What do you do if you have one measly day in one of the world’s most fantastic cities?
You go to a coffee shop and write.
At least, that’s what I did two weeks ago when I was in the city and found myself wondering what life would be like if I lived here. So I decided to do whenever and wherever I am: I find the nearest spot where I can order a hot drink and park myself for a few hours among some strangers.
The place I stumbled upon, Stumptown Coffee, had an odd name but a huge line, so I guessed their cappuccinos were most likely up to the standards of the many literary voices and writers who’ve passed through its doors.
As I looked around at the NYU students eagerly catching up on their assignments, the writers lost in thought, their faces lit up by their computer screens, the foreign visitors pouring over their travel guides written in Mandarin, I decided I’d park it for a while here, catch up on my people-watching (it’s kind of a weird hobby of mine—thanks, mom), and pop open my laptop and—Gasp!—write something.
I should clarify that: I mean write something that is not my dissertation.
I put on my headphones, found a playlist of happy indie music, and got to work. I pretended I was a real New York writer, with a dedicated agent, a fancy publisher, a big book deal and plans to traverse the nation talking about my amazing new memoir. I should mention that I don’t often daydream about these things, partly because I’m always so insecure and busy that I hardly ever give myself the time to daydream, to imagine other possibilities, to let my mind drift to places I’d forgotten existed.
I felt like I was twenty again, stepping into my first creative writing classes, getting my first passport photo taken, wondering what in the world was in store for my young life. Then, I used to daydream. When we grow up, we all too often push those thoughts aside, make ourselves get back to the business of being smart professionals with illustrious careers (or at least serviceable ones). But we don’t often let ourselves imagine what we could do if we just had the time, just had the money, just had the freedom, just had the (INSERT NOUN HOLDING YOU BACK HERE). Now, ten years later, I found myself sitting at this perfect little coffee shop full of intelligent, creative people, and I was daydreaming again.
Of course, I should mention that being twenty wasn’t all glory and glitter, and that in-between feeling very out-of-place and weird most of the time, I had absolutely no clue whatsoever what I was going to do with my life. The only thing I was convinced of at the time was that I knew I wanted it to be something special.
I still don’t really know what the purpose of life is, but I still know that I want it to be something special. Maybe I don’t need a swanky book deal with a big New York publisher. Maybe it’s something else, instead. I don’t know—but at least I should keep myself open to the possibilities. Maybe that’s what adulthood should teach us: to be more open to the possibilities.
I went to the beautiful Big Apple for an interview, but though I didn’t leave with an employment contract, I left having reconnected with a “me” that I’d long buried underneath grading piles of students papers, writing freelance articles, and just plain getting through the hectic daily grind. I’d thought the job I was applying for would give me that–would free me from the monotony of writing a dissertation and being a poor graduate students–but perhaps all I needed was a day there. Maybe, at least for now, I don’t belong in New York. And that, I’m learning, is OK.
The morale of all this? I’ve decided that more of us should park it in busy coffee shops in Greenwich Village from time to time.
Yours in travel,