Kombucha Confessions: 3 Reasons I Miss Having a Job

I don’t know where kombucha has been all my life, but I’m sure glad it’s readily available now. It’s refreshing and delicious, although perhaps somewhat of an acquired taste. For those of you that haven’t tried it yet, I describe kombucha as tasting like tangy, fruity, vinegary soda, but with a fraction of the sugar and a variety of gut-health and other wellness benefits.

Kombucha is made by using yeast to ferment tea (there are tons of recipes for making your own on the internet) and the taste varies, depending on the flavoring (usually fruit), level of carbonation (some are naturally carbonated and others have forced carbonation to create more effervescence) and whether it’s made with granulated sugar (which is most common) or honey, and then it’s called jun. I don’t really understand how you can take fermented tea and make it into something that tastes so delicious, but I’ll leave that to the experts.

Luckily, there are plenty of those in the Denver area, and you can check out the list of places I’ve been guzzling all different kinds of kombucha at (as well as filling up on growlers to take home) at the end of this post. I thought kombucha was an appropriate drink for making the following confession, no matter how puckery my mouth feels when I say it out loud: I do miss a few things about having a job. There, I said it! If you read my previous post listing the three reasons I don’t miss having a job, that statement may come as somewhat of a surprise.

Well, don’t worry. I’m not packing up my midlife “awakening” just yet. I’ve taken it this far, and it’s too soon to turn back to the well-worn path of working for someone else in an unfulfilling job where I have little impact and make even less of a difference. I’m committed to this “start-up of one” and taking my minimum viable product to market (whatever that is and whenever that may be). At least until I run out of savings, but I have a plan for that and will share it in an upcoming post. So believe it or not, there are some things I miss about being a salaried employee, and they are:

  1. The A team. Some of the most rewarding (and rare) moments of my career have involved collaborating with smart, motivated, passionate and hard-working people who never took themselves too seriously, made me laugh and were responsible for me upping my game just so I could play in the same sandbox with them. They worked incredibly hard and inspired me to work even harder. I learned from them because I was exposed to different ways of thinking and new approaches to problem solving. Even better than all of that, when the day’s work—which hardly felt like work because we were having so much fun—was done, I could hardly wait to grab a beer with them so I could keep the experience going as long as possible. How often does that happen at work? Not often enough. So when it does, you remember it forever. I have been lucky enough to work with a handful of truly amazing peers, direct reports and one awesome manager. I miss it now, especially because the journey I’m currently on doesn’t involve collaboration, at least not yet. No one is going to create my happiness for me or figure out where this road leads except me.
  2. How much does that cost? The most immediate impact of not having a job is that I no longer have a six-figure income being deposited into my bank account in biweekly installments. I absolutely took for granted that (within reason) I could afford to buy food, drinks, clothes, travel, home goods, gifts and whatever else I wanted without having to pay close attention to what it cost me. There wasn’t an issue with it going out because it was coming right back in. Before I left my job last month, it had been years since I’d lost sleep over my finances. Last night, that’s exactly what kept me awake until 2 AM. Financial stress sucks. I hate writing about it, thinking about it and talking about it. I realize that I’m incredibly lucky to have a savings to live off of while I figure things out, but it won’t last forever. There’s a price to pay for saying “fuck it.” I just hope it’s not more than I can afford.

2.5. Partly cloudy with a chance of rain. Participating in small talk is so much easier when you have a job. I’m categorizing this as #2.5 because it’s not at all important, and it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that it matters to me. It shouldn’t, but it does! When you have a job, the typical exchange of small talk is brief and simple. Question: “What do you do?” Answer: “I’m a [insert title] at a [insert type of company].” How easy was that? Now that I don’t have a job, I dread this question and have yet to come up with a great answer or handle these exchanges well. I don’t feel like discussing my midlife awakening with someone I’ll probably never see or talk to again. Even if I shortened it down, my honest response to the question, “What do you do?” would still be: “Well, I quit my job for another job and then decided not to take that job, so I’m currently unemployed and exploring what it’s like to spend my time and energy on something I really care about, which is currently writing a blog.” Maybe that doesn’t sound so terrible, but it inevitably leads to a reaction of surprise, followed by confusion and then the need to ask me a variety of follow-up questions in order to appear polite, and I’m simply not ready or willing to answer those questions yet, especially when I’ve barely discussed any of this with my friends and family. The point of small talk is to exchange superficial pleasantries and meaningless information so you can politely continue what you were doing without offending anyone. The very nature of what I’m currently doing is neither superficial nor meaningless. Before you call bullshit on me, yes, I realize the inherent irony in the fact that I don’t want to discuss my midlife awakening with a stranger, yet I’m blogging about it on the internet. If only I could live in England again where small talk was focused on the weather, and stretching it into a 10-minute conversation was considered a true art form.

3. You’re hired! I’ve had the opportunity to hire, develop and promote some amazing people during my career, specifically from 2008-2015. It’s a uniquely satisfying feeling when you can see someone’s potential and also be in the position to maximize it. I felt a huge responsibility as a hiring manager to make sure the people I hired were happy and fulfilled and were also contributing to improving the team and the company. It makes me insanely proud to see someone that I hired succeed in their role. There’s something especially gratifying about everyone else taking notice and finally seeing what you saw in that person all along. Even better than that is when I’ve had the opportunity to actively mentor people I’ve hired and watch them flourish as a result. The fact that people I used to manage still come to me for career advice long after we’ve stopped working for the same company is just icing on the cake. It’s hard to think of anything that makes me prouder. It may be corny, but it’s true. I hope to have the chance to experience some of this again (especially #1 and #3), regardless of where the road I’m on takes me. For now, I need to focus on overcoming the fear of walking a new path without much guidance and taking it step by step, day by day. In addition to the resources I’ve blogged about in the past, I’m currently reading Seth Godin’s book “Tribes” and really enjoying it. Each time I get afraid about what I’m doing and question whether it’s the right choice (let’s clock it at hourly), I go back to Godin’s list of reasons for why there’s a big opportunity to start or lead a tribe. This is the first reason:

“Many people are starting to realize that they work a lot and that working on stuff they believe in (and making things happen) is much more satisfying than just getting a paycheck and waiting to get fired or die.”

Maybe I should just make that my go-to response for small-talk questions about what I do for a living. It perfectly summarizes why I know that I’m not going to find what I’m looking for by doing what I’ve always done. I may not find it this way either, or be remotely successful at it, but I have to try. Trying involves noticing the fear, accepting it and then moving forward anyway. Cheers to that! Now, back to kombucha:

  • Happy Leaf Kombucha: Located in Edgewater, they’re making my favorite kombucha right now. Try the flight of five rotating flavors. I recently had the Cranberry Lavender, Lemon Lime, Grapefruit Citra, Cran Orange Basil (outstanding!) and Cranberry Cherry Lavender. They also have a great menu with yummy homemade dishes and fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables grown in their garden, which you can see when you’re sitting on their patio. I had the goat cheese, honey and preserved lemon slider and the buffalo meatball slider. It’s definitely worth the short trip to Edgewater because you can then walk to a handful of great restaurants and breweries from there. Providence Tavern (the patio has misters), Wine Beer Fat (No joke, that’s the name. They have amazing Belgian beer, wine and Italian apps and sandwiches.) and Joyride Brewing Company are just a few.
  • Teatulia Tea Bar: Not surprisingly, their specialty is tea. In addition to traditional hot tea, they have tea sodas, tea lattes, coffee and espresso and of course kombucha (in this case, Happy Leaf). They have a few tables outside (that’s a patio in my book) and also offer monthly tea classes.
  • First Draft Taproom & Kitchen: Located in RiNo, they primarily serve beer, but it’s worth mentioning because in addition to the 40 different kinds of craft beer, wine and cider on tap, they also have kombucha, coffee and cocktails, all of which you can pour yourself and then enjoy on their killer patio.
  • American Cultures Kombucha Tap Room: They don’t have a patio yet (hint, hint!), but they have an amazing selection of roughly 15-20 different kinds of kombucha on tap. Formerly a food truck, they’re now on Tejon Street in the Highlands. I love trying new flavors here and then filling up a couple of growlers with my favorites to take home. They also have a great loyalty program.

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