I first met coffee when I was seven or eight. It was a Sunday morning, and while my Mom went to church, I stayed home with my Dad and worshiped at the altar of Larry, Moe, and Curly. It was an unholy trinity, but we laughed at the hi-jinks and ophthalmic trauma of “The Three Stooges.” (It was a good morning because Shemp failed to make an appearance)
At some point, my Dad got a refill of morning Joe.
“Can I have some?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied. He poured me a small mug and said with a wink, “Just don’t tell your Mom.”
He warned me it was really hot, and told me to add milk to cool it off. (I still take cream in my coffee today.) I fixed it up and carefully put it to my lips. It was a big moment for me. Adults drank coffee. I was about to slip the bonds of childhood and become a man. I slowly and carefully took a drink, feeling the liquid warm my body and awaken my taste buds when I noticed a strange sensation. My enthusiasm waned as my brain and body began to communicate; an uncontrollable urge rose from deep within as I spat this gawd-awful rite of passage back into my mug. Adulthood could wait because chocolate milk and childhood tasted a lot better. It’s safe to say my relationship with coffee was not love at first sight.
Flash forward a decade. I was a full-time student with a full-time job, and my summer college algebra course was kicking my butt. I walked into a “Winks” convenience store and looked at their coffee pot through bloodshot eyes. I was no longer a kid pretending to be a grown-up. I was an adolescent struggling to become an adult, and I needed help. So, I turned to coffee. I still didn’t like the taste, but I loved how it made me feel- rejuvenated and alert.
It was a healthy relationship for many years. It propelled me through college, into my teaching career, and it helped me raise two infant children. Coffee allowed me to squeeze all of the juice out of each day. During graduate school, I would make a pot at 9:00 p.m. and work until midnight. I would then get up a 5:30 a.m., and you guessed it, brew more coffee. Around this time, I noticed that I enjoyed the taste but I no longer appreciated how it made me feel. I was jittery, nervous, and uptight. I never felt rested. It was time to re-examine our relationship.
I looked at coffee and said, “You know, it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve changed. I hope we can still be friends.”
I’m proud to say that while our relationship is now different, coffee and I are still going strong. I mainly drink decaf, but I still appreciate its taste and aroma. It was never coffee’s fault. I was always in a hurry to get to the next phase of life: to grow up, to graduate college, to get a job, become an administrator, to finish grad school. I’ve become better at appreciating each of life’s phases. I’m by no means perfect, but I’m improving, and while I historically used coffee to fuel my race through life, I’ve now learned there’s no better way to appreciate a quiet moment than with a cup of Joe.