Life has a way of never going the way we thought it would. We thought we would be married with kids, own a home, have a good career, be living out some dream job or dream life. Only to be divorced, single parent, never married, still renting and living with roommates, still grinding at a job we thought we would have moved on from by now, so on and so forth. It’s easy to feel like we were cheated in life or got the short end of the stick when we think about how we saw our life going and how it is now. We are told all our lives that we can be anyone we want to be and do anything we want to do, just to find out that this has not been the case. Life doesn’t just happen and go the way we want it to. It’s more complicated than that, isn’t it? This rude awakening can be frustrating, make us angry, and can cause us to shake our fists at the heavens and say, “why is life not working out the way I want it to.” Do we really have a reason to be angry though? Is it not a possibility that we are better off for life going the way it did? Does it have to be a bad thing when life goes a different way and maybe got a little hard? Maybe instead of getting what we wanted, we got what we needed.
In my coming of age, I thought I was either going to be a professional skateboarder, have some kind of Christian ministry profession, for I have a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies. I thought I would become a professional writer, later in life I tried to become a pilot, and none of those things ever worked out. I have had my moments of feeling sorry for myself. Feeling frustrated and upset that I could never get what I wanted or be what I wanted. I would say things to myself like, “I guess life just doesn’t work out for me.” Like I was dealt a bad hand in life and was just doomed forever because of it.
I have worked in a coffee shop or a coffee roastery for seven years now, and when I first got into this industry, I was hopeful that maybe one day I would move up in some way or find a job somewhere that could be some kind of a career. Not until recently could I say it finally did. I have had many moments of doubting and questioning if I was making a bad decision for sticking with coffee for as long as I have, but something that has kept me in it for so long in spite of all my doubting, is that it is very social. I am able to interact and get to know a lot of people through it, and it is something that I am always afraid of losing when the thought comes up of, “maybe it is time to look into other lines of work so I can make more money.” Growing up as a kid with a stutter that was terrified of meeting new people, it has been a great job for my own personal growth that I may not have ever gained if any of those other professions ever worked out.
I got my first job when I was seventeen at a Japanese restaurant as a busser and a dishwasher. I worked there for two years and my manager tried to get me to move up to be a server many times, but I always said no. I was too afraid of approaching strangers, stuttering a bunch, and embarrassing myself. Growing up I was laughed at and made fun of a lot and it made me into a bit of a simp that was terrified of people I didn’t know and trust. It’s amazing how far I have come since that seventeen year old kid that was terrified of interacting with people I didn’t know. I manage a coffee shop now and I have to interact with new people constantly. Not only have I learned that I can do it, but I discovered that I actually love it and can’t imagine working a job without it. How did that turn around so much? How did I go from being terrified of meeting new people to loving it and not being able to imagine life without it? Had I become a pilot or a writer I never would have seen this tremendous turn around in my confidence and become someone that actually loves people and loves to serve them. As a teenager, I thought I would end up working somewhere that didn’t involve a whole lot of talking. For how could I, with a stutter, ever do something that involved talking to people I didn’t know? My career path has allowed me to overcome my fears. I expected something else, but I got something that stretched and grew me into someone I never thought I could be. Our path through life often feels dark with no idea where it is going, but there are moments of light along the way where we can look back and think, “ah… some things finally make sense.” The kid with a stutter too afraid to serve tables who became a manager of a coffee shop is quite the Cinderella Story. I overcame the odds to get where I am today, and that is a much better story than anything I could ever come up with on my own.
Growing up I had moments where I felt like I was cheated out of a normal home life. My parents got divorced when I was young and my dad moved away. Sometimes I would get jealous or envious of my friends that had their dads around and their families together, but as I got older I realized that I don’t have any reason to feel this way. Homelife wasn’t the ideal or traditional way of how parents dream of raising their kids, but it had its own beauty. Some of my friends that have recently become single parents seem to get really discouraged, and I can see why. There seems to be this feeling of, “because I couldn’t keep my marriage together, I have messed up my kids forever and doomed them to a single parent family.” Like kids that grow up in single parent homes are subpar to the ones that don’t. I once thought that I needed to have kids of my own in order to redeem my childhood and to give my kids the upbringing that I once wish I had, but I have come to realize that this is bogus. Just because something isn’t the ideal doesn’t mean it’s terrible. I grew up in an untraditional way, sometimes it was hard, but it was also good. Instead of mom having dinner ready when dad got home, where we all sat around and ate together every night, my mom cooked when she could, sometimes we would eat together, and when she had to work or something and couldn’t cook, we would find food in the freezer or eat leftovers. My brother and I always had our friends around and we never had to ask if they could stay the night. My mom had to work full time, and there was a time when she worked nights, and I think she felt better if she knew, or at least suspected, that we were at the house instead of running amuck around town. So she did whatever she could to encourage us to hang out at home; always allowed us to have our friends over and kept the house stocked with food. My mom spent a lot of money at Costco during those days trying to feed us all and she hardly ever complained about it. I grew up with a lot of freedom, my friends would come over and we would go skate around the town until two or three in the morning. All of this gave me a lot of good memories and I wasn’t cheated out of anything because I didn’t have all the family traditions and routines. I learned the value of friendship through this. My friends often felt like all I had, and my sense of family came from them. I spent a lot of holidays skateboarding with my friends instead of having all our family around. And it wasn’t something I felt sad about or felt like I was missing out on anything, for I always looked forward to skateboarding on holidays because we never got kicked out anywhere and it was always a great time. There were quite a few of us that didn’t have any family around and grew up with single parents, and when the holidays came around, since there wasn’t any family stuff going on, we spent them together. We weren’t missing out on family traditions, we were just creating our own that looked a little different.
For my friends that did have their dads around, they would often take me in and make me feel like one of their own. They would try to teach me things that kids normally learn from their dad’s, like how to change a tire, and would often refer to me as one of their kids. Growing up with a single parent that had to work full time with no family around to help pick up the slack, it’s probably impossible to not feel like a lost orphan at times, and those kinds of things helped alleviate some of that and did something to my soul. Nothing about my childhood needs to be redeemed, and I don’t need to be mad or upset with anyone or anything for not getting the traditional family. The family that I was able to have was wonderful. I have always had great people around, and I saw men who saw this lost boy with a mom that couldn’t do it all and was trying the best she could, take me in, and help me feel not so lost anymore. It is hard for me not to think about this and not cry. The untraditional family is beautiful in its own way. It may not be the ideal, but it is not anything to feel remorse over. We all grow and adapt to our circumstances, and as the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:11, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.” It’s not always easy and it may not be the norm or how everyone envisions or dreams of family life being like, but there is always beauty in it. Pressure produces diamonds, and if the cards we were dealt doesn’t give us all our dreams and maybe makes life a little more difficult than we imagined, we can still make something beautiful out of it.
I was not cheated in life because I grew up with a stutter, didn’t get the career that I thought I wanted, or was raised by a single parent. I was shaped by it and grew from it. All the best coffees in the world grow at a high elevation where the air is thin and it is hard for them to breathe. They are put under stress to stay alive, and as a result, produce the best quality. We too often think of ourselves as victims because we were given an unfavorable circumstance, which is not true. Ed Mylett, a famous motivational speaker always says, “nothing happens to you, but for you.” In other words, I am not a victim of all those unfavorable things that happened to me. I overcame them and learned from them. They happened “for me” to make me into a better human. Single parents, kids of single parents, people that have been divorced, kids born with speech impediments or some disability, people that are struggling to figure life out and make something work, and all the things that make life unfavorable, have not been cheated in life. These are opportunities to grow and to wait and see what beauty comes of them. When life gets hard or goes a different way than we envisioned, we don’t need to feel sorry for ourselves and shake our fists at the heavens. Look how it shaped us and the perspective it gave us. Eventually, we will be able to reflect on our lives and think, look what we overcame, look how we grew from the cards we were dealt. We will all be given opportunities to overcome obstacles. Embrace it when it comes, for it will make something beautiful, and we will be thankful for it in the end.