Inevitably, on every work trip, there comes a time when anxiety starts to creep into my body. My breathing becomes more shallow, and there’s a knotted-up feeling in my chest. Depending on where I am and what’s going on, I’ll self-soothe in different ways. And if I have a bit of free time, I go to Starbucks. I used to be a snob about Starbucks. Who needs their coffee from a chain when local spots have so much character? But my feelings have changed. I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks in Hampton, Virginia. I’ve been to ones in Boston, San Diego, Dallas, Spokane… The list goes on. They all have different layouts, are situated on street corners, in strip malls, and in airports, but there’s also something about them that is always the same. There is always an earth-toned decor. It always smells like sweetened coffee. The music is always chill. There’s always a bathroom. And the drinks always taste the same, wherever I go. Starbucks is many different locations, but for me, it’s all the same place. When I’m feeling unsettled and want a taste of familiarity, to Starbucks I go. And when the idea of choosing a drink and ordering it from a stranger feels like too much, I just place the order from the Starbucks app on my phone, no pressure necessary.
That’s what I did today; I’m flying home in a few hours, and didn’t have anywhere else to go. I ordered a mango iced tea, and settled down at a small table with my journal to calm myself, to reset my breathing, and to feel more grounded. The music hasn’t disappointed (currently “Somewhere” by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros), and I felt comfortable enough that my efforts to self-soothe actually helped make me feel better, rather than just keeping me from feeling worse. I can explore my emotions and how my body is carrying them, and be gentle with myself because even though the barista’s never seen me before, this is a place I know. So thank you, Starbucks, for giving me somewhere that feels like my home-away-from-home, no matter where I go.
P.S. This totally sounds like an ad, but I promise it’s not! What do you do when you need a home away from home?