I’m back! You may not remember me. A decade has passed since the last time I was here. You may also not remember me because you’re a coffee shop, not a living, breathing being with the ability to remember. You can’t even read this article. I digress.
Last time we met, I was 15(ish). In true teenager fashion, I’d just gotten into an argument with my parents. They wanted me to go to Durrës, the nearest beach, with them.
We spent a good portion of our summer weekends there when we were kids, hanging out with my parents’ friends and their kids.
But that particular Sunday, I wasn’t having it. I wanted to stay in the city and convinced my parents to do so.
I came to see you, café! Most people hate the uncharacteristically quiet city in the summer, it does feel stripped of its usual motion and vividness, yet I enjoyed it. Still do. The sun feels different, more personal? I don’t know.
I didn’t let my friends know I was around and able to hang out on my one day of freedom.
Nope, I came to see you.
The colors of that day are still very vivid in my memory: the backless shirt with the black and white stripes, my extremely tan back because I had yet to learn about the importance of sun protection back then. I was also still flirting with the idea of not wearing a bra, but not fully committed so I wore my black bralette. Cream-colored leather chairs. The contrast of my dark chocolate souffle and the vanilla ice cream on the side. I carried my sky-blue notebook in this big, shiny orange bag I had. I came to see you, illiterate café, and wrote, people-watched, and had my souffle.
The memory of this day stuck with me and I finally returned to see you. Back here, it feels like nothing has changed, even though everything has.
You know those days, the ones where nothing spectacular or tragic happens, that our brains do an amazing job at throwing out because they hold no value to us? Yet some of the least noteworthy days fall through the cracks. They stick with us like my day alone in the city when I was 15. I call these “cracks” and believe we become us during them.
I’ve actually covered this extensively in The greatest COVID-19 anxiety reduction strategy of all time:
I used to think that the way to build strength wasn’t during everyday tasks, but during personal catastrophes, sickness, breakups, layoffs, instabilities.
Yet, when I’m sick or when life gets wild and uncontrolled, that light bulb goes off in my head. The light bulb tells me that the reason I, a self-proclaimed strong person, feel generally happy most of the time and ready to deal with difficulties, isn’t because I persevere in the face of emotional storms or knockout blows. The reason I’m strong and happy is because I’ve built a healthy baseline optimism.
Your baseline optimism is the general level of optimism you’ve built and maintain throughout your everyday life whether good or bad things happen to you. This looks vastly different for different people.
I don’t know if you think strength is only built in the face of adversity and there’s no way that how we handle our mundane everyday tasks is how we handle disasters, whether natural, at work, in our families or in our relationships.
But I believe that, like many other good things, building strength is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no one size fits all cure. I’m always investing in that metaphorical bank account because I know that the magic is in the little things, and I know that when I’ll look back, the dots will connect to form a spectacular view.
It’s the little things. You know this. I know this.
Yet it’s so hard to remember it when we’re so strongly, frequently, and collectively pushed towards milestones as proof of our worth and success.
In the cracks, in the lonely/random/mundane in-betweens, in how we show up beyond our jobs and houses and close relationships and social capital, in who we are when no one’s watching, in how well we sleep at night, that’s how we become us.
And I’m proud of you. I see and celebrate the journey of becoming you.