it’s typical for us to end up hibernating in a café when the weather makes a decision to be dreary and wet. I look out the window, my hands wrapped around my coffee mug balancing on my right knee, one leg crossed over the other. I love the rain, it brings out the life and colour of its surroundings, it keeps you in and it forces you to be still for a moment, or at least gives you the chance to get the tasks that you’ve been avoiding, done. the café’s window displays the drops of rain, fluorescent traffic lights, and car headlights reds, oranges, and greens speckled about displaying a spectrum of colours.
I stare outside for a while, before turning back to Iva. I sigh, mentally bracing myself to see where this conversation goes, considering it always either ends up with her bursting into tears or withdrawing because, hearing the truth isn’t always what she wants, even if it’s coming from a loving place. she’s the type of woman that you’d have to look at twice to really see her beauty, not that it wasn’t there, or obvious, but rather she doesn’t fit into what society typically views as beautiful. flat nose, round face, braided black and red hair, brown skin the colour of strength five coffee with a dash of oat milk. the light in the café hits her wide brown eyes, as she looks up finally deciding to pay attention to her surroundings, and not her phone.
“I know, I’m sorry… sorry,” she says, sighing and placing her phone face down on the mahogany table, picking up her cup of earl grey and taking a sip, then smiles a weak smile at me. “I’m just tired of seeing everybody our age moving forward with their lives, whilst feelings as if I haven’t accomplished as much as I should have by now. what are we expected to do or even be in our twenties? because I have no idea who I am, or what I want to do but, everybody else seems to have it figured out.”
she breaks eye contact with me, her hands wrapped around the deep green cup taking another sip of her tea. “it just feels like there’s so much to do, but not enough time. or there’s too much time, and too little to do. there’s never an in between! it’s getting to the point that I end up sitting in bed crying because it’s all very overwhelming. I don’t like adulting.” she huffs, setting her cup down, her left hand raking through her braids then picks up her phone again, opens instagram and lets out a deep rumbling sigh, “you see!” she exclaims shoving her phone in my face.
I move back slightly and glance at the picture, it’s a face I vaguley remember, someone from secondary school, I’m guessing. if I’m being honest I don’t remember half of them and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for them regarding me; but as Iva wants me to take note of, they’re newly engaged. setting my mug down, I take her phone, turn it off and set it down on the table.
“Iva, everybody moves at a different pace. are you telling me that if Xav was to propose to you now, at 22, you’d say yes?” I look at her, not surprised by what comes out of her mouth next,
“no, I wouldn’t say yes because I’m young and I have a lot planned to do. I’m not ready to make such a monumental decision; and even so, Xav and I barely know one another, it’s only been a year. but… that’s beside the point though Cade. I’m still in uni when most people have graduated – you’ve graduated and you have a job – working a job I love but, don’t see myself in forever and I just feel this weird need to always be better and be somewhere even if I don’t have anywhere to actually go to. I’m just feeling a little lost.” she looks down, her hands buried in her lap.
“hey,” I get up, moving to sit next to her, reaching my hand into her lap. “listen to me: you are an incredibly intelligent and talented human being. just because your life isn’t where you thought it would be by now, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t amount to anything. you’re taking the steps you need to move forward and pursue the career you want. you’re making moves, and that’s to be said for many others.
“you don’t let fear paralyse you. you take strides and leaps, and you inspire and have me dumbfounded nearly every day at how amazing and annoyingly persistent you are. but, just because you’re feeling stuck right now, it doesn’t mean that you should discredit all you’ve done and disregard what’s to come. Iva, you’re doing things that others could only dream of. stop putting yourself in boxes that you and others have created for you. you’re limiting yourself.”
she takes a few minutes to let the words sink in, even though I know we’ll be coming back to this in a few days, or weeks, I want her to know she’s at least seen, and that building walls and trying to place yourself behind them does you no good.
“I know… it’s just hard to escape from it all. sometimes trying your best doesn’t feel like enough, and watching everybody else move forward in their life knowing that it’ll take a long while until you actually get to the point you’ve been reaching for, for so long.” she takes her hands from her lap, and places them around the cup, “having joy, and patience in this season is easier said than done, and I know that’s what you’re going to tell me to hold onto, but sometimes I just want to sit in it and sit through it.”
I reach across the table for my mug with my now lukewarm coffee, quickly bringing me back to where we are. in an indie coffee house, with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and brown and white decor, with yellow gold accents – if this isn’t reflective of us, I really don’t know what else is. I take a gulp of my coffee, unlike Iva, I am not a graceful person and my life doesn’t give time for rest, so guzzling down coffee as if it’s my last cup is where I’m at on a daily basis. one of the baristas catches my eye. Wes, as usual, is always in a good mood, always smiling even when you can see the tiredness and stress behind his eyes. it’s cool to see others content in their circumstances, without letting it define them yet pushing forward to be, and do better.
I focus back to Iva, she’s staring out at the rain a distant look in her eyes. I feel bad that I can’t offer her any hope, or joy, especially as she doesn’t want to feel it, which breaks my heart. how do you let someone know that who they are is enough? that they are beyond great and they mean the world to you and many others, even when it’s hard for them to believe so? it’s even harder to tell someone those things when you only half-heartedly believe them about yourself. the irony.
I shuffle around in the lounge chair that I’m sitting in, crossing my legs which end up underneath my cream oversized jumper making me look like a marshmallow, but coziness over fashion is my mantra; if it’s comfy then it shall be purchased and overworn.
I face Iva, getting her attention back, “Darling, I can’t give you all the answers, because I don’t have them. only God does, and you probably don’t want me to tell you to lean into Him, but that’s just what you have to do. I hear you, and I understand where you’re at because I have these moments at least once a week where I’m in the shower or in bed having an existential crisis and wondering what the heck I’m doing with my life. but, it doesn’t stop me from pursuing the things I’ve wanted to pursue for so long.
“I learnt persistence from you. and I know it’s hard to believe that all this money, time and stress will be worth it, but it is because what you put in is what you get out. God sees you, and He hears you. He sits with you in the midst of the pain and frustration, and He holds your hand through it. but, saying that, like any loving parent, He doesn’t want you to stay stuck there. your hard work isn’t in vain. I know it’s hard now, and it sucks, but the comparison will kill your joy and swallow you up to the point where you don’t even see or acknowledge yourself anymore.”
I give her a moment to process. her knees are now curled up to her chest, cup in her hands balancing on her knees. I can’t really read her emotions right now, so I carry on, “it’s okay to not know where you’re going. we’re still so young and have a while to figure it all out. our job is to do the things we love and to pursue them till we get to wherever it is that fits the mold of who we are, and what we want.
“you are seen, and you are not defined by others, only you get to define yourself and where you want to go. instagram isn’t reality, we don’t know what’s going on behind the pictures. you present your life so well behind the however many thousand followers you have… they wouldn’t know that you’re feeling the way you are now. all they’ll see is a picture of a focused coffee cup, a blurred me in the background and a caption saying ‘great day with this beauty, ily*.’ but, only we know the reality behind it.
“you have to remember that the next time you try and measure up your life to another person’s. it only does you and them a disservice.” I can see she’s trying to hold back the tears, so I decide it’s time to keep quiet.
“you’re right. I know you’re right, I never saw it that way. thank you for being honest and open with me even though you didn’t have to be. I know it’s hard for you to do that.” she smiles a sad smile at me, but it’s genuine and from the way, her shoulders have loosened and one knee now resting on the arm of the lounge chair, I know she feels a little free-er than 10 minutes ago.
I take the last gulp of my coffee, and smile at her, “it’s worth the vulnerability if you can see that we’re all a mess, and just trying to do our best on this big ball called earth. you’re not alone, everyone is still trying to figure it out in some way. don’t discredit yourself.” with that, I set my mug on the table, unfold my legs, and gently squeeze Iva’s shoulder as I walk past her to grab another coffee at the counter. at this point, there’s no point in thinking I’ll get any sleep tonight, we’ll be here for a while.
everything about today has grounded me, which is something I constantly need to do to be in check with reality. I guess being in an aesthetically pleasing environment and having DMC’s** can do that to a person. it sucks to feel like you aren’t doing enough, especially when you’re twenty-something and the world seems to be so fast-paced, and forward moving when you’re still trying to remember if you even ate breakfast, or if it’s normal to be eating either cereal or ramen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. but it doesn’t discount where we are, everybody’s story is different, so I guess it’s best to do your thing without fretting about everything and everyone else.
the barista gets to me, zoning me back into reality. beaming, he says, “the usual? oat milk flat white?” I can’t help but smile,
“yeah, that’s it. thank you, Wes.” it’s always the little things, I guess, in the end, it’s working with what you’ve got and finding pockets of joy in the mundane. it’s doing your best, and acknowledging that doing that, is okay and more than enough.
*ily: I love you
** DMC: deep meaningful conversations