Have you ever had your heart broken? Honestly, I already know that for so many of us, the answer is yes. This isn’t a story about heartbreak as it relates to love, though. This is a story about belonging— more accurately, the lack thereof— how it broke me in half and how coffee healed it.
Last year, I started the year with a brand new business and got dumped by one of my first clients. Fine. Then I started working with an agency that threw my work/life balance into the garbage. Okay. FINE. AND THEN (ohhhh, and then) in an all-night writing session, I watched the Minneapolis protest against police brutality get turned into a riot by the police in real time. Hm. Definitely not fine.
Like most folks, the period of time where the pandemic and the blatant disregard for Black life converged was earth-shattering. When I closed my eyes at night, questions about every moment flickered behind my lids: my Twitter feed refreshing faster than ever, stores ablaze, lost friends, gun shots. I questioned every relationship in my life in the weeks following because if no one else truly cared about me, then what was it all for?
I hate to call it a quarter life crisis, but what else do you call it? It hurts to return to that Spring and Summer of 2020.
Enter, Yasmin Marrero. Yasmin is an empowerment coach, who I’d waffled about actually entering a coaching relationship with for about 6 weeks. I wasn’t sure I qualified as someone who needed empowerment, but I didn’t know what else to do in the moment.
After a little side eye and a “aren’t you always telling people to hire a professional?!” from my husband, I was off to get coached.
The idea of getting coached only brought back memories of sports in my youth: intense yelling, pushing me beyond what was comfortable, and who wants to relive that? But when Yasmin and I did our first call, it turned out to be something completely different than what I anticipated. It felt more like learning problem solving that used my desires for my life as a guiding light. She was training me to be completely autonomous.
So, I brought my shit to those sessions. Boy, did I bring it the hell on…but we never handled each session the same way. Yasmin always read me and brought a new tool that she thought I would need down the road. There were a lot of questions involved to help me understand what the root of each issue was, and one that she asked me in particular made me pause:
“What does it look like for BIPOC folks to be completely and undeniably supported without having to flaunt their trauma?”
WHEW. That was a big question to match my big feelings and I did not have an answer. Why? Because I hadn’t experienced it yet. At the big age of 27, I had not experienced unconditional support from anyone outside of my close circle. Certainly not in a professional setting. And as a Black woman, that’s not often a topic I get to explore. I get to explore protective measures for myself, code switching, and battling exploitation.
A burning desire flickered within me to find an answer to that question. It was a terrifying feeling, honestly. The dark side of asking questions is finding answers that hurt. And I didn’t know if I was ready for that, so I simply stopped looking for answers.
Enter Michelle, THEE mf Chocolate Barista. The story of how we met is a banger, but we’ll save that for another time. She slid into my DMs talking about some coffee competition that I should enter. I had to close the message, restart my phone, open it back up, rub my eyes, and make sure I read that right. My thoughts were all over the place. Michelle, wtf. Girl, you know I don’t know enough. How am I supposed to be successful with like….less than an ounce of knowledge about coffee? I mean…I love coffee, but what?! You’re out of your mind. I’m not qualified.
I still looked into it, though. Specialty coffee competitions were getting canceled because of the pandemic, so Glitter Cat decided to host one of their own. But it was a much bigger deal than that. It was a much more inclusive competition open to…all skill levels?! A tall order to wrap my head around….so I did some digging.
I mean, I did some DIGGING. I read about everyone associated with the program. I had to make sure I wasn’t entering a world where I would (very publicly) look like Booboo the Fool. It was a FIESTA of imposter syndrome going on. But they want to inspire marginalized folks to take up space? All I could think was…we gon’ see.
That question popped up again. Can there really be a place full of people I don’t know that support me, an outsider, unconditionally?
But someone believed in me. Someone that I trusted, so I entered. And I decided to be all the way myself with it. And I got in. I was accepted into the Coffee & Booze competition, where I’d come up with my own coffee cocktail and present it in a competition routine. But I was not without a lot of doubt.
The first thing I noticed was in an early email we received. Essentially, it said: “If you ever feel like you don’t belong, text, call, or email one of us. Because you do belong.” It was very much a “you should feel entitled to support.” And that was…a moment for me. Because when folks say that, it’s usually just platitudes.
The next thing I noticed was the way the training portion was prioritized. We did a welcome session where we all got the skinny on what it meant to be a Glitter Cat. And it had less to do with bullshit rules about respectability politics and more to do with tapping into who we were and expressing it however we saw fit. Can I say fuck here? Because what the fuck.
I’ll spare the details of every single instance that was like this- not because it’s boring, but because it was truly every. single. instance. At every corner, there was reassurance. There was support. There was someone to answer a question. The resources provided were beyond my expectations, and I went into competition feeling prepared, and dare I say, confident?!
Needless to say, I’m a Glitter Cat STAN- not because I have to be, but because they model the kind of world I want to live in. They model a kind of world where I don’t have to mend my own broken heart. They model a kind of world that is built on respecting each other’s uniqueness, and loving our own uniqueness: a world where unconditional support is the standard.
I watched myself and my fellow Coffee & Boozers (shout out to Laura, Josh, Ziru, Jarod, and Jiyoon!) go from being very confused to putting together competition pieces full of humor, passion, confidence, and glitter (duh)!
I want to end this with a message:
Black women deserve everything. We deserve the whole damn world on a silver platter. We experience being taken down a notch from a very young age; our hearts broken over and over again for attempting to step into our power.
Even with the constant pressure to be both big successful women and stay small and meek, Black women constantly evolve and innovate past the social structures built against us. We deserve a world where we can flourish uninhibited without having to build it for ourselves.
I stepped into a world that I thought wasn’t meant for me. I was prepared to have my heart broken. It is so ingrained in every process that I almost welcomed it- ready to wield my sword as I battled for space of my own. And I didn’t have to. And I never will again because I’ll always be able to remind myself of how coffee mended my broken heart.
Micah Gause is a pleasantly caffeinated writer and artist from the South. Currently residing in South Carolina with her partner and 2 kitties, Micah runs a solo copywriting + brand strategy business. When she’s not writing, you can find Micah hopping on a plane to Texas to sling glitter on a wig + makeup team. You can follow Micah on Instagram here.