One thing I love about working at Starbucks is having a connection with fellow partners at other stores. As soon as I whip out my green partner card – BAM, conversation flows. I’m no longer just a customer, I’m a partner, a compadre, a cohort, a companion. We’re equals. It doesn’t matter if we’re young or old, Christian or atheist, gay or straight, partiers or homebodies, educated or not, we’re all similar. We’re all a little crazy, a little friendly, a little caffeinated. Whether we’re in school, working another job, single, married, parenting, we’re here because we want to be here. We may complain, but we actually like what we do.
A few nights ago, I visited another Starbucks that is fast becoming a favorite place to go and work. It’s near school, one of my friends works there, the café is rarely crowded because it has a drivethru, and I’m getting to know many of the baristas, who take good care of me. This particular evening, I started talking to one of the partners about my impending graduation and my plans thereafter. This was the gist of our conversation:
Aaron: I remember my first break from school. It was fun, just working and making money and hanging out.
Aaron: I mean, my friends that have graduated, they’re so gung-ho, you know? And I’m just not ready for that. I could finish, but I don’t want to be gung-ho yet. I’m still young.
Me: Yeah, totally. You’ve got plenty of time.
I stood there, listened, nodded, and verbalized my agreement with him, part of me feeling that my actions were true, I did agree with him, but another part of me feeling like him and I were on two different paths. Am I gung-ho like one of his friends? Graduating at 21, headed to graduate school, on a path, with a plan, with a passion? Maybe that’s the difference. I have a passion, and perhaps he doesn’t. I didn’t ask him if he had a passion or not, but I think that when someone has a passion, they can’t help but be gung-ho about it. But there are certainly plenty of passionless gung-hoers, and perhaps those were the friends he was describing. I know I have friends like that, who have no clue where or why they’re going where they’re headed, but they’re headed there at 90 miles an hour. If I was directionless, without a path, I’d rather be like my friend Aaron. I’d rather do what I like, take my time, not get to competitive about anything, and just try to figure out what I’d really rather be doing. I mean, yes, we are young. Who knows how old Aaron is – 21? 23? 26? It doesn’t matter. He’s not thirty yet, he’s still young. As my stepdad recently remarked, “I don’t even remember 21!” Of course, he was being facetious. He frequently tells college memories and still stays close with his fellow Masters of the Universe (yes, that’s what they called themselves) and they all shared a secret toast with Lone-Star beer at a tent at his wedding. But despite keeping those memories alive, he is a very different person than he was thirty years ago. Which makes me wonder – am I too gung-ho for a 21 year old? I somewhat envy Aaron. All he has to worry about is paying rent. Ok, that’s probably me being facetious now, but I don’t care.
I look back at myself as a freshmen in college, just three years ago, and wonder what I was thinking. I’m sure that at age 24, I’ll look back at my 21 year old self and wonder the same thing. But I don’t think there’s an age where we suddenly arrive and have all the wisdom we’re ever going to need. We’ll always (hopefully) be growing and changing. My roommate told me that even her grandmother feels that way. She remarked, “I remember when I was first a grandmother. Man, I didn’t have a clue what to do!” Somehow that’s comforting. None of us ever have a clue. And that’s ok. Especially if I keep trusting the One who holds the big picture. He’s given me a flashlight, with just enough light to illuminate a foot or two in front of me. Just enough direction and guidance to take that next step, though the path beyond each step stays dark. I can handle the darkness without fear, as long as I stay fixed on the light.