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Paige Hicks
Barista at Trade and Lore — Asheville, NC

I went to college for a few years before dropping out. I went all my life thinking college was the be-all-end-all and if I didn’t go, my life would suck. I did well my first year, but going into my second, I hated it. A combination of not knowing what I wanted to study and less-than-good memories that I made in school caused me to question why I was there. I knew I wanted to build a career around coffee, but I didn’t feel like I belonged in school.

Failing doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You have to pull an arrow back before launching it forward.

My last semester, I failed several of my classes, and that’s when I decided I wasn’t cut out for it. It really sucked to fail. I wanted to do well in my classes and I was terrified of letting my parents down. Luckily, my friends and family love and support me more than I could imagine, and quitting school was one of the best decisions I ever made. It ultimately led me to moving out of South Carolina and into Arkansas to start my career at Onyx Coffee Lab. Failing doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You have to pull an arrow back before launching it forward.

Coffee is so cool because there isn’t a limit to the knowledge you can acquire.

I made a probably irresponsible but rewarding decision to uproot my life and move a thousand miles away from everyone and everything I love, all in order to get out of my comfort zone and push myself towards my potential in my coffee career. It was simultaneously the easiest and hardest decision I've ever made. I started learning more about myself and developing relationships with industry folks and businesses, which has ultimately set me up for success not only in my career, but in my day-to-day life. I also work for the absolute best coffee company in the world. Coffee people are so damn cool. And coffee is so cool because there isn’t a limit to the knowledge you can acquire. There’s always something new to learn. I never want to get to a point in my career as a coffee professional where I say 'That’s it, I’ve learned all that I can.' 

I truly hope the future of coffee includes more POC, LGBTQ+ folx and marginalized genders. It’s so important to these folx that we are an accepting industry, and I hope that they are on the front of every magazine, on the stage at every competition and behind every bar. But for this to happen, people with more privilege have to help. Pay for classes, hire them, get them to competitions, etc. The future of coffee will be brighter for it.  

I think one day it just clicked that I don't have to put on a show for other people.

Social media is such a weird thing. I go back and forth between being super curated and highlight reel-esque, and just posting whatever I want and not caring about what anyone thinks. Whether it be the former or latter, I think you should just be genuine in whatever you do. Social media should be a fun way to express yourself, share your art, and engage with like-minded people, not a place where you feel pressured to perform or tempted to compare yourself to others. 

At one point, I was spending hours a day scrolling through artists’ instagram pages and thinking things like, 'What do they have that I don't?' and, 'Why can't I be as creative as them?' The effect it had on my mental health and overall outlook on myself was so detrimental. It drove me to tears daily. I think one day it just clicked that I don't have to put on a show for other people, and if other folks want to curate their social media, that's fine, too. You do you, just remain authentic through the process.