A story about what it feels like jumping out of a secure life and plunging into the unknown. 

Dear Ego: shut up.

I got a job offer!

…and I turned it down.

A week later, I got another job offer.

Turned that one down too.

They were both Plan B (working in a neighbourhood cafe as a barista) and I'm holding out for a Plan A job offer (working in a top tier specialty cafe with roasting and importing arms). 

I’m at war with my ego. It won’t let me embrace Plan B at all. Hell, it’s got enough problems with Plan A too (should that ever materialise). 

This is what stands between me and Plan B: Okay, you master an espresso machine. So what? Where’s the interaction with the roaster? Where are the insights into the import and export of coffee? And, to even master an espresso machine, it’s going to take a couple of years. 

A couple of years. That’s a long time. I mean, it’s just a coffee machine in a tiny neighbourhood cafe no-one’s ever heard of. 

That’s what my ego can’t deal with. It’s impatient AND it won’t settle for anything other than achieving something monumental. My ego gets a whiff of modest, humble Plan B and barks at me: ‘what the hell are you doing here in Melbourne!? Go work for Big Coffee. Nespresso, Lavazza, large-scale projects with worldwide impact’. 

'There IS a lot a Plan B can offer me' I retort. Social connections, foundational coffee preparation skills, MONEY. Besides, I can’t go it alone in coffee until I understand how the industry works. 

Maybe with enough time my ego will open itself to Plan B. It behaved this way as well when it first encountered Plan A. Back in finance, I recall thinking that working for a specialty chain as a barista was never going to happen. The gulf between my “important” finance role and the minimum wage-paying hospitality sector was enormous. I couldn’t picture myself ever making the leap. And now I dream to become that minimum-wage barista in a specialty chain at this stage in my career. 

At the moment I’m just fighting my ego, an endless argument dating back almost a year.  

The fighting used to fill me with anxiety. Thank god for yoga. Now, when I feel anxiety rushing towards me, I step aside. It whooshes past me and fades in the distance.  

But we still fight. And every time we do, the elephant in the room squints its beady eyes at us. We barely noticed its gaze a year ago. But now its presence weighs heavy on our discourse like, well, a tonne of elephant: 

Money. 

Things aren’t desperate. But it’s no walk in the park.

I’m on the dole. And, as generous as the dole is, it covers rent and...that’s it. Living costs are straight out of my fast-depleting savings.  

Value’s the name of the game now. I came back from a discount chemist with litres of dubiously-branded bathroom products. My housemates were so appalled at the quality of my hand soap that they squirrelled it away and I found a Palmolive Antibacterial Lime replacement. My 250ml toothpaste is so gargantuan I wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Frankenstein was behind its monstrous ugliness. I’m so embarrassed by it that this time I did the squirrelling away. 

And then there’s food. I eat at home every meal and do all my shopping at a dubious Greek wholesaler.

I save money by cycling everywhere. But that means I'm hungry all the time. The other day I was utterly famished after cycling from one corner of Melbourne to the other. But I didn’t want to splash out for a $10 lunch. I spotted an Aldi and perused the aisles until I found a half a kilo of banana chips. I did the maths: 640 calories per dollar. THAT is value. (And triple-bypass heart surgery in about 20 years’ time).

I described my frugality to a friend the other day. He corrected me. ‘James, that’s not frugality. That’s poverty’. 

Poverty. 

Poverty is what I’ve been enduring these past few weeks for Plan A to materialise. 

Poverty is the price I’m paying for my ego. 

And I’m done with it. I’m embracing Plan B as soon as I can. 

It’s a start, there's loads I can learn, I’ll make friends in the industry.  

Dearest Ego, please be patient and humble. We’re back at the beginning again. And we’ve got a long, winding road ahead of us. 

Barista-shmista. We’re changing course.

Getting rejected