I’ve never really introduced the small section of my blog that I call The Coffee Shop, but here’s another taste of it. It’s something of an anomaly: fiction and nonfiction, simultaneously real and yet completely imaginary. It’s a small space in my mind that bends space and time to try and think about what a future or past version of myself might say to me if she saw where I was, what I was doing, who I am. It’s kind of like a letter to the future, a letter to the past, and a letter to the present rolled up in one. This installment is a little different in that I really started writing it months and months ago and only recently figured out what I was trying to tell myself. Basically, it took me the whole of my Summer of Unemployment (a story for another time) and a conversation with one of my oldest friends to figure out what I was trying to tell myself. In any case, here we are. I’m not really sure why I’m even writing this introduction, but… I hope this small corner of my imagination helps one of you as much as writing it has helped me.
Right, she says, all business. What seems to be the trouble?
I stare at the mug clutched in my hands and say nothing, trying to figure out why we’re back in this place as she slips onto the stool next to me.
Oh, come now. It’s just me, she says, nodding thanks as Wisdom hands her a cup of tea. It’s just you. I glance at her. She’s younger than last time, her curls still brown and her laugh lines not so deep. I wonder what exactly this forty-something in business casual can tell me that the eighty-year-old with a penchant for reading on porch swings can’t.
I don’t suppose you can tell me when you are, what you’re doing? I ask her.
She crosses her arms on the counter top and smirks at me. Now why would I do that? she says, her tone gentle and her eyes wise. It would ruin the surprise. She nudges me with her elbow. Come on. What’s up?
Ah. She leans back. Yes. Those. Her eyes narrow and I can feel her taking me in, seeing where I’m at and remembering what it feels like. I shift awkwardly under the weight of my oldest, comfiest sweatshirt and avoid her gaze as Anxiety slips past my elbow to grab my empty plate.
I nod. Those. My mind whirls, and I wonder how to explain this, how to describe the knot of worry and confusion that’s constantly in my stomach these days. I force my eyes up to her face. She winks at me. Of course she’s taking this lightly. She knows how this ends, how I get through.
She softens, somewhat, unfolding her arms and nudging me with her elbow again. She gives me a nod, and somehow it’s all suddenly too much–the knot of anxiety, the confusion, the fear, the weariness–and the words come tumbling out.
I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s as close to a summary as I’m going to get.
I stare at my tea. I don’t know what I’m doing, and I hate that. I hate not knowing what’s next. I hate not having a plan. I hate that I’ve started questioning every little thing and worrying about every big thing. I take a shaky breath, exhale slowly. And I hate that on top of all of this–this mess, this anxiety and lack of clarity–I hate that on top of all that, I can’t make it go away because I don’t know what I want to do. I like knowing things! I like learning things and discovering things and keeping tabs on everything from fact to fiction and I hate that I can’t even do that with my own brain these days because I’m so confused and conflicted that every time I try to do something about it, I’m grasping at straws. And I know it’s not unique and I know other people are struggling with this but it feels so damn lonely that knowing isn’t enough and just. Everything.
I bite my lip. Everything feels like it’s falling apart, and I don’t know what to do about it.
She nods slowly, looking straight ahead. Patience is standing there, holding a tray of freshly baked scones. She takes one and smothers it in butter before handing it to me, sliding her own plate across the counter to catch the crumbs. I take a bite. She watches me eat, and it is only when I have finished the last bite of butter and cherries that she speaks.
Have you thought about what you want to do? She stops my retorted “of course” with the raise of her hand. I mean really thought. Spent time on it. Questioned what you’re good at, what you like, what you want out of life and work and all of that. Have you really, really thought about it?
I blush and lower my eyes to the crumbs on the plate. Not really, I mumble.
Start there, she says. You know more than you think you do. It’s all in there. She taps my forehead. You’ve just got to do some digging.
Use your skills, nerd, she says affectionately, face amused behind her glasses. Write it out. Trust me. She laughs quietly. Trust you. It’ll help. She slips off the stool.
She picks up her bag and knocks her elbow against mine. It’s okay to be scared, she says with a small smile before heading towards the door. But don’t give up on hope.