He said yes.
Here he is, Christmas approaching, bereft of family and friends, leaving the upper Manhattan Starbucks store he now works at, a one-and-a-half hour commute one way from his tiny apartment:
Going out the door of my store after another successful Coffee Tasting, I was met with a gust of cold December air. The weather had changed dramatically in the last few days. I pulled down my wool hat and pulled on my wool gloves.
As I walked toward the subway, the lights seemed brighter in the city. Maybe it was a trick of the dropping temperature. They seemed to twinkle magically in the arctic air.
I started walking, then literally stopped with a shock of revelation: “I am happier than I have ever been,” I said out loud.
Fortunately, in New York City, many people speak loudly to themselves, and nobody notices.
I took off a glove I had just put on.
I put my hand on my heart.
I could feel a kind of gentle, inner happiness I had never felt before.
What was going on?
I was almost scared; still afraid to admit to myself how happy I was now . . . with a job as a barista at Starbucks. This was not the high-status job or affluent life my parents, my family, and my friends had expected of me.
Did this mean that my whole former life — all sixty-four years of it — had been a joke?
No. I shook my head, still planted in the spot, arguing with myself. I had loved many things. I still loved my children. But I had to admit, for the first time and with a brutal honesty, that I had hated large swatches of my former, high-status life, full of so much meaningless activity.
I took a turn around the corner, and back up Broadway. I wanted to walk for a while. I had to think. I didn’t want to go underground too fast tonight. The lights were too bright.
What was I thinking?
I hated to think that my whole life had been a lie.
But I had to admit that I felt great relief in the different life I had now . . . even my little apartment. I felt proud of being able to live and support myself . . . . Still . . . it did not make sense. I had achieved at sixty-four what most people accomplished by twenty-four. Why was I so happy?
I felt my heart again.
The gentle love and peace and happiness I felt now I had never experienced before.
Maybe the mistakes I had made — causing so much damage — had also helped me to break out of my comfortable cocoon . . . to get out to a world so much more full of life and light.
I didn’t know. I couldn’t really think it through.
But I knew what I felt in my heart.
Crystal had said: “Follow your heart.”
My heart was full of a happiness I had never known before.
From How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else, by Michael Gates Gill.