There were more employees in the restaurant than patrons. One man sat in the corner occupied with the business on his cell phone, and there was a lady on the other side of the glass from my table. It wasn’t the same lady during my time but there was a lady. Workers in black t-shirts mopped and arranged chairs while a manager-looking gentleman assorted menus.
It was raining, relentlessly. In Lesotho rain quiets the village and all stop what they are doing. They hide under sheets of metal or in thatched-roofed huts and watch it come. Not in an American city. There is not time for standing and observing. One must get to the next place and so you hurry, hurry, rain or no rain, umbrella or no umbrella.
My book and journal were pulled out but I couldn’t look at either. I chomped on my grilled veggie sandwich was not at all worth what I paid for it.
This is not where I had expected to be.
That morning I had decided that I didn’t want to come home right away after work and thought about what I could do instead. I decided on spending time in a coffee shop with a book and my journal – time for some good soul searching. I love coffee shops and the possibility they hold. I’ve spent so many hours hidden in booth scrambling away at my dreams and aspirations. In Brookings and Sioux Falls, often someone I know would walk through the door opening more ideas and ambitions. Maybe this city is big and unexplored to me, but I always know I can find comfort in a café.
I picked a place that was a block away from an event I was attending and, while walking there, thought about stopping somewhere else because I know I could get food there and I wasn’t going to be home for quite awhile. No, no, I thought, I need to go to this specific place because, you know, possibility.
When I arrived, every seat was taken. The barista, talking to his friend who always happens to be there when I am, did not seem to care at my dumb luck so I walked out. I saw something across the street that I thought could be an OK place for my reading and writing and would have food. However, I spent more than I wanted and the environment was not comfortable or soothing.
I didn’t want to be there, but my meal was already paid for.
This is not where I expected to be.
Usually, in these moments, I hold on to the belief that something is bigger at play and that’s why my expectations are turned on their head and crushed like ants. When we were evacuated from Niger, my friend Annette said that she better meet her husband at her next post and I’ve sort of lived this idea that if I can’t get what I want that’s is because something is special is about to come my way. So, I couldn’t be at the coffee shop that I wanted to be, where I thought I find some kind of calm and reassurance, then surely something grand was about to happen because my plan had been detoured.
But nothing special happened.
I had an OK meal that was more than I should’ve spent. I wrote in my journal with a few tears. I read my book. I did not interact with anyone other than the cashier and the manager-looking guy. Nothing special happened.
Nothing special happened.
I’ve been living my life for the last two years as if every moment means something grand and specific to my overall journey, but life isn’t like that. Not always, at least. There are teachable moments in frustration and disappointment, and maybe mine here is that dropped expectations don’t always indicate something else, but they will likely not all be memorable or presented on a laminated poster that is often found in a school or doctor’s office.
That’s fine, though. Sometimes you eat crappy sandwiches in places that you don’t particularly enjoy and you move on. We can’t get what we want, even if that is a big lesson and realization when we don’t get what we want.
I will likely never be where I expected – I did not expect to be in Lesotho, I did not expect to be in DC – but my life is much more interesting when I am not the one calling the shots. Hopefully, at some point, I will stop resisting and flow with whatever life hands me, and I am trying to get there.
Till, then, I guess I will eat some crappy sandwiches, which really weren’t that crappy because I love all sandwiches. There is a lot worse things I could be doing and spending my money on, so if a less-than spectacular coffee shop visit is what I get then I am really doing quite marvelously.