By Peter Mackie
Working at Steampunk has been a blessing in disguise. I thought taking a job in a coffee shop would be step back but it turned out to be one of the most important leaps in terms of life lessons and my own wellbeing.
Before working at Steampunk I had taken a pastoral job at a leading independent school after graduating with a degree in Education. I prided myself in being very young to be in a position of such responsibility. I was making a name for myself professionally and had interviews/job opportunities lined up with other prestigious schools down south. However, it was around this same time in May 2019 that I had a serious breakdown in my own mental health after struggling with anxiety, OCD and paranoia.
I moved home to stay with my parents which took a period of adjustment. I had lived a pretty independent life after being at boarding school, working/living overseas in Malaysia, Cambodia and Namibia and latterly my parents stayed in the States when I continued my studies in England.
I used to put myself under immense pressure thinking what can I do next to show people I’m worthy? However, worthiness doesn’t come from external validation, financial gain or working up the professional ladder. It didn't for me anyway!
So, after six months of putting in a lot of work on improving my own mental health which included a lot of therapy, medication, being sober, reading, writing, exercise, creativity, friends and love a job came up at Steampunk Coffee. Initially I felt applying and taking this job was a step back professionally.
I tend to romanticise situations but I remember feeling almost tearful when Lewis gave me the job as I had feared my mental health was going to jeopardise any job opportunity in the future. I had been going to bed and just sleeping for a few hours every afternoon for months.
Nevertheless my first shift came around.
My first task was filling and emptying the laundry machine under Camerons strict supervision. I had made the mistake of dressing formally, I quickly learned that running trays all day in suede boots hurts your feet and cashmere jumpers are too sweaty! But, I loved it.
The social aspect of working in a coffee shop has had an important role in my own personal recovery. Talking with people really helps! I appreciate sometimes I have some terrible ‘chat’ but coming into work everyday and having interesting conversations with people I actually find interesting is a luxury that many don't get at work.
I’m in the fortunate position to work closely with a group of people who I think of as an unconventional family. Cath and Lewis are like an aunty and uncle, both wise and fun. Toby and Cameron are like older brothers, which I have tried to imitate in both style and intellectual conversation. I’m still frightened of Rachel, Ludwika and Jen but like older sisters they would always have my back. Finally, my beloved Scott who I ultimately just have a strong bromance with which can’t even be separated by our own respective partners.
Since working at Steampunk I have learnt many new skills and how a business really works. Most importantly I have found a focus and a balance that releases myself from the clamp of self doubt and a sense of belonging.
And coffee itself - what a medicine! Although, too much can increase levels of anxiety I honestly feel that its a lot more than just a drink. Some of my most important conversations, life decisions and unsuccessful Tinder dates have been over a cup of coffee. A previous mentor first promoted me to get professional help for my headspace over a cup of Nescafe Gold. The loving and healthy relationship I am in now is with a Steampunk regular so really I owe those magic beans a lot!
I used to drink a lot of red wine and used to really love the experience of the smell, taste and pairing but as my relationship with alcohol has changed I have found that coffee offers something extremely similar.
You can learn a lot about coffee, you can taste a lot of coffee and you can drink a lot of coffee. But, for me coffee and the things that come with it has helped my recovery to become a healthier and happier human.
Check out Pete's fantastic mental health blog and podcast Tell Me A Time where people share their stories.