I wasn’t in a good place last month. I lived in doubts and incongruence.
It was a good experiment nevertheless; I learned so much about me and about life when I was managing a café.
Even with a wealth of experience setting up new coffee shops, when it came to operation, I was a newbie. And yet, I couldn’t act like one.
With our first hire, Melissa, a lady in her 50s, and Hassan, a barista in his early 20s, the café opened its door to public, my internal fear level shooting off the roof.
I remembered my first encounter with Melissa during job interview.
I said, I’m sure you are not here for money. In my mental database, I didn’t register anyone who looks for entry level service job past fifties.
She quickly clarified, money is important.
It hit my heart softly, that I live in a small rosy world.
Melissa turned out to be a valuable hire, a figure resembles mother, sister and friend in my path.
Taking on the mundane tasks that I was too prideful to do, she showed me how to bend in life.
Just like the teaching from Lao Tzu, ‘the tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. The hard and stiff will be broken; the soft and supple will prevail’.
Day by day, we improvised better ways to keep things in order, figuring out processes and best practises to run the cafe.
I wasn’t a good teacher but Melissa was a good student. Sometimes I got impatient teaching her the same thing over and over again, but I loved seeing her determination to learn.
She quickly mastered the POS system and transformed into a barista; and she taught me that attitudes trump skills. I learned the value of commitment in which her generation hold on to.
If there was anything I took along with me when I left, it would be beautiful moments I shared with Melissa.
Knowing that her daughter was studying medicine under scholarship, I asked her how she raised a bright child.
She said, the girl is driven by a big dream, and she told me her story. It was a story of abandonment, hardship, struggle, kindness, love, perseverance and faith. She raised two children on her own.
Tears rolling down her face, I saw a giant in her. Strong, and yet bend like a palm tree, flow like water.
While I dealt with all kinds of surprises created by young crew, managing expectation internally and externally, struggling with my own identity crisis in the role; I was constantly fighting an emotional battle.
Melissa supported me through the process, with her simple wisdom of life and firm beliefs.
She told me that we don’t need to acquire better or more things, but to have something that suits us.
She gave me space to be clueless and vulnerable. It was safe to tell her ‘I don’t know’; it was safe to tear at my lowest point.
I was glad that she was there, having my back when I put on a strong front with crumbled spirit.
As I regained my ownership and moved on with life, I have a different understanding about the meaning of our existence.
I am on a path to figure out what matters to me, and how I can create meaningful things that benefit lives beyond my own.
Melissa showed me that touching life does not need scale; it does not have to cause a bang. She is an ordinary person doing ordinary things, but she touched my life in a big way.
Touching lives starts with us being our most authentic self, caring about people around us.
It is love, in its simplest form, unpretentious, unwavered, indifferent.