I’m writing this from Dana Street Roasting Company, a quaint little coffee shop on the outskirts of downtown Mountain View. While I sit in antique armchairs that look like they were salvaged from your grandma’s attic, or a slim leather-bound stool, there are a few things that stand out as constants — the tart smell of fresh brewing coffee, the sound of grinding beans and the chatter of other patrons. This is where I thrive.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m very appreciative of the house that I live in, and the room that I have, and yes, I do acknowledge the fact that I have a perfectly functioning desk in that room. But day after day, I am drawn to the comforts of a window seat in a local coffee shop. It’s not for the coffee — as much as I enjoy it, my grandma makes it better — it’s for the work ethic it inspires forcefully upon me.
See, when I’m at home and alone in my room, the only person who can coax me into productivity is myself, and I’ve realized that unless I have some sort of exterior motivation, I’d rather spend my time googling, for no particular reason, something random like the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. At a coffee shop I’m not alone in my need to be productive. I’m surrounded by twenty-somethings that are probably working on their startup and are discussing the benefits of investing in what’s-its-name in order to promote what’s-it-called. Being raised in the Bay Area, the hard working college students and college grads surrounding me immediately register as success in my mind, and I want to be them. So I become one of them.
Dana Street Roasting Company is where I’m a young, studious author, an English major at a small liberal arts college on the East Coast that you’ve probably never heard of, who is working on her debut novel so she can pay off the debt on her apartment with an exposed brick wall.
At Red Rock, I become a struggling musician who dropped out of college, with my ripped jeans and a band T-shirt, who’s probably transcribing music on her computer right now and is preparing to perform at the open mic and is very busy, thanks.
Starbucks makes me a tech-whiz — the youngest startup developer ever, who has coded her own app that makes millions of dollars a month, who actually could buy Starbucks and is just waiting for the right time in the stock market.
Or something like that.
How I’m seen at these places is what drives me to succeed. My desire for approval also helps me check my boxes for success, because when I’m working at a coffee shop, I’m convinced that people actually care that I’m working on my biology homework and not just watching paint mixing videos. And so I do actually do my bio homework, for fear that the tall guy sitting behind me will see me scrolling through something stupid and think, wow, she probably doesn’t care about studying — why is she even taking a seat at this shop? And in this fabricated conversation, I’d scream I do! But he won’t. And I can’t. So it really doesn’t matter, but the importance of this idea is that I think it does.
And even more prevalent than my fear of being caught as a 16 year old fraud instead of a 21 year old is the atmosphere of self-assured success that these settings adopt. Its infectivity convinces me that, if these young geniuses (or whatever false identity I have inscribed upon them) are working here, then I, too, have that capability. I too am capable of becoming one of them, and one day coming back, this time actually 21, and sitting back down in one of those antique armchairs or slim, leather-bound stools, having achieved my goals of success.
Being able to sit comfortably, latte in hand, and say that I made it. I did it. Really, this time.