They want to know why a person with a college degree, with a Master's degree, is not working in her field. They want to know why, of all places, I am at Starbucks, a place few people seem to associate as a "real job," but more like a good stepping stone to other things. Starbucks is for college students, or recent college grads who haven't landed the right job yet; for retirees who need something to occupy all their newfound free time; for the proverbial struggling artist. What I feel, real or imagined, in all the forms of this question is this: where you're at is not ok.
You should want more than this.
You are not ambitious enough.
You are wasting your potential.
And it's true, if you knew me more than five years ago, you have every reason to raise an eyebrow at where I am today, especially if you don't know the story beneath the surface of my life these past years. I had ambition. Huge dreams. I was going somewhere, going to be someone. I had passion some of my friends confessed they envied. I graduated top of my class in grad school.
And here I am, assistant manager of a Starbucks kiosk.
I write on the side and dream of writing much more, and that's one huge reason I'm still here. But there's another, one that's almost impossible to spit out with any kind of eloquence or timeliness when someone pops the question.
I'm not done learning that what I do in life, as my job, doesn't determine my value. I'm here, at Starbucks, for almost five years now, making a statement to myself until the truth has made its permanent home in my heart, until I no longer allow the shame to creep in and undermine my worth.
If I need to shout it from the rooftop, maybe one day I will: I am not what I do!
I am not Starbucks, and you are not fill-in-the-blank. I am not "just" a barista and you are not just a receptionist or engineer, a nurse or graphic designer, a mom or dad, a garbage collector or CEO.
I am more. You are more. This is true.
And no matter how much this culture with its pigeon-holing questions, its incessant need to size up and define and categorize, pushes against me, I will not back down. Because it's also true, isn't it, that who we are becoming is the real story? And the job, well, that's more a tool along the way. Maybe for you it brings you more fulfillment than me, where you work and what you do, and that's ok, too.
But please don't assume as you look at where I'm at and what I do - or where you're at, for that matter - that this is the only story. I hope to "do" more with my life, trust me. And at the same time, I hope to not be driven to seek this 'something more' out of fear that my life will be a waste otherwise. There's so much more in the works here, for all of us, amen? So much more. Let's begin to ask new questions, to pave new streets.
My life is in construction and new streets are being paved in the pathways of my mind, in my heart, though they may not be visible yet. And probably, the hardest truth to accept for any of us is this: our stories are ultimately not about us. So instead of seeking out a new career path, I find myself praying more, "God, make me a better lover." Let that be the street that I ride out to the very end.
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Joining up with Lisa-Jo and the community at Five-Minute (hypothetically for me, I know) Friday for the thought-provoking prompt of "True."
And, true story, I didn't actually read through her post until after I read mine. Seems I'm not the only with on this street this week...