Stop and Smell the Roses

Writing by Erin Mills // Photograph by Makeda Sandford

6:22 am, 18th December 2015

I work as a barista in a cute local coffee shop that is about a 5 minute drive from my home. Although my shift begins at 6:30, I feel the need to wake my poor, drowsy body up at 5.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Erin.

Now, let me give you some backfill… I have allegrophobia: an extremely colossal phobia of being late, it consumes me (Yes, I used google to find that word and no, I am not ashamed). Hence, you could imagine my utter despair when my mum bounced into my room, all smiles, informing me that the time was 6:22. 6:22! What happened to my “trustworthy” alarm on my Samsung Galaxy, huh? What did I ever do to you? I do a quick calculation in my head. I say “quick” but it probably took up half of my “getting ready” time. 6:30 start, subtract a 5 minute drive, umm *mind blank* (don’t judge, I had just woken up). Mum must have been able to see the pure panic on my face because an instantaneous alarmed look took over her expression.


She began to rush around my room, asking what she could do to help while also trying to calm me down. In the meantime, I was running around frantically like a chook with its head chopped off. Then came the calm; you see, panic for me comes in four stages.

1) The initial alarm – The first few seconds when you come to realise what is going on; in my case, the moment my mum entered the room with the news that I was going to be late if I didn’t get my shit together in 3 minutes.

2) The frenzy – That distinct time where you just go crazy. Self-explanatory.

3) The calm – Now, this is the stage we are up to; where your mind goes deadpan, your legs stop in their tracks, your heart begins to slow and your hope of being on time is about the size of a pinhead. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Yeah well, that’s where you’re wrong. You see, this is by far the worst stage of them all. There is nothing you can do, nothing you can say… deadpan. “Just give up,” the little voice in your mind chants, “you’re already late, what’s the harm in being a few more minutes over?” But that’s the thing, I have never, never ever, been even a second past 6:30. Never. My worst fear was becoming a reality and there was nothing I could do about it.

4) The homerun– It may be the last stage, but certainly not the least stressful. This is where you pull out all your magic, every last trick. Shorts in need of a wash, check. Shirt that I wore yesterday, check. Dirty coffee-stained converse, check. Brush hair, ain’t nobody got time for that! Brush teeth, check. Perfume, check. I am on a roll.


I haven’t organised a ride home, looks like I’m walking. Grab the keys, check. Jump into the car, feeling like an absolute legend before checking the time… 6:29.  My legend title just flew out the window and got run over by a passing car before being feasted on by ravenous koalas and kangaroos. We are in Australia here folks, and as the rumours say, we use kangaroos as public transport.

What can I say? Time waits for no one.

6:44am, 18th December 2015

So, 20 minutes had passed since my arrival at work and I must have still been a tad flustered judging by the concerned look on my boss’ face… and the fact that I had already dropped a shot glass, given 2 people the wrong orders, happened to have my shirt on back to front, burnt my hand multiple times on the toaster and stuffed up the quinoa. How can you even stuff up quinoa??

It was nooooot my morning.

7:06am, 18th December 2015

My boss happens to be one of those dreamers, the ones whose heads’ are constantly being pulled out of the clouds by ignorant people.

“Hey Erin, you’re a bit of a hippie, right?”

“Umm, yeah I guess?”

*Cue awkward laughter from my side of the conversation*

“Ahh cool! Well I don’t know if this is just me or not but like, don’t you think everyone is just rushing through life? I mean, like I was just watching people and they are all in such a rush, like where are you going? Everyone just needs to slow down and like live life to the fullest, you know?”

“Ye…” I get cut short; it was clearly a rhetorical question, Erin.

“Like everywhere I look people are in a hurry to get somewhere and like, I just think everyone needs to chill, take it slow, enjoy every moment as if it is your last. You get what I’m saying?”

This time it wasn’t a rhetorical question.

“Yeah I completely understand what you mean. Even here at work I am in a rush; I have checked the time at least 6 times already this morning because I am eager to go home. But why do I want to go home? When I get home I am going to be anticipating my lunch, then when I am eating lunch I will be thinking about dinner. Throughout dinner I will be thinking about work the next day and it turns into an endless cycle. How do we break out of it? We don’t live in the moment, we don’t appreciate what we have here and now. My shift isn’t going to go any faster by looking at the clock, so why do I do it? I should be embracing the time I have here, talking to customers and learning about their stories, getting to know the people I work with, dedicating my time into creating the perfect shot of coffee, learning latte art, using my time wisely.”

I think my answer surprised her– it sure did surprise me. Maybe I need to have a panic attack more often, it seemed to get my imagination flowing.

8:30am, 18th December 2015

So that’s exactly what I did.

I slowed down. Paid more attention to our customers, continued the conversation with my boss, put some love into the coffee, nailed a “latte art heart”– spent my time wisely. I walked my fellow barista home and we discussed the mechanisms of different cars and cures for food poisoning. I wrote a story, read a book, created some art, baked a cake. I spent my time wisely. Don’t go through life without appreciation. Make 2016 your year, just like I made December 18th my day.

Stop and smell the roses.


Makeda Sandford

Makeda Sandford is a sassy 21 year old self-taught photographer, designer, and writer, hailing from the blue ridge mountain valley of North Carolina. She loves all things social justice, pretty colors, and observing the beautiful, breathing world around her. Find her photographs on her website.

Erin Mills

Erin is 15 years old and absolutely in love with art, vintage clothes, music, and vegan food, and is extremely passionate about equality. Her personality type is INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception) and think that explains a lot about who she is as a person. She can’t wait to get to know you and share and express her thoughts with everyone! Follow her on Instagram @eerinmills or Tumblr @erin-lara.

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