Picture this: you’re a teenage girl who feels stuck, alone, and held back by anxiety but desperately wanting to take a step forward.
That was me in September 2022. After a year’s long struggle with anxiety, I was the most stuck I had ever felt in my life. I rarely went out, I had little to no confidence in myself or my capabilities, I felt lost, and I had no idea where to start finding my way again.
I knew I wanted to get out and meet more people and learn new things, I just didn’t know how.
Then I found Cabbages & Kings; actually, my support worker found them and suggested we go in and grab a coffee while we look online for somewhere I could volunteer - the thought of volunteering there hadn’t even crossed our minds yet.
Sometimes when you walk into a cafe it can feel almost intimidating, like you’re taking up a space that wasn’t meant for you but walking into Cabbages & Kings wasn’t like that at all. I remember being the most at ease in a public space I had felt in months, the cosiness of the cafe and the kindness of the staff helping to calm my nerves, and something about it just felt…safe. We ended up coming in for coffee a lot.
When the idea of volunteering at Cabbages & Kings came about, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was excited because I had seen how the cafe worked from a customer’s standpoint, I knew that it was an experience I’d love to try out, and with the staff being so kind I knew I would be supported. But on the other hand, I was terrified.
What if I got an order wrong? What if I messed a drink up? Can I handle talking to the public without making a fool out of myself?
I had so many anxious worries whirling around my head, which is completely normal when starting something new, I just didn’t know that at the time. Either way, I just had this gut feeling (and some lovely supportive people) telling me to just try.
So I did! At first I stayed in the back of the kitchen, literally in a corner, making cakes. It was where I felt safest, because while I was pushing the limits of my anxiety, it was pushing me too.
Over the weeks the cafe team, Angela in particular, would offer to teach me how to make coffees and time and time againI would say no. I was too afraid to mess up. Gert who works on front of house and is the volunteer coordinator for The Mix would offer to be my guinea pig, and again I would say no, afraid of messing up.
But as time went on and the support of the team around me never wavered, eventually I found the courage to try and make a cappuccino. My thoughts being, ‘too much froth on a cappuccino isn’t a thing, right?’ and I was right! All it took was that one coffee to give me the confidence to try and make other ones – though it took me a while to get the hang of lattes, which I have now learned isn’t even a me thing, lattes are temperamental for everybody.
With every new thing I tried and learned, my confidence grew. Coffees, working the till, speaking to customers, you name it.
And then I was offered paid shifts! I am no longer a volunteer, but an actual employee of Cabbages & Kings!That’s something I hadn’t expected for myself for a long, long time.
If you had told me this time last year that I’d be looking forward to speaking to customers, even having regulars who know me by name, and making drinks, I’d have said you were crazy.
I used to dread that stuff, but thanks to Cabbages & Kings, and all the lovely staff in The Mix, I’ve had the opportunity to test my limits and grow in ways I didn’t think possible in such a short amount of time.
Most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to try. I think that’s been my favourite part about volunteering here; everyone around me has been so supportive of me just trying my best, always ready to help me if I need it but also allowing me space to find my own feet.