Journey Update: To Quit or Not to Quit

Il faut toujours viser la lune, car même en cas d’échec, on atterrit dans les étoiles.

~Oscar Wilde

(Always aim for the moon, then even if you fail, you’ll be among the stars.)

QUIT:

It’s a simple four-letter word, but when it happens, causes us an insane amount of distress, not to mention, inherent disapproval from our mothers and unspoken disappointment from our friends. It can be quite a dramatic event when we decide to quit something. “OMG! You want to leave your xyz!?!” Yet despite our guilty conscious, we’re not likely to pass up on a well-deserved quit. After some consideration, we quit schools, we quit jobs, we quit hobbies… we even quit people! Don’t like your job? Not happy in your relationship? No problem. Just quit! Toss that stress from your life! All power to you.

I’ll admit it! I’m a quitter. In fact, I’ve quit so often that it’s become kind of a past time of mine. As soon as something requires too much time or energy… *BOOM! “Peace out, mothaf*ckas” for example, I put together six memorable times I’ve quit something (or someone) and why I thought it was a great idea at the time:

  • High-school chemistry class (culprit: too difficult) *definitely had a major meltdown after this quit because at the time I wanted to become a sports doctor (I know, weird, right) and chem is a must-have.
  • Playing clarinet (culprit: stage fright) *my grade 9 teacher made us perform solo in front of the entire class for the final exam, which is basically a death sentence for an introverted-omg-my-hands-were-shaking-too-much-to-play-properly-despite-having-practiced-a-million-hours-beforehand-and-I’m-getting-anxiety-just-thinking-about-this teenager.
  • Teaching English in Japan (culprit: lack of inspiration) *there’s only so many times I can hear “see youuuuu” from students before I start to question my impact as a teacher. Haha… silly kids! o.O
  • Running/Swimming/Cycling daily (culprit: exhaustion) *I’ve always liked the idea of doing a triathlon. It’s definitely doable… it’s just so exhausting to train for. *newsflash*
  • Living at my parents’ house (culprit: not enough independence) *independently owned and operated since 2009, baby!
  • Numerous romantic relationships (culprit: all of the above… lol) *boys are weird and stupid. Duh.

Gosh! Now that I think about it, I’ve even quit this blog… it’s definitely been a year since my last post. Oops! Although, there’s nothing like a really good quit! It’s such a relief to let something (or someone) go after an intense internal struggle, and in return, focus on something/one new. I mean why continue putting your precious time and effort into something/one that starves you of energy and happiness!?! Seriously, what’s the point? If whatever you are pursuing doesn’t bring you satisfaction nor contentment, why struggle for it? Quit.

Just to recap for new readers, after I quit teaching English and left Japan in August 2015, I set out on a new adventure: to learn about the world of coffee, become the queen of baristas, and to eventually open my very own café with the aim of helping my fellow traveling souls. Simple enough, right? Hahaha, too bad that having dreams are a b*tch.

A year of wild globetrotting and hectic job searching passed by, and soon it was November 2016. After countless rejections, I finally scored a job at the French franchise: Columbus Café, finished a one-month training program in Reims, and started at the brand new café at the Marché Rungis in the suburbs of Paris. Life got crazy and I honestly couldn’t find the time to write since then. So, what has been happening?

Now it’s September 2017: two years since I parted from Japan and a year since I arrived at Columbus Café Rungis. I’ve returned to my old Canadian stomping grounds and have a little time to reflect on life in the coffee industry. To tell you the truth, I wanted to quit every day. E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y. Because working in France as a barista in a newly opened café is both a dream and a nightmare, and here’s why:

The Nightmare:

  • My boss: was, at times, very difficult to work with. You might have heard of the stereotype that the French are horribly cheeky, cynical, and haughty. Picture the flamboyant chef from The Little Mermaid. Obviously, this is an exaggeration, but as much as we hate to admit it some stereotypes are hidden under a blanket of truth and my boss was no exception to this stereotype français. Call it cultural differences if you must, but he thought it was perfectly normal to make jokes about my weight. If I munched on a cookie during my break, he’d chuckle and nonchalantly tell me to be careful of becoming fat because then our customers will stop coming to our café. He said it was just sarcasm after I called him out on his obnoxious humor, but still WTF, he totally overstepped our employee-employer boundaries. As for his pessimistic tendencies, he would refuse to acknowledge even our small victories; for example, one time I told him we raked in our highest revenue to date (which is a huge deal for a new business), another time I told him we sold out of our signature ice-teas, but he dismissed them with a “It’s nothing. We can do better.” I realize that keeping a business alive is astoundingly stressful, but you’ve got to have at least a sliver of optimism and positivity, or else you’re going to drown under the pressure and never feel content with your accomplishments. Above all, the hardest part of working alongside him was the shame in watching dollar signs gradually embezzle his sight. Because of his fixated concern of being financially successful, he slowly lost his love for the coffee world, shut out the joy being part of this world created, and became blind to its beauty of bringing people together. His obsession became so prominent that he kept tabs on the surrounding restaurants and would throw tantrums if he perceived them to be more successful than his cafe. Of course business is business, but when one’s happiness is fully dependent upon the amount of revenue coming in, one’s mood will inadvertently fluctuate like a middle-aged woman going through menopause.

 

  • My customers: could be critical at times. They were my ever-vigilant audience, and I their dancing marionette. Honestly, it was as if my every move was on display purely for their amusement, which undoubtedly, created an unhealthy cycle of stress, anxiety, and insecurity, which then, effected my work efficiency. Things got messy! If I changed anything about my appearance or if I looked tired or unhappy (heaven forbid), some of my customers would make a stupid comment about it. I couldn’t dress as I normally would and I dare not show my true emotions. Basically, I couldn’t be myself. So every hour on the hour, I felt the need to check and re-check my clothes, my makeup, and my smile, aiming for that delicate balance between sweet and sexy. In the end, it was rather emotionally taxing having to market myself all the time. “Dance, barista, dance.”

 

  • My experience: hadn’t always lived up to my expectations. Before I landed my first barista job, my mind swam with images of laboring in hipster-perfect cafes, alongside eager-hardworking coworkers, while making Instagram-worthy lattes, for my pleasant-considerate clientele. In reality, I worked at a café where coffee goes to die. Columbus Café is basically the “Starbucks of France”. Neither the baristas nor the customers cared how good ‘n tasty the coffee was, as long as it was served instantaneously upon ordering. So, there was no time or reason to add those pretty hearts and delicate flowers on top of our lattes. There was no time to explain the difference between brewing methods or the difference between coffee beans. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” and frankly, no one cared. As for my coworkers, I personally watched 10 hired girls up and quit since the café’s inauguration (Nov 2016). I don’t blame them. Working as a barista can be monotonous as hell and the pay is abysmal. If you’ve ever worked in the food industry, you’ll know that we spend more of our time cleaning floors and scrubbing toilets than creating anything earth-shattering. We work afoot for more than 40 hours a week and come home with a paycheck that barely covers the rent. It’s a little disheartening. And then to top it all off, you have to deal with the ridiculous requests and expectations of our customers. “Can I have the cheese sandwich without the cheese?” “I would like an iced coffee with an ice-cube… just one!” “Oh are you closing in 5 minutes!?! Ok I’ll order a meal with a dessert and a coffee… for here.” Sometimes you have to laugh to stop yourself from crying.

FullSizeRender

Of course, it wasn’t all horrible bosses and ridiculous customers.

The Rainbows & Unicorns:

  • My boss: despite his horribleness, relied on me to keep the café running even when he wasn’t around, and within 4 months, I was promoted to assistant manager. From taking inventory to balancing the cash register, my boss took the time to teach me almost everything about owning a café. When I first arrived in France, it took 6 months of job searching and countless rejections before I was offered this job. While other café owners were afraid to hire a foreigner, my boss gave me a chance.

IMG_5517

  • My customers: despite their ridiculousness, taught me about true French culture, and I don’t mean haute culture and hors d’oeuvres. The French, like most Europeans, are quite social, and in fact, they look for any opportunity to gather together and talk. Working the morning shift, I witnessed their longing for community come to fruition. Every morning without fail, people come together with one or two colleagues for a coffee. They talk about their families, last night’s game, and the latest political fiasco. It lasts only 10 or 15 minutes, but nevertheless they take a moment to connect with each other before they’re engulfed with the stress of work. There’s a real sense of community among the French, and within this connectivity is where the fantasized happiness truly exists.

IMG_6265

  • My experience: despite its disappointments, was a culmination of lessons learned, and were nothing short of extraordinary. It’s one thing to learn a theory at school, it’s an entirely different matter experiencing that same theory in the real world. For the past year and a half, I’ve had the pleasure of jumping head first into the revolutionized world of coffee. At first, I acquired a barista certificate from the Canadian Barista and Coffee Academy in Toronto and then additional latte art training from Café Lomi in Paris, Next I was also fortunate to pass a 1-month internship at Caffe Ficini in Rome, where I received my first ever behind-the-counter experience. And finally, I was hired as a barista at Columbus Café in the Marche International Rungis, and was quickly promoted to assistant manager after 4-months of very early mornings and hard work, all the while managing my café inspired blog and social media empire: Kaeru Domicile. Now with millions of espressos pulled, thousands of lattes poured, and hundreds of pages written, I’m left to ponder how incredible and once-in-a-lifetime these experiences actually were. I mean… I was on a billboard at one point. lol

IMG_5669

Quicker than I thought, my roller-coasting time in France has come to an end; a year and a half of nightmares, rainbows and unicorns. And now I’m left with the question: do I delve deeper into the café world in hopes of realizing my 生き甲斐 (purpose) or do I QUIT?

I know what mon amour would say, “TOUJOUR PLUS – ALWAYS MORE!”

FullSizeRender (5)

Quitting will never subtract experiences from your life. This accumulation of skills and knowledge will always be a part of you.

Searching for Value & Contentment

*Before you begin reading, be aware that this isn’t a story to entice sympathy. My only wish is to pass on knowledge.

Value [‘vɶl yu]: worth, merit, importance (n)

Part l: Searching for Value

*NEWSFLASH*

I have imperfections. Real, debilitating imperfections.

I’m a chronic avoider, and not only do I avoid people and situations that make me uncomfortable, I’ve used my poor ability to communicate as a crutch for continuing this bad habit.

Naturally, it’s a “genetic” condition. I come from a long line of avoiders and poor communicators, stemming from years and years of religious fanaticism, unhealthy relationships, abuse, and unstable perceptions of self-esteem.

Don’t worry! I wasn’t abused nor neglected during my upbringing. Not at all. I know my parents love me and each of my siblings, and they did their very best to raise us to be kind, respectful, caring individuals.

We were just deprived of something we desperately wanted: verbal validation of our self-worth. We wanted to hear “you are important”, “you matter”, “we’re proud of you”, “we love you”, but these verbal confirmations of efficacy were few and far between.

I mean, it makes sense why this happened. Despite my father being the quiet breathing soul of our family, using his wisdom and intellect to keep us grounded, and my mother being the compassion beating heart of our family, using emotions to keep us together, they both came from families of avoiders and poor communicators, and being exposed to this type of upbringing, they unintentionally continued the vicious cycle of avoiders and poor communicators.

Want to know what happens to a family that lacks expressiveness!?! Despite being deep down loving & caring people, they develop weird quirks:

 

  1. My older sister has the tendency to be a domineering competition-seeker, challenging those in opposition of her.
  2. My older brother, at times, is an introverted recluse, speaking only when spoken to.
  3. My other older brother tends to be a homebody, constantly needing mother’s approval.
  4. I am “forth and forgotten” absentmindedly moving to the beat of my own drum and using travel to further avoid problematic people and situations, but labeling it as “seeking simplicity”.
  5. My younger sister is a confrontation-adverse artist, lacking the gumption to go after success.

Yet, my family is in no way unique. Who doesn’t have “The Domineering One”, “The Recluse”, or “The Mama’s Boy” in their family?

Me: “Our family is weird and we suck at expressing our true feelings.”

My father: “Congratulations! You just described every family in the world.”

Here’s the problem: We are searching for validation in the wrong places, and so, our weird quirks (i.e., our behaviour) are overcompensating for our lack of self-worth.

Of course, it’s natural to seek affirmation of one’s worth from one’s parents. Everyone does it intentionally or unintentionally. Yet if we don’t get enough from them, we seek validation in our other relationships (romantic & platonic). Subsequently, if we still don’t feel adequately valued from our personal relationships, we look for confirmation from our circumstances (i.e., our status, physical appearance, possessions).

This dependency is very dangerous. In extreme cases, this dependency is used to control marginalized groups.

We will never find our value in an extrinsic source.

Answer honestly:

  1. Do you have less value because your parents don’t affirm your self-worth? [No, you don’t.]
  2. Do you have more value because you’re in a romantic relationship? [No, you don’t.]
  3. Do you have more value because you have children? [No, you don’t.]
  4. Do you have less value because you don’t get along with your coworkers? [No, you don’t.]
  5. Do you have more value because you believe in a deity? [No, you don’t.]

Our value is not defined by our relationships.

Here we go again:

  1. Do you have more value because you travel? [No, you don’t.]
  2. Do you have less value because you don’t look like a model? [No, you don’t.]
  3. Do you have more value because you’re the CEO of a multi-millionaire company? [No, you don’t.]
  4. Do you have less value because you don’t have the latest iPhone? [No, you don’t.]
  5. Do you have less value because you failed that math test in 6th grade? [No, you don’t.]

Our value is not defined by our circumstances.

We have value, simply because we are.

Contentment [kən’tɛnt mənt]: modest satisfaction; the ease of mind (n)

Part ll: Searching for Contentment

So, we’ve determined that our value is intrinsic.

We repeat to ourselves “I’m awesome sauce” and we go on living without insecurities.

Ha. Easier said then, done. Amirite.

We’re feeling awesome sauce until someone prettier, smarter, richer, cooler, funnier, [insert insecurity-causing quality] walks by.

Oh dear. We need to reel in our high expectations and put them in check.

Society has a prescribed recipe for success, and until you achieve this ideal, you will never experience true happiness. Hands up if you’ve thought any of the following: “I will be happier when I’m 10 pounds thinner”, “I will be happier when I make more money”, “I will be happier when I’m in a relationship”, “I will be happier when I’m more outgoing”, “I will be happier if I look more like (insert idolized person).”

Prepare for a sh*t storm of dissatisfaction, my friend.

Here are the problems:

  • Comparing ourselves to society’s ideal is bullsh*t. Even if we get closer to this ideal, it will always change, making it an impossible goal to achieve.
  • Pursuing happiness is bullsh*t. You will never be happy simply because you think you don’t deserve to be happy. You haven’t earned it yet. You devalue yourself for not having the prescribed attributes. And thus, your circumstances will always disrupt your emotional balance, creating an endless cycle of unhappiness.

Recently, I wrote down a list of “What I Want in a Relationship”, which should be rightfully renamed a list of “Unrealistic Expectations that [I Think] Will Validate My Association with a Romantic Partner”.

I had 10 seemingly well-thought out items on this list, ranging from “someone who I can create common goals with” to “someone who is hot AF with Class A style and eyebrows on fleek” (half kidding about the latter (。•̀ᴗ-)✧ ).

OMG. Don’t. Ever. Do. This. It ruins relationships. Trust me.

I created my own recipe for happiness. I thought, “Until all 10 items are checked off my list, I will not be truly happy in my romantic relationship.”

I’m an idiot.

So if I meet someone who only ticks off 9/10 items, oh too bad! They will NEVER make me happy. *pushes them off a cliff.

See the danger of putting your happiness in the hands of others!?! It puts extraordinary pressure on your [potential] significant other, and will surely leave you in a hysterical mess.

Now, take a moment and ask yourself, “Am I content?”

Wait. Isn’t contentment a synonym of happiness!?!

The difference: Happiness is a fleeting feeling that ebbs and flows like the tide.

Contentment, on the other hand, is constant state of being.

Seeking contentment requires the simple act of admitting you’re satisfied. Your fundamental (physical, emotional, psychological) needs are being met, your expectations are in check, you deal with problems calmly & fairly, you love others simply for who they are, and you do not feel compelled to desire more. Life is good. Just as it is.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue your goals, have new experiences or try to be a better person. Not at all. It just means when new opportunities come around, remember that they won’t add or lessen your value, but instead, just be grateful for their occurrence. Likewise if new opportunities don’t come around.

 

Moral of the story: seek a constant state of contentment in yourself rather than happiness.

And don’t forget: You’re a person of value simply because YOU ARE.

Bisous.

 Kaeru Domicile Café: A place of comfort. A place of contentment.