darkest before the dawn

When I make new friends, I’m generally exhausted by the end of the first interaction and ready to go home to recharge myself. The more time I spend with them, the more energy I have. Eventually, the relationship develops to the point where I walk away feeling more alive than I did when I walked in.

And every once in a while, I meet a stranger that immediately belongs.

I realized that national parks had no entrance fee on MLK day and promptly started reaching out in my network to find a companion on my day-off excursion.

In recent weeks, I’ve befriended a traveler who is wandering the globe on social currency. And some of you may remember the story of Wolf Girl from my last post – it turns out that, indeed, we would meet again!

Armed with these two characters, we caffeinated ourselves and gasped at the vistas as we dove into Rocky Mountain National Park. Florence + The Machine played our soundtrack as we got ourselves lost in the park.

Those strangers who immediately belong? They sat in my car and shared their lives.

IMAG1247.jpg

For the first time, I felt like I could adequately express my disjointedness. We spoke of growth and failures, shared the places we’d traveled, and brushed the deepest parts of our souls. We stood in the bizarrely warm mountain air and breathed in the ancient new world. The artists spun tales of song and dance, and we spoke of the dreams we’d fulfill for others if we ever won the lottery.

As we made our way back down to Estes Park, we started realizing none of us had eaten that day. By the time we made it back to Boulder, we were punchdrunk and laughing ourselves silly. As we crossed the street aiming for lunch, we ran across a barista dropping supplies in the middle of Broadway. We scooped up her cups and followed her back to her cafe where she bestowed us with free coffee as thanks. When we finally sat down on the tea room floor for sushi, the waitress joined in our laughter – and then a waiter recognized us from earlier in the morning across town.

One of our key conversations of the day? You find what you’re looking for. Wolf Girl shared of a day in New Mexico when she was talking on the phone about needing a place to stay, and a woman handed her a key and said, “Use my guest cottage – it’s just down the street.” The Traveler reflected on arriving in Denver and the bus driver covering his lack of fare. I had stories of my own: we all search for the good in people. And even when life utterly sucks, we find the good.

Shake It Out refrains that it’s always darkest before the dawn. I always interpreted that phrase as meaning life sucks, then it gets amazing. It’s only been recently that I finally realized how ridiculous that was. If you’re lost in the forest in the middle of the night, you don’t suddenly find yourself outside the forest at dawn. But you do find yourself equipped with the tools and abilities needed to get out. It’s the same in life. People are still going to hurt you. Living situations will fall through. You’ll have to find a new job. It will be hard. That difficulty won’t go away. The dawn simply means you’ll be able to handle it. Each experience will grow you, change you, define you. Each person you meet will leave a part of themselves with you. And in the end, you’ll see more clearly than the day before. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

IMAG1283.jpg

As I drove home alone, I felt myself energized and alive after a day with strangers-turned-friends. The gifted crystalline whose properties perfectly related to my life weighed down my pocket. My heart was still beating from dancing around a living room watching the sunset over the Flatirons. And I realized that I was growing again. I was alive again.

And life? Life is good.

Thanks, Traveler and Wolf Girl.

 

Posted in Growing Up, Lessons, Musing, People, Snapshot, The Barista, Time, Travel

impostor syndrome

At twenty-five, I’m starting to see my peers as adults.

We’re no longer floundering around, renting our first apartments, burning our first meals, ignoring the squeals on our brakes until our cars are unable to stop.

We’re looking for a place that suits us and our budget instead of one or the other.

We’re developing spice racks – and have a few key dishes we can whip out for guests.

We regularly change our oil and cheer when our insurance rates go down.

We have a logical, thoughtful exchanges that I’m far more accustomed to having with people 3-5 years older than me, and later find out my conversation partner is a few months younger.

I look around in astonishment and realize that without my consent, I’ve grown up. I have conversations about retirement accounts and the practicality of millennials being willing or able to leave the workforce. I track my expenses and have a budget. I have a shiny university degree that says I show up and do my work. I keep being put into positions of authority where I hire and train and manage people and places.

By all external manifestations, I’m an adult.

And I feel like I’m an utter impostor.

This isn’t one of those “Adults shouldn’t have to grow up! Be a child! Have fun! Enjoy life!”

I’m a traveler. I absolutely adore life.

It is the responsibility aspect.

I get surprised when someone comments that I’m doing really well at something, or call me a sweet person. I’m just floating through life, doing what I think I should be doing. I don’t feel like anything I do is exceptional – it simply is what it is.

I sometimes feel like I intentionally stopped at 19, but my body continued without me. Hence I feel like an impostor. The only time I get carded anymore is when I’m with a beardless man (which in and of itself is a little insulting – I mean, yes, I’m plenty old enough to buy this drink, but really? I don’t look 30 yet!).

I was talking to some friends about this situation the other day, and we bemoaned wishing we were still 19. Back then, we had no money but somehow everything just worked. We had all the adventures, all the magic, and being poor was more fun than stressful. We didn’t sleep but had energy, we didn’t eat well but it didn’t affect us.

Now, just a few years later… it all falls apart. We get home from work and are too tired to do anything. We manage to socialize once a week or so, but after a few hours happily escape to our beds. Money means something, and the lack of it is scary. We thank our lucky stars that we don’t have children to throw into this mess of life, being responsible for a tiny creature when we can hardly afford to clothe ourselves. (Oh, yes, living in an expensive city because we love it and want to work at something we love has its disadvantages.)

We’re impostors. We feel like we don’t belong here – and yet somehow, we’re told that we do. Others look at the beautiful final reel instead of the raw footage and think somehow we have it figured out. Somehow, someone, somewhere, decided that we deserve the title of being an adult.

I may not believe it.

I may get confused when people assign it to me.

But somehow, it’s mine. And if that’s the case, I need to claim it, redefine it, make it fit me rather than the other way around. I need to be comfortable with it, greet it like a friend rather than a person I need to impress.

It’s a dangerous thing, this impostor syndrome.

I met a delightful stranger the other day. Very rarely do people answer the question, “How are you?” genuinely. But she did. She looked at me sadly and said, “I’m wrestling with the wolves, trying to decide which one to feed. So I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico for tonight.” To my surprise, I saw her two days later. “Wait,” I exclaimed. “Why aren’t you in Mexico?!” Her eyes twinkled, and I could see the relief that had been absent before. “I moved to Boulder instead. The universe reorganized itself – I’ve never wanted to live there! But things just… worked. So I moved instead of leaving.”

I don’t know if I’ll ever run into this young woman again. But she has it figured out. She allows herself to get lost and find herself again. That genuine response to reality was confusing and beautiful all at once. She embraced the uncertainty, and in doing so, staked her claim on who she wanted to be.

So today, I sit here sipping coffee and dreaming. I may feel like an impostor, but I’m going to find me.

IMG_20151203_152721

 

Posted in Lessons, Love, Musing, People, Snapshot, Stories, Time

this present moment

A friend recently told me that they only ask questions if it pertains to who a person is right now.

“I want to know who you are, not who you were.”

Not going to lie, my brow furrowed.

I see a strong vein of truth that I agree with, but almost equally powerfully disagree.

I am who I am because of who I was.

A conversation here, a crazy night there, a struggle, a triumph, a journey, a moment.

 782d549fe7d2ec846fed67210ae6f638

To only want to know a person in this present moment is to lose the rich tapestry of being alive.

The past gives depth. The future gives growth. The present moment is only a snapshot. I would not be who I am if it were not for the experiences that led me to this moment. I am on a trajectory for tomorrow because of where I am today.

You are always told to live in the present: YOLO, carpe diem, all that.

The present is a beautiful thing. Time is a beautiful thing. But to only know one part, be it any part of their timeline, is to miss the true beauty.

This present moment is a kaleidoscope of memories and dreams, taking a deep breath to appreciate a thousand coincidences and questions that drove you to right here.

This present moment is full of opinions and beliefs that are wildly different from the past – but why? When I meet someone, I don’t just want to know that you agree with me, I want to know why. What led you to be the person you are today?

There’s a story.

A beginning, a middle, and an end.

I want to know you, who you are today. But I want to know where you’ve been and where you are going. I want to know why you justify some things, why you forgive others, what causes triggers and emotions to flare. I want to know what makes you you.

Those answers rarely are found in the present moment.

They grow, they develop, they change.

If I want to know you, I want to know why.

I want you to be genuine.

I want the intimacy that comes with revealing.

I want to share in your joy and laughter, your heartache and pain.

I want to know the past, dream of the future, and have it all come back to this present moment.

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Beer, Current Events, Growing Up, Home, Musing, Stories, Time, Travel

the millennial experience

I am a millennial.

 

I am the border of two realities, nostalgic for a childhood from a quickly bygone era.

I own a smart phone, but remember spending hours curling the cord of my parents’ landline around my fingers while talking behind a closed door.

I can access data in my pocket, but remember when my dad got our first computer and hearing the sounds of dial up internet.

 

I share photos instantly, but remember going to the pharmacy to develop film and how angry my mom got that I wasted some of those negatives on pictures of clouds.

 

They once thought the future would be all about transportation.

Hoverboards and flying cars, jet packs and teleportation. But instead, we became the generation of communication. I wake up to a Facebook message from my friend in Slovakia and can shoot a text to one in South Korea. I can Skype for free with someone in Brazil, and read an email from someone in Morocco.

 

Computers which once took up an entire room now sit on our wrist and we can talk to our watch to keep up with the world.

 

Global travel is no longer exotic and unpredictable, but easily replicated because the stories and photos don’t hide in our memories and sock drawers but are shared with the world in real time.

 

Hobbies are at our fingertips. Instead of spending hours pouring over a book in a library, I simply google “how to” and play until I get bored. Need to make friends with similar interests? There’s a MeetUp for that. Need to see a new city but don’t want to be in a hotel? No biggie: AirBnB and Couchsurfing have you covered!

We strove so hard to be different, and in that way we all became the same.

I drink wine with my best friends and visit breweries with strangers.

I drink my direct-trade coffee black and have never bought cable.

I buy my clothing in thrift stores (before Macklemore made it cool) and love getting produce from the farmer’s market.

I live with roommates so I can afford to live in a big city, and most of my friends aren’t yet married.

I change my profile picture to support a cause, and donate ten bucks to another I deem worthy of my measly income.

I laugh, I cry, I argue, I make peace. I talk to a therapist, and vent to my friends. I move away from home and build a network to serve as a surrogate family when the days get too long and the nights get too lonely.

I ask questions and argue politics, I question the status quo and argue for a truth I’ve discovered.

 

No, I’m not any different than you.

 

I’m a middle class white girl with first world problems, but sometimes through the gentrification can see the real world issues. I strive to meet people who challenge me and my beliefs, and find myself hurting as a way to feel alive.

 

Is that the point of being a millennial? Generations before us made the way so smooth that we have to roughen the course to not become one of a million faces?

 

Merry Christmas, everybody.
And I drew the line at wasting away or waiting to be saved.
Posted in Changes, Growing Up, Musing, People, Wishes

Let’s talk about depression.

I often write as a means of processing, of discerning if my concerns are valid enough to form a coherent message.

Right now, I want to talk about something that I don’t like processing, something I don’t like even acknowledging exists.

In middle school, it was an angsty sadness.

In Slovakia, I was drowning.

In Des Moines, I was angry.

In Iowa City, I was apathetic, lethargic.

Weeks, months, semesters, I’ve gone through many episodes of depression.

I discovered in Slovakia that I was a fair-weather fan. After a sexual assault at a New Year’s Eve party ripped away any version of naivety, the sun shone on the first day of 2009. For the next four months, I could count on one hand the number of times I felt sunlight on my face. Those were the only days when I felt like I could go on. At a ski lodge in April, a panic attack brought everything to a head, and I walked out to my friends ready to be alive again.

Iowa City was far, far different. In the middle of autumn, bright cloudless skies highlighting the brilliant foliage couldn’t lift my soul from it’s empty state. I stopped coordinating Supper Club. I started binge watching Netflix and ordering pizza several times a week. School, work, sleep, repeat. No desire to do, or to be. I felt nothing.

If there is one good thing to come out of losing May’s, it is that I didn’t spiral into another episode. I grieved, deeply. I’m homesick for my coffee shop even now. But I did not become depressed in the months following the loss of my baby.

Just before I moved to Denver, my mom asked me if I knew what caused these fluctuations. I wish I did. After a year and a half of therapy, I’m no closer to an answer of the reasons why my brain will suddenly decide that it doesn’t have the strength to be normal, why a social being will suddenly grow weary of even the idea of human interaction, why these states last for the periods of time that they do.

I don’t know.

But here’s the deal.

There are people struggling with depression all the time.

I could give you the spiel, but frankly, if you’re aware at all, you know how many forms there are. You know that no one’s experience is the same. You know that it isn’t something you can just “think your way out of” – trust me, I was fighting it tooth and nail.

So why am I bringing this from the back of my mental cupboards now, putting pain on display for the world to see?

Because today as I was driving home, feeling the warmth of the sunshine, I was thinking about depression. I was thinking about how you can hide away bits and pieces of you and manage to forget they are there, and then sometimes someone comes and reminds you it’s okay to put yourself back together again. That it is okay to feel alive.

Then I got home, and a dear friend texted me, because she was falling apart on the inside too.

I’m 24 years old.

I do not have my life put together.

I’m a college graduate.

I do not have my life put together.

I moved to another state on a whim.

I do not have my life put together.

But you know what?

That’s okay, too.

Dear friend of mine, hurting. It is okay. It is okay to not have your life put together. It is okay to not understand why you feel what you feel. It is okay to be conflicted. It is okay to struggle. You are so dearly loved, cherished, and wanted. Any maybe those words don’t mean all that much right now. But someday, some day they may. We can grow together. We can cry together. We can mourn, we can laugh, we can pretend the world doesn’t exist for a while.

It’s gonna be okay.

Posted in Changes, Musing, People, Stories, Time, Work

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

Posted in Musing, Snapshot

Invisible

I’ve thought a lot about invisibility today.

I went to the bank, frustrated by a ridiculously large deposit required when I tried to sign up for a cell phone plan. They told me that because I’ve never had a loan or a credit card solely attached to my name, I have no credit. Years of paying rent, paying bills, never buying anything I couldn’t afford, means nothing – it only counts against you, not for you. I went through three layers of identity theft protection, with the last woman finally apologizing to me. “We can’t sign you up for anything, because even though you’ve verified your name, birthday, address, and full social security number, we can’t find you.” I don’t exist, according to my bank. I’m invisible.

A few hours later, I spotted a boy across the street who I’d had a bad run in with a few years back. I very recently cut my hair into a pixie cut and have had friends not recognize me. Wearing sunglasses, I walked past the boy. He looked straight at me and straight through me. I was invisible.

I continued on my way to meet with my therapist. I started seeing her months ago as I wrestled with depression, lost in my own head, apathetic to the world around me. In the world, but not a part of it. Surviving, not thriving. People passing me by, accepting platitudes of “I’m fine.” In a highly visible position, but floating on by. Invisible.Invisibility.I could run away.I can hide.I can be lost.In a world so technologically connected, it would be easy to pull the plug. Vanish from social media. With people so wrapped up in their own lives, tell your physical friends you’re moving one place and disappear elsewhere. Invisible. Fresh, new, clean. The scary part, though, is trying to be seen again.Because that is far, far harder than being invisible.

Posted in Changes, Growing Up, Lessons, Musing, Work

Blogging, a question mark

What is the purpose of blogging?

The last several months I’ve noted that more and more of my Facebook friends have taken the proverbial pen in hand to broadcast their thoughts and lives to the world in the form of a blog. I am by no means a regular writer in my own, but take pleasure in reading from others.

I also am constantly searching for new blogs, seeking validation in the emotions and questions that I have – how do other people in my stage of life handle situations, make decisions, move from one day to the next? Although I suppose I qualify as a “digital native”, I am lost in the tangled world wide web, using rudimentary search functions to try find my far flung peers.

I was complaining about this to my roommate the other day. “I can’t find blogs about twentysomethings just trying to figure out what they’re doing with their lives! College students, young mothers, business professionals, sure! But what about those who DON’T know what they’re doing with their lives? Who have graduated, are not married, and are not working for a multi-million dollar corporation? Where are we represented? Why can’t I find their daily ponderings about how to survive?”

She looked at me, and bless her heart, said, “Why don’t you write it?”

Well, the reason is: I’m an external processor. I write when I have something to say. That’s usually when I’m processing something. It’s hardly professional to write about wrestling with the decision of whether to stay at my current job or move on, publishing my thoughts for the world to see before I’ve had that conversation with my boss. (For those of you keeping track: I’m staying.) Nor is it kosher to write about the frustrations and victories at work or in relationships.

I can’t write in an abstract way. I can’t discuss in real time what I’m learning, how I’m changing, what questions I’m trying to answer. It is only after the coals have cooled that I am able to speak with clarity, fairness, and quality.

But frankly, that doesn’t help the next person searching for answers. The thought process I think is just as important as the answers. It’s messy, it’s ugly, and no two people can ever follow the same road map. Viewing a situation through someone else’s lens, and understanding their reflections, can reveal more angles and ideas in ones own world, even if the final outcome is completely different. The journey is the destination, after all, isn’t that what has always been preached?

I do not have the ability to write about my journey. I can only stand on the plains and look around me, sometimes euphoric, sometimes just introspective. I can talk about where I have been, but I can’t talk about how I got there. Forgive me, but I can not write the blog I so desperately want to read.

Humans of New York
“What we see is affected by our memories, our feelings, and by what we’ve seen before.”