My dad was a pretty talented guy. He could build just about anything. He knew how to garden, how to cook, how to fix things when they broke and how to make do with a little ingenuity and even less money. My dad also shared my love for words. His favorite poet was Robert Frost and his favorite poem, as you might guess, was The Road Not Taken. He would, on occasion, quote this poem word for word. I’m sure you are all familiar with the final stanza, but just in case your memory fails, here it is:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Dad was also about the hardest working man I ever met. Even in his late 50’s he could outwork me, and I’m no slouch when it comes to effort. Aside from hauling pop bottles to the store as a kid and serving as a sailor in the Navy, dad owned a restaurant and a grocery store. He spent most of his life, however, working for the US Postal Service. I never really gave it much thought before, but today I started wondering if Dad was as restless in his work as I am. Knowing that this was his favorite poem made me wonder even more.
It is no secret that I am one of those restless souls who is always looking for another road to take. Sometimes I think U2 recorded the song, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” just for me! All my life I have been in one place and wanting to be in another. It is as if my life has consisted of riding in a runaway train, looking longingly out the window, hoping to spot some greener grass. My restlessness, being tempered with some reasonable measure of responsibility, has kept me trapped in that train, afraid to jump off and journey down the much neglected road.
At age 52 (knocking on 53 really hard), I felt like I still did not know what I wanted to do with my life…or what’s left of it. However, I recently had an epiphany and I do not feel that way anymore. I do know what I’m looking for. I don’t know where the greener grass is, but I now know where “my” grass is. I was in the shop yesterday, grinding some roasted coffee for the CADVR rally in Wisconsin. At the same time, I fired up the US Roaster so I could turn some green Guatemala Injertal into coffee. I spent the next 15 minutes paying close attention to the machine; adjusting the air flow and gas pressure, checking the progress through the trier, listening to the beans, smelling the aroma and watching the dance of time and temperature. It was somewhere during those 15 minutes that, after 52 years of wondering and wandering, I finally realized something…I was right where I belong…standing beside a coffee roaster, turning hard, green beans into this wonderful potion we call coffee.
I have been a blue collar factory worker, a mailman, a Fed Ex driver, a linen delivery driver, a hog breeding farm worker, a brewery packaging manager (much too briefly!), a supported employment specialist and a manager in a union shop. In truth, I’m none of those things, nor do I want to be. I’m a coffee roaster. It is not about money, otherwise I’d stay out of the coffee business! It is about what touches the inner you, what lights your soul, what makes you come alive. Only two things have ever had that effect on me: riding my bike and roasting coffee. For now, I might be wearing more than one hat, but only one of them fits. Yes, its true that I followed the well-worn path, but I have never been able to get over standing at the fork and feeling the lure of the road less traveled. Fortunately for me, it is never too late to change course.