In life, we have a choice. And along every step of the way. And when we choose path we can keep walking to see where it leads, or take a journey back to the place we started and choose another. Either way…we run into the same thing. Sometimes the path gets difficult. Sometimes the unexpected twists and turns force us into undefined spaces where we wonder if we made the right path choice. And sometimes we find that the path leads us up a mountain. Which forces us to ask ourselves whether we are prepared for what is ahead and whether we can make it to the top.
Some of us choose the path that begins at the base of a mountain, because we know that climbing that mountain will make us stronger. The journey will be long and hard, but the idea of running away is not an option.
We start to climb this mountain and all goes to plan.
So far…so good. It’s an uphill battle, but the views along the way are spectacular.
And then it begins to rain. It begins to pour. The wind presses the little drops of rain into our face like shards of glass. We push through…climb higher. And it gets colder. And we are further and further away from civilisation. The hail. The snow.
We are suddenly frozen.
One thing after another. None of which one can prepare for. Nature has its way of teaching us lessons we do not understand unless we make it through.
Trapped in a mind space.
And with the decision: to continue or to admit failure.
To lay in bed and be defeated…or to get up and fight for the thing you knew you could accomplish if you just put your mind to it.
Completing it. That’s all you need to do.
This…is pretty much how these last weeks have felt. I set out to climb this crazy mountain. I set out to do this long race. I set out to do something that so many told me was insane. And then I almost let it all fly away.
I signed up for UKCIGS and UK Latte Art on the morning of the final day of the roasting championship. The timeframe seemed generous. And the challenge looked exciting. Two competitions in one day. What a rush. I was terrified to compete in latte art, because I have always been nervous when pouring in front of judges anyway. But it was part of the point. To put myself through that experience so I could get over it. CIGS, on the other hand, was a return event for me. I have competed in it before, so it was an opportunity to try to do better this time. Mainly try to smile more, and be more myself on stage. So, the goals for these competitions were quite different.
Running up to the competition, my life became a bit chaotic. Nothing new for anyone who knows me. Work projects began to take off, and time management was tricky. On top of that, I was trying to keep a personal life steady and balanced. I had planned to practise for these competitions several times a week, so that the routines would be polished and ready to go by the week before. Seemed logical and totally feasible. But alas…it didn’t happen.
Instead of practise sessions for the competition, this last November was filled past and present personal situations creeping into the evening hours of my life. On one hand, I was trying to devote myself to a relationship that needed focus, and on the other I was trying not to lose focus on all the projects at work. Amidst this it was November…which is one of the hardest months I experience every year.
Why? Well I could probably write a book about the various November’s in my life, with each new November adding another difficult memory to my little charm bracelet of perseverance. And while it’s true that I have gotten through each of them, it also must be noted that for each one there is a new scar. Some things I have lived through are far too much to write about in this particular post. Some who know me well, know which ones I am talking about. But there is one I will share, which was a major struggle this year, but was a major catalyst for deciding to compete in everything.
On November 30th 2012 I got married. And I got married to someone I thought I would be with forever. I believed that, as a team we could conquer the world. But on November 30th 2012…in the evening…I saw the foreshadowing of the future of our marriage. It was one of the most painful and emotionally breaking memories of my life. And yet we stayed together for a few more years. Ups and downs. Until the collapse in 2014.
Every November since has been difficult. The memories from even before that event, and some of the extremely painful things that happened the November’s after, have piled upon each other to hit a threshold. And this November…I received the divorce papers. Now you would think that this would be a good thing considering everything, but the reality is that the timing of November coupled with the painful memories that receiving these papers triggered, had a crippling effect on me. My mind space was all wrong.
The week of the competition quickly arrived, and id still not done anything I would call productive. I was too busy trying to balance out all the weights I was already carrying on each of my shoulders. And there it was again. November 30th. It had been four years… and yet it still resonated inside me so intensely. I cried through out the night…knowing I should be training as I only had a few days left but feeling my every inside falling apart.
And then December 1st came. And my boyfriend broke up with me.
I was a mess. I sat looking out the window realising that I’d let it all turn to shit. I called my best friend, Kuba, to tell him the news. I’ll never forget what he said to me. ‘Diana…you lost yourself in him. And the woman I know will not just lay in bed defeated. She would get up and fight. I can be in the training centre to help you in an hour. Let me know when you are on the way’.
Wow. How well he knows me. How he could still see me…even when I couldn’t see myself.
I got up, packed my things, and went straight there. And he was waiting for me. And even his day wasn’t going well…as you can see …
We spent the afternoon creating the two beverages, hot and cold, for the preliminary rounds. The drinks were inspired by an exam I gave to one of our baristas, Nibs, whereby he did the gutsy thing and served me a shot of espresso at 14.5g-44g when most baristas go for the `15g-34g safe-spot. This open cup is what I have been looking for from them for some time, particularly with highly complex coffees, and he’d done it. AWESOME. This was the reason I’d chosen this coffee in the first place: its complexity and versatility. Kenya Karura. And now I wanted to build a whole routine around this inspiration. So, the two drinks we created were designed to showcase the two sides of this coffee.
We left the training centre that Thursday night feeling happy with the results. I thought ‘perfect…I have one more day to run through it and design drinks for finals in the case I get through’. I went to sleep.
FRIDAY MORNING. Oh, I’ll never forget that Friday morning. I woke up to a text from Mat North asking where I was. I was beyond confused. I’d thought that the preliminary round was on Saturday and the final was on Sunday. Mind you…looking back this makes no sense. Turns out the preliminary round was that Friday. It was 10:00am when I saw the text. I’d slept through my latte art slot and needed to be dialling in for the CIGS at 2:30pm. HOLY CRAP. I jumped up and gathered my things and headed to the training centre. Id not even run through this thing once! I quickly smashed out three run throughs and then packed and headed to the venue.
Surprisingly everything went quite smoothly considering. I was gutted I had to miss out on Latte Art, but happy I’d managed to do my CIGS routine. To be honest, I was just happy that all the drinks ended up in the glasses and that I was able to communicate the concept to the judges. But this was as far as any expectations had gone. So, when they announced my name as a finalist I was completely shocked. Quickly followed by the shock was the realisation that I had no finals routine prepared. So Kuba picked me up from the venue and raced with me to the training centre again. We stayed there until 1:30am…whereby I managed to develop an Irish coffee concept and run through the new routine twice. We were just gonna have to roll with it.
You would think that this is the end of the ridiculousness, but it’s not. This time I made sure to arrive early to the call time, being quite mindful of the trend of events so far. I polished all of glasses, and neatly set out all the equipment. I double checked that I brought the right coffee, and set it on the table next to my nicely polished competition gear. I made sure that all my stuff was on the allocated table that said my name. And for luck’s sake… I checked for everything again. Everything was good. It was time to relax. So, I left the competition training room and took a stroll around the venue to say hi to a few people. The mates from Taylor St were arriving, so I figured I could catch up with them as long as I was back 45 minutes before my dial in slot.
Like a good competitor, I stuck to the schedule. My colleague Jordan and I went back up to the prep room 45 minutes before my dial in and started scanning over my things in preparation for the dial in. Glasses polished…tick. Speed pourer on…tick. Equipment present…tick. Coffee in its place… NOT TICK! NOT TICK? NOT TICK?!! Yep. My coffee had gone missing. 40 minutes before I had to dial in. No joke. It was there when I left. And now it’s gone. And I promise I am not mental. I had shown the bag to Maxwell earlier that day, just before placing it on the table. And here is where JORDAN, one of our awesome Taylor St Baristas, saves the day. As soon as we realised it was missing… I remembered I had a spare kilo at our Monument shop. He jumped up and sprinted to the shop to collect it, while I watched the clock tick down and began devising plans in the case he didn’t get back in time. But like a BOSS, Jordan arrived literally ONE MINUTE before my dial in slot began. What a Legend (That’s Jordan sitting on the couch there).
By the time I was heading to the stage…I was thinking that at this point anything could go wrong. I was feeling nervous…but only because I knew that the odds were against me. Luck was not on my side. And then, as I arrived on stage, I realised that half of the audience were from Taylor street. They were everywhere! Lisa Laura even made a mini banner. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time… as I have never been so supported in my life. WOW. Immediately the storm inside of me was calmed and I was ready to rock and roll. I knew it was going to be okay no matter what happened.
I went on stage…and those ten minutes flew by. I can still remember the clinking sound of my spoon against the glass as I was trying to pour my Irish coffees. I can sound extremely calm, by my hands tend to show the nervousness that I don’t even realise I am experiencing at the time. And at 9 minute 59 seconds I call time. They still tell me I made them so nervous with how close I was to the 10-minute time mark.
To be honest… seeing them all in the audience made every moment worth it. I didn’t think I was going to place, but I didn’t mind. I had been given something greater: my first experience of having a team there to support me. It was beautiful. So, when they called my name out for 3rd place…I didn’t know what to. After all that had happened. HOW? How?
And walking off stage from receiving the most awesome looking trophy ever, I began to cry. There to greet me was my Taylor St family. I couldn’t hold back the tears. I would have never made it that far without them. They kept me focused. They rescued me when I was drowning me. They reminded me of who I am. They believed in me…when I didn’t even believe in myself. They supported me. And then they celebrated with me. The victory was sweet.
I now understand why every great competitor has a team behind them. It makes the world of a difference. I would be nothing without them. I would probably still be lying in bed…crying. Competition is hard. But we don’t have to do it alone. Thank you to Kuba, Jordan, Kasjan, Lisa Laura, Jamie, Andrew…and everyone else who has given me a moment of their time.
Sometimes life spins out of control. Sometimes one thing after another.
We have a choice to make.
To Keep going… or to run away.