The Unglamorous Story Behind My Coffee Addiction

I've been drinking coffee since I was about 9 or 10 years old. And no, I didn't start drinking fancy coffee that time.  

I know that these days, most people associate coffee with relaxation - a time to chill with friends or catch up, a great Instagram moment, a way to tell the world how great your social life is and so on. I know this because I've been there, too. I was doing it for the 'gram' too, at least in my twenties or when I started making my own money. It was great, and it felt awesome until I actually looked back and wonder when the hell did I learn how to drink this bitter beverage?

And it took me back to one of my most suppressed memories. 

At age 9, I was back at my parents house in the city after living at my grandparents' hometown in San Rafael for a few years. I just finished fourth grade, and it was summer time. I would be enrolling at a new school before June of 1998. Things were looking exciting, but scary at the same time. The drastic change in my lifestyle was daunting but I really tried to adjust because, hey, I'm back with my real family. This should be good, right? But the days roll by and I just felt more and more creeped out. I mean, my grandparents were not rich but we had our own land, spacious house with front and backyard and decent amount of food on a daily basis. We were not 'fancy' but we always have all the basics covered. But it was not the same at my parents' house. It was quite the opposite - in a bad way. 

To get back to the coffee story, well, if I remember correctly, the first time I actually had to rely on coffee was in my fifth grade, months after I started living with my family again. I don't think I have told a lot of people about this story, but, there were times when we would have nothing but black, instant coffee on our table - without even sugar or creamer in sight. And I had to go to school and stay there and focus for about 8 hours. Aside from that, I had to carry huge books and probably ten notebooks on my back and walk 15 minutes or so, going to the spot where the school van would pick us up in the morning and drop us off after school. Did I mention we (my sister and I) had to walk by ourselves before 5 AM? 

It's not always like that, but from age 9 until I was about 13 years old, that's pretty much what I can remember. It's not a good memory, obviously, but I think my resilience started there. I don't think kids should drink coffee at a very young age, but that time, we had no choice. There was no food at all. Either drink that hot, bitter coffee, or we go without anything. It's pretty cold waking up at 4 AM, especially during the later part of the year. So, I had to at least have something warm for my tummy. I chose to drink the black coffee.       

Years after that, I tried to suppress that memory and re-frame the whole story. I actually hated coffee that time because it means we lack real food and we can't do anything about it at all because we were kids and we just have to accept whatever is served to us on the table. In my late teenage years though, since my parents were really struggling financially, I agreed to be under the care of a then well-off relative, who introduced 'drinking coffee' to me in a very different way. I was able to change the narrative - luckily. Since then, I have associated it with a quiet time for myself, for catching up with friends, or just a simple reward after doing something brave at school. It became a reward, and not a punishment.

The only time I probably switched back to drinking black, unsweetened coffee was when I was reviewing for my licensure exam when I was 20 years old. But it was my choice because I had to stay awake for most nights and early morning trying to memorize and remember facts that I need to pass the test. 

What's your coffee story? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!


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