Life of a Storyteller 2: Coffee & The Year of the Tiger

Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”.

These are the words of quirky Agent Dale Cooper, the most humane and wise character David Lynch has ever invented. And I actually follow this advice. Often by Cooper’s preferred method of a good hot cup of black coffee.

In fact coffee is so ingrained into my social and cultural life that it has already featured on this blog.

The problem begins when instead of one cup of Horton’s Liquid Brown Stuff I give myself more than a few. The Nespresso machine chugging along like a small steam train. On a busy day that tends to happen quite frequently.

Time slows down but it does not come without a price. The price for full Neo mode can include sweating, being jittery and all sorts of things. But most of us take that risk willingly.

Coffee has become a fixture of our work culture and culture in general. Culturally, socially and chemically coffee is extremely powerful. Or in the words of Michael Pollan:

We have created a world in which caffeine is indispensable“. We have successfully integrated a very powerful drug into our daily lives. But is that really a problem? A problem for me?

In the past others had described my relationship with coffee as borderline gourmet fetishistic, I simply loved nerding out about the stuff. That’s not the case anymore.

Nowadays it often functions as a mere office tool, useful when operating on tight deadlines. Coffee just works. Or as the well known fridge magnet says:

Drink Coffee. Do stupid things faster and with more energy“, except that fast could be replaced by frazzled and more energy by reckless abandon of your own natural limits.

Anyone having once fallen into the coffeepot can attest that too much of the stuff might not be good for you.

While I am neither a chemist nor a medical professional I have looked into the subject of coffee and caffeine for years, wildly swinging back and forth between being an ardent coffee enthusiast and the coffee equivalent of a teetotaler.

Everything in moderation seems to be the best approach here, at least according to science. Should be easy, right?

I don’t think that coffee when enjoyed in moderation is in any way detrimental to your health (bar the case of some medical conditions). Like most things it has pros and cons and new research says it might actually be part of a healthy lifestyle.

The slightly frustrating but accurate conclusion to whether coffee is good or bad for you probably is: It depends.

But why am I even writing about coffee?

Long story short is that I have now and then tried to completely get off coffee. With varying success. So far I have always returned back to the coffee drinking fold. Quitting does not seem to be easy.

In fact whole online communities have sprung up, dedicated to a caffeine free life. Is living without coffee really as great as some people make it out to be?

Since today is the beginning of the Lunar New Year I will be giving it a try. New year, new me and alI that. It probably won’t be a walk in the park but I guess I should feel glad it’s not far worse vices like alcohol or drugs.

As to serious addiction issues I still have buying books and Kickstarter games to live with. And I would not want to change anything about those, wouldn’t I?

Now how does one best approach the caffeine-challenge? Do I just set out without a goal and see what happens? No, that would be foolish. I need a plan and if possible some sort of system which will keep me on track.

In my experience in cases like this one of the best methods is to make a challenge or goal known. Yes, it is a form of commitment and light social pressure but it works. And it can also be highly entertaining.

As I am just doing this for improving a daily routine which is mostly running smoothly and because I am far from demonizing coffee in general I feel comfortable with keeping the initial goal small.

This means I will not yet commit to going, say, six months without coffee. I’ll start with an elegant one month sprint.

After one month I can then reevaluate my relationship with coffee. I call that a good plan. Today is the first day of said month and I would be lying if I told you that I have not already experienced some effects.

As I am writing this after my first caffeine free day I can already feel the headache and the brain fog of caffeine withdrawal descending on me.

Instead of wanting to read the latest games industry news on LinkedIn (if you like games consider following me) I just want to take a nap. A really long nap. I hear they may be much better without coffee. Maybe.

A nice, hot, steaming cup of coffee would definitely help right now. I would even settle for a small espresso. Maybe a double. But I won’t. A promise made to strangers on the internet is still a promise. Let’s do this!