The identities we don’t see

I walk through the doors, heels clacking a little too loudly, my blazer crisply rolled at the cuffs. An image of corporate-assuredness is presented and I am able to rattle off phrases like, “We’ve seen a lot of growth this quarter,” or “Isn’t the weather nice today,” as the clock strikes eight. This is the image life trained me to present. It is the elevator talk I’ve collected throughout each new workplace venture. But what they don’t know is, I also make the latte they enjoy on a Sunday morning with an easy swipe of their credit card.

I’ve frequently worked both a corporate job and a barista job simultaneously to make ends meet and to fulfill two passions. I’m lucky to have fantastic employers in both fields; however, the customers I encounter sometimes make me doubt the humanity of the corporate world.

More times than I can count, a customer has approached the counter in a blazer, identical to the one draped over the backseat of my car, and treated me like a lesser individual. They barely look up, speak in a lofty tone I thought was only used with executives, and leave without tipping a dime. Moments like these make me wish I could give them a glimpse into my other reality. It makes me wish they could see beyond the narrowed view of the world they have presented in front of them. When I told my fellow baristas about my marketing position, they were thrilled for me. When I mention to a group of professionals that I am also a barista, the reaction is often confusion.

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I hope society can change in the way we treat each other. I hope everyone in a suit can remember the days when they served breakfast at the local diner. If they never had the privilege to experience that side of life, I hope they can be open-minded about the paths that others take. I’ve worked twice as hard as a barista than I ever have in a corporate job. It requires physical strength, mental endurance and the ability to handle a lot of criticism. At the end of the day, we never know why people make the choices they do. I don’t work a corporate job full-time because it is impossible for me to sit at a desk all day. I also love the art of coffee and the lifelong lessons I learn from customers who take the time to connect.

Next time you see someone sweeping the floor behind you, recognize it might be their choice to do so, and respect that they are probably more similar to you than you’ll ever know. It goes both ways. Next time you see someone in a matching suit and tie, realize they may be your bartender this Saturday night. We all have our own hidden identities- let’s make the most out of the ones we can see.

“I was raised to treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO.”

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