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Justin Will: I pause for coffee, to put it all on pause

This commentary is by Justin Will, a resident of Vershire who is founder and CEO of Emersion Coffee, a company that aims to share the beauty and peace of analog coffee brewing. 

We have a problem. The world is on fire and it’s getting harder and harder to look away, and I’m starting to think our collective sanity depends on it. 

I know it might sound crazy, but when I start to taste the bitter inklings of despair, I turn to coffee. Not for the caffeine, although that helps, and not for the lattes, which are delicious. No, I turn to coffee to put it all on pause. A tangible moment where the demons of politics, student debt, social expectations and fear cannot reach me.

I first learned the wonder of the coffee pause when I was in the Navy. I was serving on one of our nuclear-powered submarines that would literally go to sea for months without seeing the light of day. With that level of immersion in work, the little things start to eat away at you. A bad day can bring a sailor to tears over spilled milk, especially if it’s the last fresh milk on board. 

So whenever possible, I found a corner and made myself a coffee, and moreover, I did it by hand. A hand-cranked grinder and a hand-pressed brewer can go a long way to focus the spirit, not to mention the satisfaction that comes from enjoying the fruits of this labor. 

I think the significance of the manual coffee brewing was threefold. First, it was a moment that was entirely within my control. As you can imagine, life on a submarine involves doing a lot of what other people tell you to do. Coffee time was my chance to follow my own instructions.

Second, it was a physical, analog process that produced a delicious, tangible result in real time. So many things in life involve immediate and sometimes abstract investments for long-term payoffs, so I think it’s important not to forget to treat yourself to some concrete, short-term satisfaction from time to time as well.

Lastly, and probably most importantly for the introvert in me, coffee time was me time. There were over a hundred sailors on that sub, all living within about 100 feet of each other. Getting away was difficult, but not impossible. It was an essential, level-setting ritual for me.

You may never have a chance to live and work on a submarine (I’d recommend doing it — once), but a coffee pause is something I’ve carried back with me into civilian life. No matter what you pause for, find the time. It’s the best defense you have against the heat of the Dumpster fire in front of us. Brew slow, breathe deep, grind on. 

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