I spent my Thanksgiving Sunday sitting in a coffee shop. Reading, observing, and drinking a new coffee blend. Celebrating Thanksgiving on a Friday with my family this year left the whole weekend open for my choosing. I worked every evening, but had the mornings and afternoons to myself, and I’ve never had so much free time.
Sunday, I strolled passed a coffee shop that I’ve been meaning to always try, Dineen Coffee. It’s not a corporate coffee shop, so it’s a comfortable atmosphere. I was surrounded by others typing away at their laptops, reading, listening to music.
Do you ever feel awkward sitting down in a restaurant by yourself? It takes a while to get over whatever socially unacceptable rule that is against it. I remember during my first solo trip, I realized that I would be faced with having to eat alone in a restaurant.
I was in Faro, Portugal. I had just gotten off the plane, settled into my hostel, and I was on my way to venture throughout the city. I ended the afternoon by finding a surfer’s cafe on the beach and asking for a table for one, before I sat and had a meal by myself. Foolish, isn’t it? That this actually crosses your mind in a foreign city where literally no one knows who you are, that you could feel any embarrassment. I remember texting my cousin who had travelled to Spain the year before and asking her if she had felt the same. And her words to me, “you are on the beach in Portugal. You can feel nothing other than excited right now.”
I found a lot of comfort in this, especially since I was travelling for at least 3 weeks on my own that summer. Even with this new found confidence, fast forward 2 years later, and yesterday was the first day I ever sat down and had a meal and read a book alone in a cafe.
Peacefully, my Sunday afternoon was spent in a coffee shop reading a book. I’m reading Tuesday’s with Morrie. It’s about a university professor who was diagnosed with ALS and has limited time. The book is organized as his life is the final project, and he spends every Tuesday teaching a former student everything about life from his experience. I can’t seem to put this book down. It makes me miss my grandparents, it makes me cautious of how I spend my time, and makes me ponder what I am choosing to study, and why.
A line that really stuck with me was early on in the book:
“The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy into it.”
I believe this to be relevant to my life today, and the somewhat battle we have with going against the status quo to balance happiness and stability. It’s finding the right career path for yourself. The right career path meaning, a job that you love with great colleagues with a promising salary. Seems like the impossible, but sometimes, you have to sacrifice one for the other. It doesn’t have to be permanent, either.
Facing new and uncomfortable situations help us grow. Whether it’s as extreme as travelling on your own, or eating alone in a coffee shop; we find the balance. And whatever the equation is that solves that for you may be different than the person beside you. It’s about finding it and doing your best to share it.