I decided to start drinking coffee the other day. I don’t like coffee.

It’s not that I can’t appreciate the drink and what it represents, culturally. Coffee is thought to have been a major boon to the Industrial Revolution (if not the fuel for it), and the smell is lovely. Coffee shop culture is appealing to me, and most everyone I know who does good work has one coffee minimum per day.

That being said, I grew up working at a bookstore with an espresso bar. From age 14 until 19, I saw regulars come in with the coffee twitches, recovering from their last cup, but still needing an additional buzz; wanting to kick the caffeine withdrawal they were still experiencing from not having a boost all night long.

I like caffeine, and though I think we’ll learn a lot more about it in the coming years, good and bad, at the moment I like having it in my life to some degree. I’ve experimented with it quite a bit, cutting it out of my life completely, upping my dosage to not-quite-dangerous levels, and meandering between the two extremes, and have determined that while I can very happily live without any of it at all, I do benefit from a cup of something energy-laced here and there. For several years I filled this void with energy drinks (as part of some brand research I was doing at first, and then out of laziness), and once those started to make me feel sick I would bump back to tea, sipping down numerous cups a day to ease myself down from the high that the Red Bulls would kick me into.

Coffee, however, occupies a nice space between ‘too intense and unhealthy’ and ‘not intense enough and slightly difficult to come by.’ It also doesn’t set off my bullshit detectors like the energy drink industry does, with all their wild claims and superfluous pseudo-vitamins.

I don’t care for coffee, but that’s part of why it’s perfect for me right now.

Many years ago, back in my college days, I didn’t really like wine, so I avoided it almost completely. It took meeting people with an enthusiasm for the drink to break me out of that shell, and now I have a real appreciation for it. The same was true with beer. And whiskey.

And like the aforementioned alcoholic beverages, I want coffee to fill a role in my life where it’s not something I sit around and crave, but rather a nice addition to an already complete life. I don’t need addictions, and my personality doesn’t really allow me to have them, but I do enjoy a proper lifestyle accessory as long as it pulls its own weight and doesn’t hinder me in any way. Coffee is relatively cheap, easily attained, and can give me a kick of caffeine when I want it. Perfect.

This is why I’m taking the time to drink coffee, despite my distaste for it. I’ve found over the years that even though I may never really like something, I can at least appreciate and make use of it, with enough practice and the right attitude. So long as the thing you’re exploring isn’t truly dangerous — I wouldn’t recommend, say, making the time to appreciate heroine — this is an attitude that can only increase your range of experience, rather than limiting it.

New experiences are key to a fulfilled, well-rounded life. So long as you avoid absolutes, and addictions are one type of absolute worth removing from your life, anything can become an asset. All you have to do is look for the good in the bitter.

Update: April 5, 2017

I’m so glad I made that change. I actually dropped a ton of weight without trying when I stopped drinking energy drinks; the things are terrible for you. And it was a very intentional choice to learn to appreciate simple, black coffee, rather than going for something that would essentially be just as bad for me, but in a different way.

I enjoy regular coffees today, but I still try to make sure to clear my system of caffeine periodically, to make sure I’m not hooked on it and can enjoy it healthily rather than addictively.