student life

The coffee shop and self-care

coffee shop, kettle mag
Written by Alex Veeneman

Upon first entry through the side entrance in a busy shopping centre, life appears to stop. People sit down, drinks and other items in hand, and focus on the conversation. The queue when I visited on a Saturday morning this past February was long, with sound of drinks being made all while the woman at the cashier exclaims: “I can help the next person in line!”

Yet, the reaction of people in the queue, on a weekend where conferences, exhibitions and sporting competitions are in abundance, would be the opposite of what you would ordinarily think. No one seemed to mind that the queue was long, as people sit and pause, as the hustle and bustle of downtown goes by outside.

This was at a Starbucks, in the City Centre of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I had seen the element of life screeching to a halt here before one day late in 2017. It may have been before 9am with people making their way to work, yet in here, one would not have noticed that it was during the working week.

Life coming to a halt is a scene that is repeated not just in this Starbucks, but at other coffee shops. It is a scene that is contradictory in this society of ours, and is a reminder of self-care – something that in this modern, digitally advanced world of ours is not practiced often enough, and ends up on the backburner.
We live in a world where life can become a little bit much. In an attempt to distract ourselves from what is going on around us, we bury ourselves – be it in work, our studies or other projects that know that we have to do. We bury ourselves to a point where most of the time, we don’t come up for air.

Kettle magazine, printed version, spring 2018

We focus on the deadlines that are before us – the deadline for that essay, that exam or that project that needs to be in at a precise time or otherwise the boss will erode panic-inflicted stress on you. We can’t come up for air, for if we do, not only will the deadline be gone, but it will come at a cost – the loss of a job.

Meanwhile, as you find yourself buried, you wonder often about what the point of life is, if you made the right decisions, and if you’re on the right track. Amidst the fast paced nature of the world, be it the 24 hour international news cycle, the pace of one’s degree and work or people rubbing it in on their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram timelines, life can be too much to handle.

Yet, we soldier on, knowing that a proper kick in the bollocks is coming if things aren’t complete. There is no alternative solution. We have no time to think about what’s next.

The coffee shop has, as a result, taken on a new identity, in response to the circumstances that society has put itself in. It has become an institution where one core principle of self-care can be practiced – the principle of making sense in a world of chaos. All it takes is a conversation – be it with your mate, significant other, colleague in an organisation (be it a newsroom, student paper, university, the org in which you work, or otherwise) – it could be anyone.

Conversations like these allows for a second pair of eyes to help reflect on life in the moment, and they’re being held in a place where life can be paused, and city life, be it in the centre of Minneapolis in Winter or the centre of London in Spring, can just go about its normal routine.

As an early career journalists, these types of conversations are one of my favourite things to do. In times of uncertainty, there are questions that you ask yourself. These conversations in the intimacy of a coffee shop is one of the most effective ways to get those questions answered. It’s not only cathartic, but also inspiring.

Gone are the days where the coffee shop was just a place where you grabbed a tasty beverage and left, going amongst your day. Now the coffee shop is an invitation to not only have a tasty beverage, but to take time out of the day to pause. It is perhaps why that I made a point to visit the Starbucks on South 6th Street, and why it has become a favourite of mine ever since.

If Starbucks and the other coffee shops of the world can teach us anything, it is this – it is important to stop. When you do, the world is going to keep moving, life will keep going, and the fabric of society will not collapse. Stopping not only benefits you, but can benefit the world around you.

Trust me. For those few minutes, life can wait.