Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My First Day at UW Coffee Shop Becomes Family Reflection

So today I started at University Bookstore Cafe. Nice day overall. I took the bus there and I took the bus back. Bus rides are a pain and it makes the commute longer. As my parents and others probably know, a commute turn a 9-6 job into a 8-7 job. Oh well.

But I'd like to start off this reflection with my experience getting off the bus. It was raining but the sun was still shining as it set. I had my headphones on and I was listening to Lil B's "The Age of Information." The rain was very visible because of the direct and low lying sunlight. I was walking down a hill back to the house and had a strange feeling and some strange thoughts. I felt like I was somewhere that I hadn't been before, or that I was someone different than I had been before. I felt like I lived in Seattle and like I had a job in a coffee shop. I was walking down a hill in the rain with big headphones on just feeling different. Feeling like the moment was singular and that it was encasing me. It was defining everything that is happening to me right now. The rain. The first day in a coffee shop. The bus. The walk. The feeling is hard to really explain. Because it was so total. It was so singular and so all encompassing. I felt like something that I hadn't been before.

Then as I got to the bottom of the hill that song changed. Perhaps this caused a shift in my thought or perhaps the shift was coincidental, but my thoughts turned to my family. I'm further from them than I have ever been before. And for some reason in that moment it was more of a noticeable sensation than it had been in the past month. Perhaps my settling down in this area feels more concrete now that I have a job here. I was at that moment listening to How To Dress Well's song called 'Can't See My Own Face'. The song is clearly romantic and about love. But for some reason a certain line made me think of my family. The line went: "Whatever it takes just to make it through. I want you to know that I will always love you babe." Like I said, clearly romantic. But the point is that I love my family and i miss them. Shouts out to mom and dad in Farmville. Shouts out to my sister in Baltimore. Who knows what the hell I was doing moving out here.

And interestingly this is a question that I am asked often these days. People ask where I come from and I say oh I moved from Maryland to Seattle about four weeks ago. It hasn't even been four weeks. But what the hell am I doing? What the hell is happening? Not that I have some overwhelming sense of regret or some sense of panic about doing this. It is something I'm doing. Hard to say more than that. I took a shot moving out here. But a shot at what? A shot at a new life, a new social world, a new personal world. But what all of that will be like, how it will come about, what it will look like, what it will feel like, is all to be determined? I think that once I find an apartment I'll be a bit more grounded. Maybe. Tough to say what really is going on. What I'm really thinking or feeling. I just love my family. I've been far from them physically for the last four or five weeks. But today I felt far from them mentally. Working a whole day at a new job made it all feel realer. It made the space feel realer for some reason.

Dear family, I miss you, and I'm doing fine in Seattle. I suspect that the progress out here will be slow and steady. I'll work one day after another. Hopefully I'll make friends and become a better person. But I do regret being so far from you. With my ambition to move I hadn't quite realize what I was doing. How could I know what I was doing? It was a shot in the dark and I knew it. But now things are becoming a bit more illuminated out here. Life is starting to feel a little bit less surreal. The distance and the difficulty of seeing each other regularly is starting to feel more real. A regret, maybe, probably not. I suppose I have to keep going forward with my life. With what I'm doing, what I want to do, or at least what I think I want to do. Who knows where I'll end up.

But we'll keep talking.

This didn't really end up being about my time at work. I used a cash register. I rang people up. I learned how to heat up sandwiches, mini quiches, bagels, etc.. What a life? What a weird job and a weird feeling. I'll be getting barista trained by Caffe Vita, the location in Capitol Hill. That will come in the next week or so. Good stuff. A fascinating skill set to have.

Perhaps the only thing I know right now is that in five years I'll be able to tell people that after college I moved to Seattle and got trained as a barista. But for now I'll just have to keep living this life without being able to say exactly what it is that I'm doing.

As soon as I said that thing about what 'I know right now' I felt weird. I felt strange because it made it seem like I didn't know what to say. Or I didn't have anything to say. And my immediate thought was 'well I'm working on an essay right now where I'm certainly saying something'. So the question becomes this: What are these things that I know how to say and these things that I don't know how to say?

Because clearly the things that I'm writing about are about me. This essay I'm working on is called "The Science and Art of Minds: Theory and Practice in the Social World." I'm chasing down the problems/questions that I tried to tackle/raise in my essay "The Genealogy of the Modern Mind." And let me declare, quite emphatically, very seriously, that these essays are about me. I struggle with myself and my own mind, and these essays are me trying to sort all of this business out. These essays are me tackling myself. Trying to create myself.

So why do I find it so easy to think that these abstractions are somehow about me? Perhaps they make it easier to deal with life, with the physical distance between me and my family, the emotional distance between me and all these strangers. Perhaps the abstraction makes it easier to stomach all this. These real connections that are so far from me, and these new and nonexistent connections are all around me.

I'm loosing track. In short, I miss my family. I long for new social connections in this new place. And all of this feels very uncertain. Oh well, at least I have a job to fill much of my time now. Hopefully it doesn't get in the way with me finding an apartment.

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