I order the same americano every day at the same coffee shop. I order it hot, with a little cream or coconut milk. This morning, I wanted it iced because Seattle is hot, and I am in the throes of a drippy, burning-throated spring cold that is making my tolerance for hot beverages very low. The barista making my drink chatted with me idly; she’s seen me come in here for months, usually at unseemly morning hours. She interrupted the smalltalk to say, “Just one more shot. … Oh, oops, it’s iced today, isn’t it? I’m going to have to remake it.” She had made the drink hot, as I’d asked for every other morning for months.
“Oh, it’s ok,” I said quickly. I like her. I figured if she’d already made a hot americano, I’d happily drink it. I didn’t want to give her another silly thing to do. “It’s not a big deal. I’ll drink it hot.”
Without missing a beat, she said, “You’re a big deal”, and started to remake my drink iced.
This seems like an incredibly innane recount of self-centered coffee minutia, but I promise I have a point. When she said, “you’re a big deal”, it viscerally triggered in me an overwhelming desire to burst into tears. I held them back, because that’s just weird, and as much as I’ve worked to be ok with crying in public, I really didn’t think now was the time. But I felt so pathetically, disproportionately grateful for such a small, dear kindness, words that she’d probably utter to anyone. I get that it’s her job to remake drinks if necessary. But still, I felt so utterly taken care of in that moment, with no expectations attached.
That interaction, and the immediate reaction I had to it, made me realize that I’ve felt under-valued for a long time, in the most particular, intimate interactions in my life, and in the broader context of the amount of energy I put into things like my job. I knew this feeling existed, but had only a passing acquaintance with it; I didn’t want to dwell on it too much because it made me sad. But having such a reaction to a near stranger telling me I matter pushed it to the forefront. It’s amazing how, when other people reflect back to you through their actions that you don’t matter as much as others, or even matter at all, you begin to sort of believe it. Or, at least, I begin to believe it. I begin to believe, to assume, that based on how others respond to and treat me, I have no skills, nothing to offer, and that anything I could offer would be too tedious upfront to even bother with. It’s so easy to begin to believe that you don’t matter or aren’t worth it, based on everyone else.
I don’t know how to fix this for and within myself. I do know I can and should and need to tell the people who matter to me most just HOW MUCH they matter. And not only to tell them, but show them. I need to remake that figurative coffee, again and again, until it’s right.