Somewhere Different Now (Day #59)

He was exactly where I left him, a year ago.  Sitting in that corner chair, a laptop in his lap.

I don’t know his name. I should, because he’s given it to me, probably more than once. But the name, his real name, never stuck.  In my head, he’s always been Starbucks Guy.

He’s a pretty amazing person, Starbucks Guy.  He has a B.A., a B.S., an M.D., a J.D., and an M.B.A.  I kid you not.  And what is he doing now?  Writing movie scripts.  Or trying to, anyway.  I’m pretty sure he’s been working on the same script since the day I met him, more than two years ago.

When I first started writing daily, Starbucks was my office. I’d get up every morning at 4:30, get ready for work, and be standing outside Starbucks when they opened at 5:30. I’d get my Venti drip, set up shop in my favorite corner chair, and write for four straight hours.  It was the most productive I’ve ever been in my entire life.

I loved it.

When 9:30 rolled around, I’d pack my things and head to the office where I’d play lawyer for the rest of the day. I wasn’t distracted, thinking about the script I was working on, because I’d already given my script four solid, uninterrupted, intensely productive hours, and that was enough. Plus, I knew I could pick up where I left off the next morning.

That was my routine for months. I did the same exact thing every day. Same chair, same drink, same schedule. Each day looked like the one before it.

Starbucks Guy had his own routine. He’d roll in around 8:00, spend a few minutes (or an hour) chatting with the other Starbucks regulars and then start writing.

We saw each other every day.  And even though we didn’t really know each other — not really — we were part of each other’s lives.  And though we were different, we were the same.  We both were writers who spent a large chunk of each day at Starbucks.  We both had day jobs (Starbucks Guy is a biotech consultant).  We both were writing with the aim of eventually getting paid to do it.  We both liked the comfy leather chairs in the corner.

Eleven months ago, I stopped going to Starbucks in the mornings.  While I didn’t have horrible morning sickness, I had enough of it to throw me off my game for a few weeks.  I slept later.  Drank (much) less coffee.  Wasn’t as productive in the early mornings.

My pregnancy forced me to put my routine on hold, and by the time I was over the morning sickness and the first trimester malaise, I was ready for a new one.

And now, post-pregnancy, my routine has shifted again. From schedule to lack thereof.  These days, I don’t know what my day will look like when I wake up in the morning. I know that Lil Mil will get up some time between six and seven.  That she’ll want to eat, play, then go back down.  I know that roughly twelve hours later, she’ll be ready for bed. The time in between is pretty much anybody’s guess.  What worked yesterday won’t always work today.  Some days she’ll be cranky if we stay at home. Other days she’ll fuss if we’re gone for too long.  Sometimes she’ll take three naps. Other days it’s only two.

Because I can no longer count on having four solid hours every morning (even typing those words makes me laugh), I’ve had to adapt my writing process.  I’ve had to learn to write in the dark, while breastfeeding, with one hand, in bed.  I’ve had to learn to be productive at night, which was never my thing.  I’ve had to give up the early morning gold.  I still work at Starbucks sometimes, but I can’t sit in my favorite chair anymore because there’s no place to put my stroller. And more often than not, by the time we get there, it’s too crowded, anyway.  So these days, I get my drink to go.

Yesterday was one of these days.  Lil Mil and I were in the car, on our way home from the drugstore.  She was falling asleep, so I decided to pick up a latte to take home with me.  As we were waiting for my drink, I looked over at my favorite chair.

There he was. Exactly where I saw him last.   Sitting in his favorite chair, the one next to mine.

The truth is, I have no idea what’s going on in Starbucks Guy’s world.  He could be on a detour of his own right now.  His life could’ve shifted dramatically in the last year. But as I stood there, holding Lil Mil in my arms, waiting for my half-caf soy latte, trying to ignore the puddle of drool on my neck, he looked exactly the same as he used to.

I pictured myself sitting next to him, dressed in heels and slacks, hair shorter and sleeker, sipping on my second Venti drip.

I was so productive then.  I got so much done every day.

I smiled at the memory of my pre-baby self.

I am so much happier now.

I thought I was happy then.  Happy enough.  I wasn’t content with where I was, but I liked where I was headed.  My path felt purposeful.  I was progressing.  Those mornings at Starbucks were getting me someplace.

Then came the baby-shaped monkey wrench, knocking me off track.

I dreaded this detour.  I created this project in an effort to micromanage it.  I assumed I would need this blog to process and deal with my post-partum view of things (i.e., my career, my future, myself), which I assumed would be ambivalent at best.  I expected to look back on my pre-baby life and mourn the loss of its defining moments. My mornings at Starbucks.  My evenings at the gym.  My productivity.  My freedom.

But as I stood there yesterday, remembering my Starbucks days, I realized how very wrong I was.  I am not ambivalent about my life.  I am happy.  Not happy enough.  Not happy for now.  Just:  happy.

Don’t get me wrong – I am objectively less productive these days.  I am crawling through this novel of mine.  My to do list stays untouched for weeks.  I still don’t know what I’m going to do when my maternity leave is over, whether I’ll have to go back to work as a lawyer or whether I’ll find someone to pay me to do what I love.  There are things I wish were different, things I want to change.

But I’d rather be here than there.

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(Has there been a detour you’ve dreaded that has turned out to be better than the path you left?  Are you happier here than you were there?  Do you ever wonder what one of those Starbucks chairs would look like under an ultraviolet light?)

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