Saturday, May 24, 2014

I Am the Diversity.

It's not surprising that the Sbux store I work at has little diversity - after all, this is Wisconsin, and unless you are in Milwaukee, you're not going to find much racial diversity. We are a bunch of white people, pullin' shots and takin' names.

To be more specific, the employees are mostly 18 - 25 year old white kids. Most of them have been walking upright for only about 20 years. I've been walking upright for nearly 50. They have ankles and knees that easily bend, and don't have to consider the fact that if they get down on their knees to clean out a fridge, they might not be able to get up.

Today, I came very close to quitting. It is hitting me that I cannot hope to keep up with these young whippersnappers. Just using the word "whippersnappers" ages me another 10 years. Maybe it's because I'm not confident, maybe it's because I make dumb mistakes (like brewing decaf into the Pike coffee cube), maybe it's because every time I turn around I have to ask a 19 year old how to do something - but I started wondering if I could really do this.

So, I did what adults do, and spoke with my manager. I need to preface this by saying my manager, L. is AMAZING. She is somehow hyper-aware of what every person is doing and what they should be doing. She jumps in and works the bar (espresso bar, that is) or cold bar or support - whatever - she doesn't just delegate (though she is good at that as well) but she is ankle deep in the crush of rush, just like all of us regular baristas. So, I sat down with her and told her I thought this might be a young persons job. She reassured me that I was doing well, and I told her I didn't want to be the slow, old lady that everyone else had to compensate for. Her reaction floored me.

She likes that I'm not the norm. She thinks it is good to have someone far outside the 18-25 check-box. She told me I added some diversity to the store's cast of characters. And that stunned me, because my first thought was "I'm just another white girl, working at Sbux, what's the big deal? Then I realized it wasn't my race, but my age that was the added diversity.

And in the flash of a moment I felt 100 instead of 48. Maybe it's because I work with college students, but I have always processed and sent messages from the mindset of someone who is "young." When did I become old? Seriously. I don't know when it happened. Did it creep up on me like the silver hair that has been replacing the ebony strands with more and more frequency? Or is this the exact moment I become old? When I can clearly see the distinct and vast difference between me and a group of 20 year olds? No, it's not about me - it's realizing how others see me. I'm not going to be mistaken for a 20 or 30 year old barista. I'm going to be viewed as older. My co-workers won't see me as a peer. They won't consider me as a friend. They may even be wary of my intent . . . because I am so different.

I didn't quit today. After my shift, I came home to shower and soak my feet in cold water. The increase in circulation makes me feel younger, yet the need for a nap makes me feel older. I guess that means I am just right.

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