if you're a narwhal, i'm a narwhal

Before you really start reading, I'd like you to click HERE and join me in what played in the background as I wrote this.

There is never an easy way to say goodbye to such an intimate part of your life. As many of you know, I've spent the last year of my life being a barista at a local coffee shop called Nexus Coffee & Creative. When I started there, I'd never even touched coffee outside of the typical Folger's purchase and an occasional "frappe" from Starbucks. I applied on the recommendation of a close friend because they knew that I was in the market for change and I thought to myself, "What the hell, why not?" That was just over a year ago.

Now, as I sit at my desktop writing this, I'm drawn back to all of the amazing times I've had over the last year.

I think the hardest part of leaving is stepping away from behind the counter and joining everyone "in the wings". For the sixteen years that I've been a part of the working world, I've always felt like I was just another face among the employees of wherever it was people found me. I've never felt like I was part of a community, a family. But, when I started getting to know all of the amazing people that walked through the front doors of Nexus, I quickly realized that our lives were becoming intertwined.

"How's Heather?" "Did you guys enjoy your trip to California?" "When's the wedding again?" Every day I spent making coffee for Nexus was another day I was greeted by the regulars who build the community up and continuously offer support to their local business. And, while I'll miss being the one to sling drinks for them, I know they'll always be there to support me in all of the creative endeavors I plan to develop for the future. I couldn't have made it through all of the good and bad times if it weren't for these amazing individuals.

And as time moved on and I became more and more involved with the team, with my coffee-fueled family, I started taking on more duties to build upon the events that had been left without direction. I started getting to know all of the overly talented writers and speakers who would become integral to our Poetry&Prose and Open Mic Night events. I started working with artists and musicians that had played in the shop before and those who had never even sipped on a tasty latte from any of our rotating roasters.

As I kept emailing, calling, organizing, booking, rocking out with, and thanking all of these amazing people. I again found myself being pulled into a sort of "found family" that I'd never expected to put together. The crew from The Candid., Sarah Cecil, Townsend, the taste-makers from CRAVE, Lauren Gunnels, Makin' Loaf, The Damn Neighbors, and all of the amazing individuals who put their hearts and souls into what they create just kept filling me with light and love and laughter as we pushed ourselves to be the best we could be. In my absence, I can only hope that they continue to grace the Nexus stage and rock as hard as they're able to. Now, they just get to have me as a member of the audience, jamming alongside them every time they come through.

But, I think above everything else, I'm going to miss the team. Without hesitation and nothing but support and love, these weird, wild coffee people welcomed me into their lives, their homes, and their hearts no questions asked. And just like every team, we've had our ups and downs, but never in my life have I met a more responsive, caring group of individuals who will literally thrown themselves down before they let anything happen to another member of the team.

The dream that Amy has brought to life through her own passion and desire to watch her Little Rock community grow is infectious. There isn't a day where you can't find her helping someone in need, building up a local charity, organization, or business, or just making sure that the customers of her shop are doing alright. Over the past year, Amy has continuously called herself the "caboose" of the Nexus train. And while I understand her thought process behind it, I'll disagree. Amy is the heart of this company. There isn't an individual in the world that offers up more of themselves or their time when it comes to a passion project like Amy Counce. I count myself among the lucky few in the world who have been able to work alongside her and call her a friend. I know the team at Nexus is going to be brilliant and will continue to shine through the darkness that we're seeing across the world.

Just like the rest of the world, none of us knew how COVID-19 was going to affect us and our lives. In fact, I really thought that my luck with pandemic was just going to continue until we found some sense of normalcy again. But, life often throws a curveball at you and I just happened to be at the plate this time around. Amy, The Nexus Team, the regulars, the bands, the artists, the writers, and everyone else that I've had the absolute pleasure of crossing paths with will forever remain a key component in my heart. There has never been an opportunity in my life quite like Nexus and honestly, I don't know if there ever will be anytime soon. Just like a good cup of coffee, the timing was perfect, the ingredients were well measured out, and you always knew it was made with love.

I'm going to miss it. And I won't lie, I've shed a tear or two over the last few weeks. But, as everyone has said, this isn't goodbye. I'm still around, just on the other side of the counter now. So, will all of my love, I thank you Nexus for being such an amazing journey. I'll be seeing you.

And, if you've stuck around this long, I'd like to share some of my favorite photos with you. So enjoy, remember the good times before masks, and carry on.

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