Sitting in a Detroit cafe, I’m currently typing away as I listen to a trio of middle-aged men jokingly bicker about their orders getting switched. “I ordered the cheese!” “No, I swear it was me!” A pause as they continue chewing.
The silence breaks: “We’re good though.” And laughter commences.
I may be wrong, but something tells me that they’ve been friends for a while, a thought that puts a smile on my face as I sip my coffee, continue to type away and wait for my dad to pick me up from the A2D2 bus.
This year is the final one of my undergraduate career, and it seems like every passing day brings me closer and closer to a reality that simultaneously excites me but also frightens me: change. As a senior still recruiting for a full-time career (pity me!!!!), there’s a lot of ambiguity about what next year will look like. I have my goals: purposeful work, the Big Apple and frequent trips back home. Translating those goals into specificity is what’s proven to be difficult, and there’s an undeniable sense of anxiety in thinking about what will last after this hurricane of change takes place — what will remain in the eye of the storm? This train of thought isn’t necessarily comforting, which brings me to you. Or me, I should say. How are we? Let’s say it’s us 10 years from now. We’re at 31, letting everyone who’ll listen know that “actually, your thirties are the new twenties!”
Did we get that J.D.? Have we started the family? Do we see Sara, Rubab, Mama and Papa almost every other day? I wonder if we’ve grown tired of New York at some point, the city that we swore up and down since age 11 was made for us; the city that we knowingly nod about when someone says, “You just give New York vibes.”
InshAllah, there are some things that I know are true, simply because we’ll work to make them so. I’ll have my space and still see the Imtiaz clan frequently. I’ll get my J.D., because we told ourselves we would. Potlucks with Inaya and Mits may look different, but I know we’ll somehow find a way to bring an item from the classic menu every time. My friend Kat wrote about perceiving time in a non-linear sense, and, as always, her words have left an impact on me long after I initially read them. Apprehension of being on the precipice of capital A adulthood is understandable, but I’m trying to think that, barring unforeseen circumstances, we can always find a sense of stasis in any future universe. In a weird way, because I can see the future in this way, I’m determined to make it happen. So in writing to us, I know that maybe things aren’t picture perfect, rose-colored glasses, but I do know that things are. I think therefore I am, a really novel thought, right? Regardless, given that reality, we can keep on keeping on.
Suddenly, the record scratches.
I know we’ll have these cycles though. I wonder if we’ll still use every word beyond the it-word. Sad, melancholic, dejected (a personal fav), despondent, going on and on until the thesaurus.com suggestions expire. The reality remains that life will probably still be difficult as it will still be beautiful. We’ll call Marie in the wee hours of the night, and trade theories as to why it is that we think so much. Hopefully by then we won’t be so embarrassed of that fact.
Still, you and I will probably scoff at “Everything happens for the best,” and immediately correct it with “Everything happens.” The only control is yourself and your faith. Currently, I’ve come to learn that life hits us with various circumstances, good and bad. We aren’t guaranteed the Good Life, but we’re guaranteed life, the basis of which we can forge our reality from. Does that mentality change throughout the years for us? I’m sure the pendulum still swings back and forth, teetering between chasing what we want and accepting our reality. Shit, you’re just 31 — we’re still figuring it out.
In that sense, life is like people. Sixth-grade debate class had us argue the pressing question on Schoology posts, “Are humans inherently good or inherently bad?” We’d type away until meeting the minimum of three sentences and maximum of five, some arguing we’re born angelic, others claiming we’re naturally evil. Like some (not many) things, the answer is probably in the middle: we have the capacity to be both good and bad. And internalizing this perspective of free-will morality has helped me reframe any pessimism of how life sometimes just sucks. People, us included, can suck too! Why expect 100% perfection from our lives when we don’t always match up? In my perspective, we should simply try. Know the descriptive, and mold from the normative. Thank you, philosophy vocab list.
I wonder what happened with all that. When you read this later, you’ll know what I’m talking about… and I know, that you know, that I know. You’ll think, as I am right now, How am I so damn funny? I wonder how we’ll look back on it, in what way.
Things like our sense of humor will always keep us floating. The idea of listening to the perfect song while strolling through a city will always put a smile on our face. Walking into one of our imprinted coffee shops, we’ll stand in line waiting to buy overpriced coffee that Mama will shake her head at, trying not to laugh at something Grace said either years ago or yesterday. I hope it was yesterday. Once we’re at the register, we’ll take a lingering second to order: “Could I possibly get… wait, so what exactly is a cortado?” I ironically wonder if we’ve learned throughout the years to be less restless, less impatient, as we wait for our order. The coffee will come. The coffee will come. We’ll tap our hands against our phone case to the beat of some song we’re in love with until we hear our name pronounced even more creatively than the last 7,000 times. That’s what we get for using our government name, I guess.
After grabbing my things, I turn around, scan the room and find you. Or you all. Smile and sit, inevitably shuffling seats around because if it’s the CrustSquad group chat we’re already causing a public noise complaint. I bite into the warmed puff pastry on the table until maybe I also hear, “Eliya. You didn’t order the cheese one!”
A pause. Maybe a side eye or two.
And laughter commences.
MiC Managing Editor Eliya Imtiaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.