Joshua Williams just graduated from the arts-focused charter school he attended alongside Lisa Gardner, called Innovations High School. He’s a tall young man, lanky, and quick to laugh or smile at any joke uttered. Even those, it seems, that merely pass through his mind. He just got his first job—OK, maybe his second, technically— in a coffee shop across the street from Union Station. And so far, he loves it.
I love Chicago, period. I love the city. I love being in the atmosphere, everybody moving and going places and doing things. I feel a sense of importance when I’m down there, ‘cause it’s like you’re either going down there to do business or going shopping or you know everybody. I just love going downtown. There’s nothing like downtown Chicago.
For like two years I moved down to Memphis and I just hated it. The people are cool and you get a lot of hospitality and everybody’s nice to each other and everything, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the simple reason that it’s not as active. Chicago, there’s always something going on from open mics to new clubs, new stores. You can never really be bored. To say you’re bored in Chicago is because you’re probably staying in the house or you don’t have any money or you chose not to do anything. In Memphis, I tried to be active but there are not so many things you can do out there.
I came back when I was 14. I had the option of choosing if I wanted to stay in Memphis or go back to Chicago. My mom was going back. She felt a little guilty ‘cause I never wanted to move down there. I was raised by my grandparents, so when I was given the option, of course I’m like, I wanna go back to Chicago. That’s where my friends are.
I’m riding solo right now. My mother just moved to Atlanta. My grandmother lives in her own house and my grandfather passed. I got people that help me. I don’t have a roommate but I live in my grandparents’ old house, after he passed he left it and we hadn’t used it. My grandmother was using it as a guest house. Then she just one day was like, Why are we all living in this house when y’all can stay over there? My mom got a job out in Atlanta so her and my little sister left, my little brother’s in the Navy. As far as from my mother, there are four of us. One girl, three boys, and I got two other brothers.
There are two Rs and two Js, Ryan and Raven, Justin and Joshua. My momma did it that way on purpose, ‘cause she knew she wanted four kids she just didn’t know who she was gonna have it in that order. It’s like a sandwich: the Rs, two Js in the middle, and then my little sister the last person. My big brother is doing missionary work in Memphis, so he’s back in Memphis but he want to come back home. Our family, we just don’t get down with Memphis. They do look after their people, but it just it ain’t for me, I’m a city boy, ain’t nothing wrong with that.
For the first couple of weeks after I graduated, it seemed like nothing was going good for me. I do music, I’m an entertainer. I just sat in the crib making beats and making songs right there and doing everything all day. I was feeling some emptiness. I searched hard for a job, and for a minute I couldn’t find one. Then I ended up finding two. The first job I had was at a store called Urban Outfitters and I was recently hired at Starbucks. At Urban Outfitters I was getting good hours but I needed more money. I’m still trying to achieve my dream as an artist, and at Starbucks you get tips plus you get paid and it seemed like the money comes in faster, so I chose to stay at Starbucks, even though I loved the atmosphere at Urban Outfitters. I don’t drink coffee at all, and no I do not like coffee better than clothes. I’d rather go shopping any day.
The people are friendly, though. From what I’ve seen there’s a chemistry between the people that have been working there for a while and the customer and as soon as the customer come through the door, they had their drink made before and all they got to do is hand over the money.
Our store is a good atmosphere. I see the same people almost every day coming in just sitting on their laptop and order the same drinks. One time I asked a lady I like, You come here everyday? She was like, I love being here. You don’t have to worry about trouble. I get some work done. And she loves the music.
I would never pick a job that I feel like the atmosphere is wrong. Like today, for example, I worked from 7 to 12. I didn’t notice there was coffee in the pipe brewing, so I brewed some more coffee. And then there was coffee spilling out everywhere. The girl that does our schedules and everything, she’s in charge until we get a manager, she said, You know it happens. Don’t get frustrated. Calm down. When you go on your break just think about what you can do better.