I Traded in My Heels for a Green Apron; The NFL Player & The Barista

Currently, I am sitting in almost 90 degree weather on a balcony waiting on my room service to get here so I can go layout at the pool and get a workout in before the boys land in a few hours. As I sit here and reflect on preseason and think about our first game of the year after a tough home opener that we let slip away, I cannot express the amount of excitement that I have for the rest of the season. Although we had some horrific injuries occur that broke my heart during our first game, this is also an opportunity for some of the younger guys to step up. After the season we had last year, it is safe to say that our team looks much more promising this year, already!

While on the plane this morning, an older lady asked me why I was going to Tampa and wanted to know why I was traveling by myself. I continued to tell her I was traveling for the Chicago Bears game and I was going to see my boyfriend play tomorrow. She was so excited with so many questions to ask about if the NFL life is really how they portray it to be on television, what my reaction was when Len got his contract extension, and what my favorite part about dating an NFL player was… In all honesty, she reminded me of my own grandma and I couldn’t help but laugh at every question she asked. Although most of our conversation was clearly about Len, the highlight of our conversation was our lives at Starbucks.

For many of you that don’t know, I have worked at Starbucks since I was in college, the same store, with the same manager, and multiple different staff members throughout the years. It didn’t matter if I was going to school full-time, working another full-time job, or working four other jobs, and going to school, my manager always worked with my schedule to give me a couple hours a week. When I first started working at Starbucks as a barista it was just for a flexible job that paid over minimum wage. I was never a big coffee drinker so the free drinks, and the mark out each week didn’t sell me. I was in college, I just needed a job to bring in some money. Once I graduated and started working for the Chicago Bulls, I still tried to work a couple times a month, even though it was no longer a need. I enjoyed the fast pace morning rushes, the customers, my manager, and the staff. I never really could completely let it go.

Last November, I was working a job I completely hated after leaving the Bulls last May. I thought working in a big corporation like Discover Financial Services, which was literally seven minutes from my house was going to be a career platform for me to grow with. It was awesome, I could workout before work, be home by 3:45PM, have dinner ready and the house cleaned before Len got home, and have my weekends off…Too good to be true, right? Right. The early days, quick commute, and the fact that I could get my chores done before 5PM wasn’t even worth it for how miserable I was. I would leave work every single day in tears. The position was nothing as what I thought it to be, our turnover rate of managers was out of hand, and the fact that my hours were adjusted without my knowledge at least once a month made it to be for a weekly battle with HR to get my hours corrected on my next check.

During last years bye week Len and I went back to California. We had such a great trip, went out, ate a lot of food, watched some Cal State football, and got to see KD and the Warriors take on Russel and the Thunder for the first time since KD left at Oracle. When we arrived back at home and I prepared for work I felt this cloud just taking over me. When I got to work on Monday morning, instead of being asked how my trip was, I was told that it was rude of me to take off a Friday of work and not think of my colleagues. I was told that I was selfish and that I wasn’t needed. So, instead of fighting back, I packed my desk up and when I left for lunch, I never returned. I remember texting Len and telling him how I felt and him saying give your two weeks and lets talk about it tonight…Little did he know at the time, I wasn’t going back. I went to my moms office that afternoon and just broke down. How could someone treat me so poorly when all I did was bust my ass for them to help make them look good? It was devastating.

Of course, my first reaction was to start applying for any and every job…I went on so many interviews and was offered a handful of jobs but I was so set on having Sunday’s off (which doesn’t always happen in the sports world) and not working till 6PM every night again… There were a few potential candidates for jobs but in the meantime I started working more and more at Starbucks and weirdly enough my happiness was coming back. As down as I would get on myself for not putting my degree to use, the fact that I was working full-time and was off every day by noon usually was amazing. In my relationship, during football season, I try to take ALL the stress off of Len as I can so by getting home at 12, was allowing me to workout, cook, clean, shop, and take care of all my other errands before he even steped foot in the house. What was even better… I literally had the best boss in the world. Tell me how she would give me awesome hours, whatever days off I need, and still did not want to strangle me or fire me every week when she made a new schedule? I am not sure, but I super appreciate it, still to this day! Now, it is like I basically make my own schedule which allows me to travel to every away game, attend Bible study with the girls on Thursday mornings, be off early on Tuesdays to spend with Len, and to travel during the offseason.

I used to be ashamed of working at Starbucks. I went from working with the Chicago Bears, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Fire, Chicago Sky, and the Chicago White Sox, to working back at Starbucks… It wasn’t until I began to understand, it doesn’t matter what anyone else feels or says about your career, it is about how you feel! Do I look at Starbucks as my career? Absolutely not. I love it there and all, but I know that one day I WILL be back in sports, whether that is pursuing my dreams of becoming a sports psychologist, or working with a team again, it will happen. But, with the availability that I leave myself, Starbucks has allowed me to work, have some spending money, pay some bills, and live happily for the time which brings me into the conversation I had with Martha on the plane.

For years, Martha’s husband was enlisted in the military (she never did say what branch and I was so intrigued in her conversation that I forgot to go back and ask). They had lucked out and said he was based out of a location that was close to home. Their whole family was there and everything seemed perfect. She had began a job working at a dentist office that she loved; she was hoping to be a dentist one day. In 1970, Martha’s husband was relocated. They tried long distance for six months but it didn’t work out for them. When she moved to be with her husband she got pregnant and they had their first child. A few years later after her child was ready to be in preschool Martha was getting bored being at home everyday, but after moving three times in two years, she was concerned about starting a new job who would invest hours into training her for her then to up and leave. She first started working at a Piggly Wiggly. She said although the people were nice, she wasn’t a big fan. Then, being the coffee loving individual that she claimed to be, she decided to apply at this new coffee shop named Starbucks. She got the job and started two days later. She said she loved it, she worked short shifts, was home when her child and husband got home, and was still able to run errands just like me! Unfortunately, after just five months of working at this Starbucks, her husband was relocated again. She was devastated, she grew to love Starbucks in such a short amount of time. She said she went to her manager with tears in her eyes the day that she told her that she had to quit but her manager looked back at her and said lets see if there is a Starbucks where you’re moving so you can work there…and sure enough there was, and there were in the next five places that her family moved to so each and every time that her husband was relocated, she was transferred to another Starbucks. For years, she traveled the country working at different Starbucks and loved every moment of it. She told me that her family and friends often times made fun of her until her husband retired. He told Martha she never needed to work a day again in her life because while he made the big bucks for years, she had sacrificed what she wanted to do, to help him flourish within his career. She told her husband that she wanted to work still, so, at the age at 44, Martha went back to school and eventually became a dentist, where she still works part-time to this day!

This lady on the plane who I didn’t know an hour beforehand made a connection with me like no other. Martha showed me that it truly doesn’t matter what others think or say about your work life, or your life in general. Just this past week in Bible study, some of the women of the Bears and I discussed how sometimes we feel as if we are falling into a trap of, I am with this person, so I have to look a certain way or act a certain way. Each and every day whether you turn on the television or look on social media, our society has in a way shaped our views into making us sometimes feel like slaves to materialistic items and make us feel like we have to act or do something a certain way, which is not the case. Whether you want to pursue your career, put your career on pause, further your education, start a family, or do anything else that you can dream of, just do it. Don’t worry about how others feel or what they are going to say because at the end of the day, how they feel or what they say probably is not going to affect your life in five minutes, so why stress about it? I look at it this way; each morning when Len comes into Starbucks to study film and fill out his planner before heading to work, I just smile. He doesn’t care that I don’t work a “cool” job anymore, or a job where I am making a huge amount of money. He cares that I am happy! In a society where there is  so much negativity coming at you from all directions, finding happiness in your significant other at 6AM as he walks into Starbucks knowing that he could have slept in 30 more minutes if it wasn’t for this Starbucks trip to “watch film” aka see Jen, makes it all worth it.

Do what makes you happy, not what pleases others.

xoxo TTLOJL

53 thoughts on “I Traded in My Heels for a Green Apron; The NFL Player & The Barista

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