I am in a place that reminds me of who I am. The wooden geometric accents, high ceilings, dragging escalators and lines outlined by shelves with delicate stationary are reminiscent of my late adolescence. This place is Barnes and Noble. Now a dying franchise, but in high school a place where my best friends and I would entertain ourselves for hours. Free admission. This was also a time in my life that I dreamed boundlessly. I went to school in Center City Philadelphia so I had plenty of visual indulgences in between giggles and high school reflections. I saw bike messengers with cut off shorts and uncombed hair , sharp looking young professionals dancing in between awkward and coy exchanges during dates and other naive and fresh faced high school students. I imagined that one day, I would be snuggled in B&N’s cafe, with my feet tucked in the folds of a plush chair and my laptop resting on my bent knees, fulfilling a deadline of my lucrative writing career.
Now here I am ten years later, a decade later, in the same place that was a background to my dreams. But only now I feel that familiar feeling of something deep inside deflating. A half disappointment because I am not doing what I dreamed I would be. But the more I reflect in my special place, the more I realize that there are things that happened in between my high school days and post college adulthood. In the space between my dreams and the unmet expectations.
I learned how to fly. Then fail. I learned that I’m not so gracious with myself when I fail. I learned that I don’t know how to sit down. Even when faced with grief, I can’t be still. I learned that I’m not invincible. That I can bleed. I learned to be gentle with myself. I learned that I am worthy of being gentle with myself. I learned my patterns. I learned how to become a student of myself. I learned how to say no, how to sit down. I learned that I need to oil my scalp and take vitamins. That I carry things that should be left in the past. I learned that I need to walk light. I learned that being a wife is work, I learned that being a friend is work and they are both worth it. I learned that after four years of running, I am called to be an educator. I learned that being a writer and educator isn’t mutually exclusive. I learned how to fly in a different way.
What I’ve learned may not seem like much to you. But I know that this beautiful spiral of life, is a precursor to contentment. Loving myself is a precursor to contentment. And what are fulfilled dreams without contentment?
I also know that the space between now and my dreams narrow as I submit to the less glorious work of building. The dirty work of consistency. I am working on it and being gentle with myself as I do.
But as for now, I am here in my special place…writing. And it is offering me all of the assurance I need.
*Inspired by the poetry of nayyirah waheed