While I was at uni, I worked a few shifts each week at an Italian-style cafe on Boundary Street in West End. There I gained an appreciation both of the wonderfully eccentric neighbourhood that is West End, and of our staple beverage – caffe.
Since then, coffee and I have had a rather turbulent relationship. As a full-time, overcommitted law student, caffeine was viewed as a functional necessity. At the cafe, it was a given that shots were sampled throughout a shift and I soon refined my taste from latte-a-la-Starbucks to a short macchiato, and the occasional espresso. I had no choice, really, with the coworkers I had – two of whom who would eventually go on to start their own popular West End establishment, where one famously told a customer who requested caramel syrup that he could “f*** off to Gloria Jeans, mate!”. (True story).
But it was also my time at the cafe that eventually turned the tide of my opinion towards coffee. Perhaps it was the time I witnessed a scientifically-inclined (mad professor-style) coworker completely OD on caffeine in an attempt to dial in the perfect shot during a shift, such that he ended up a pale, sweaty, incoherent mess, who locked himself in the back of my car as it was the only place to lie down for a rest. Or maybe it was when I realised I could come home at 2am from a Friday night shift, having had way more than my recommended daily intake of caffeine, and quickly and easily drift off to sleep like it was nobody’s business.
So I flipped. I switched from coffee to hot chocolates. At one stage my drink of choice was a soy hot chocolate (the shame).
Then about a year of no coffee later, for some reason I decided to give the brew a chance (probably because the embarrassment of ordering a soy hot chocolate in work meetings became too much to handle). Two shots and I was a jittery mess, but I eventually regained my coffee-legs and we became friends again.
Fast-forward a few years and I’m pregnant with my second child. Coffee has become a comforting, welcome part of my life – the home espresso machine taking up an unseemly amount of bench space in our small duplex kitchen. Then, sometime around week 9 of the pregnancy journey, I called it. I told Michael it was over – yep, the machine had to go. And if he wanted a coffee, he needed to drink it outside, and brush and gargle extensively afterwards, because I couldn’t even stand the smell of it.
(One of the most challenging moments around that time was when I was MC of a community conference. I had not announced my pregnancy, and was fulfilling my commitment to the event despite fairly significant morning sickness. I vividly recall the reeling sensation as I stood, smiling and welcoming at the front of the room, as attendees poured in clutching their morning coffees and I mentally charted the quickest route to the ladies!).
The poor coffee machine was relegated to the garage, where it sat alongside the grinder and next to the laundry liquid, on top of the washing machine. It was a sad setup, especially as there was no internal access from the house to the garage, so the morning coffee ritual now meant – fumble around for keys, find milk jug, go outside, unlock garage, come back for forgotten milk, go back to garage, come back for forgotten cup, back to garage, swat at spider crawling around washtub next to grind, attempt to make coffee, sit outside in the rain drinking it…. and so on.
And then, somewhere around the third trimester – having spent the majority of my pregnancy getting nowhere near enough sleep for some mysterious (thank you pregnancy hormones) reason – it was game on. Coffee, you glorious beverage. Where have you been the last few months? Why did we ever part? Why did I ever consider you the most repulsive of all scents, you beautiful, delightfully-fragrant brew?
And thus began a new season for coffee and I. Our relationship is stronger than ever, as I rise each morning after a few hours of broken sleep with our little newbie, and the familiar hum of the machine heating up greets my ears. The smell is cathartic. The machine has been restored to pride of place in the kitchen (occupying the spot usually reserved for a microwave, but since we don’t have one of those, we’ve created The Coffee Nook).
My turbulent relationship with coffee reminds me of a concept that took me many years to understand – it’s perfectly ok to change your opinions as time goes on. I used to see it as a strength to be able to articulate a position and stick to it, no matter what (this was the high school debater in me – whose apparently successful rebuttal to a fairly cogent point regarding how Australia might deal with nuclear waste was simply to “send it to Argentina to be buried”). Back then, I would have pushed past the morning sickness and complete repulsion to coffee, if only to save face and to not be seen to be changing my mind.
But I now realise it is far more important to adapt ourselves – our beliefs, opinions and attitudes – as circumstances change. Those circumstances might be external, such as new facts coming to light, or they may be an internal change within ourselves. I was never prepared to give myself room to change an opinion, and I’ve realised that as a society we are not too supportive of it, either. A politician who changes their stance on an issue is often subject to enormous criticism simply because they changed their mind – without regard to their previous stance, their new stance, and what has caused the change. Yet in many realms – from politics to personal relationships – outcomes are often much better for all if people are given space and permission to change their minds.
As I write, I’m sipping a long black – my beverage of choice in this current season. Though at this time it seems unlikely, I cannot rule out a soy hot chocolate in my future!