It’s still dark outside and I’m walking the mile from my apartment to the Ashby BART station. I’m not in a rush – I woke up before my alarm and have plenty of time before I need to be in the city – but I check the transit app anyway to see when the next trains are arriving. My backpack is heavy with the weight of my laptop, notebook, chargers, squash shoes and racket, and two changes of clothes, but my steps are energetic in these blissful hours of the morning.
I stand on the BART platform with a few other bleary-eyed commuters and feel full with a sense of purpose: today, I have somewhere to be, a person to meet. Ok, fine – the “somewhere” is a squash club, and the “person” is my friend/match opponent … but still. I have missed this feeling of needing to be somewhere, a feeling that’s been foreign in these past years (?!?!?!) of working from home.
I can’t complain about working from home. For someone like me (no kids, good WiFi in a good apartment) I feel privileged and lucky to be able to do so. But this morning I’m reminded of how good it feels to be needed somewhere, at a certain time, even if that time and place are arbitrary or contrived.
When we lived in San Francisco I’d get up every morning and walk to get coffee at the Starbucks a few blocks from our house. Most of the time I’d pick it up on my way to work, just before I caught the bus, but I’d also go on weekend mornings when I had nowhere to be.
Thomas didn’t understand why I’d bother going there and spending money on days I had no reason to. “Why don’t you just have coffee at home?” he’d ask.
I’d respond with some version of “the coffee tastes better,” but that was never entirely true.
At some point during college, waking up and leaving the house to get coffee became an important ritual for me: something I looked forward to in the morning, something that got me out of bed and out of the house (dorm) on my darkest days.
I’m sitting on the BART now – we’re just pulling out of 12th St. Oakland station – and typing this out on my laptop as the sun rises in beautiful streaks of orange and pink. I remember writing something about my morning Starbucks ritual a few years ago … I search my journal app’s archives for the keyword “Starbucks.” Aha! I’ve found it (and silently thank technology, without which these words probably would have been lost in a random journal forever):
[An Excerpt From Maddy’s Journal, Dec 28, 2018]
How Starbucks Cured My Depression
At the end of the day, of course the big things saved me: therapy, medication, a supportive family and friends. If I position elements of my recovery as a pyramid, those would be the foundation. But what do you do you from there? Just because I didn’t want to die anymore, or wasn’t in the hospital, doesn’t mean I was enjoying life. So I like to acknowledge those smaller things, the things higher up in the “pyramid,” that have made a difference in helping me overcome my depression. These things are sometimes tough to notice in the moment and I rely on retrospect to properly identify them.
One such thing is my morning trip to Starbucks. Every morning I wake up, place my Starbucks order on their mobile app, and walk the five minutes to my local Starbucks. When we first moved in together, Thomas thought this routine was silly. In his eyes, I was paying three dollars for a coffee I could make at home, and he didn’t understand my urgency to head there immediately after waking up. He would get frustrated (and rightfully so), wondering why I didn’t want to lie around in bed longer or have a slow morning.
But I have an explanation – one that might not make sense to him, or to everyone, and that might not be as applicable now as it was before: I know what it feels like to not be able to get out of bed in the morning, to feel so hopeless and purposeless that I didn’t see the point in getting out of bed. And on days when I was severely depressed, getting out of bed was in and of itself a triumph for the day. So maybe on the surface it was a silly, small thing, but walking to Starbucks for a coffee got me out of bed in the morning on days when I could find no other reason to do so. (Quick shout-out to the baristas who worked at the Stanford campus Starbucks, y’all kept me going.) …
Ok, so 2018 me is basically the same person with the same thoughts as I have now. Whatever. Also my entry title is so dramatic … but also sort of true and I love it.
But back to the present moment: I am reveling in this feeling of going somewhere, of being needed, of feeling the purpose and hope and promise in the day ahead. Sometimes it’s the short walk to a Starbucks coffee that gives me that feeling, sometimes it’s a morning commute to the office, today it’s a squash match. And I am grateful for these things.