One of my favorite parts of my job is that every few days, I get to hole up in a coffee shop somewhere working, writing, and learning. It’s how I would spend my life whether I had a job or not, so the fact that I’m required to do it is simply brilliant on God’s part.
I try to go to the same coffee shop every Monday. I want to say that’s because I’ve built up relationships with the workers there or something super idealistic and missional like that, but I always try to be entirely honest when it comes to the Internet. (That’s not true at all: I absolutely appreciate a flattering camera angle and forgiving filter.) However, I feel obliged to tell you that I go to that particular coffee shop once a week because I think one of the baristas is cute. I’m pretty noble, I know.
Today I was sitting at one of those long community tables. I like to do that sometimes. It is probably irritating to large parties coming in who find themselves crammed around a table meant for two, but I absolutely adore strangers and those long community tables allow me to eavesdrop on said strangers much more conveniently.
Today as I was sitting at the long table, an old man approached and said, “I know you’re studying, but would you mind if we shared this table with you?” (I was not studying. I am not in school. I was even wearing a blazer – a blazer – to appear more like a grown up, but this is my lot in life, I suppose. I digress.) I said I indeed did not care at all and “dove right back into my book,” (aka, I halfheartedly glossed over the pages while my brain was consumed with their relationship and conversation.)
The two old men sat side by side directly in front of me and, after some forced and awkward small talk about the art on the walls, apparently forgot my presence as they progressed into an extremely personal conversation.
The first old man spoke of how he still feels like a college student – how he thinks we latch onto one part of our lives and continue to live in that mindset for the rest of our years. We may continue to learn and grow, but that one small section is how we see ourselves and compare ourselves til the end.
“I wanted to become a professor for a long time just so that I could be a part of university life again.”
He talked about his recent divorce.
“I will never get a fifty year anniversary,” he says, as if realizing it himself for the first time.
His friend replies, “If you can love again, that’s good enough.”
The old man says his daughter asked if he still loved her mom.
“You can’t love for very long without feeling loved back.”
I had to leave. I felt guilty for being there, for listening. Usually those conversations are so harmless – what did you do today, what’s wrong with your boss, omg how annoying is your roommate though right??
This was different. This was real. Regretful. Honest.
And I didn’t like hearing that.
Maybe I like masks? Maybe I say I love honesty and expressing emotions and sharing your story, but when push comes to shove I am like every other millennial – comfortable behind a screen, unable to show or appreciate true heart and soul communication. Maybe I only like stories when they end in hope.
I hope not.
I was also scared for a moment. For a brief second, as I packed up my things and walked away, I was convinced I needed to make a life plan so that my conversations in forty years would not mirror the one I had just witnessed. And then I laughed.
Thank you, two old men. Thank you for helping me realize that sometimes life just happens. We can plan all we want and situations will come and people will go and life will continue. And I will continue to sin and God will continue to forgive. And I will continue to work and dream and pray and God will continue to say yes and no and wait. And I will continue to disappoint people and they will continue to disappoint me. And I will continue to love people and they will continue to love me. And I will continue to choose to enjoy every stage of life I am in and I will continue to look back on past stages with a sense of content nostalgia.
And if at the end of it all, I have an old friend who I can sit with and enjoy a cup of coffee and a good conversation, then I think I’m probably doing okay.
This life isn’t all we have anyway.
So for all you people who plan: that’s awesome; keep it up.
For all you people who don’t: that’s awesome; keep it up.
Happy living, folks:)