Because it was a public holiday yesterday, I ended up having a cooked brunch at one of the cafes up the road.
It was hectic and crowded there, and I was lucky to get a table. I watched the comings and goings while I waited for my omelette to arrive, the people coming in searching for a table, the people paying their bill as they left, and the waiters and waitresses weaving their way between them, taking orders and bringing meals and showing people to their table.
I’ve been in similar circumstances hundreds of times. I don’t know how many cooked breakfasts I’ve had in my life, but it’d be in the thousands of dollars worth. It’s always felt a treat, if not a downright and well-earned indulgence. Life was good if I could do such a thing.
I enjoyed it yesterday, but something else crept into my mind as I observed. By chance I looked up and saw my boss from work leave with another man, looking relaxed but professional as if they’d just conducted a meeting. We didn’t speak, and he didn’t see me, but perhaps it was the unexpected sighting of him that shifted my mind into another perspective.
There’s a guy at the cafe I always share a few words with. He’s the sort you often see around beach locales – tanned and relaxed, easy to smile and ready for a laugh. They take life at a different pace; it always seems to me, intent on living it on their terms. Often that’s related to a love of the ocean and the life that goes with it. Often they seem to be surfers – but maybe I’m inventing or imagining the whole trope. In any case, they’re people at peace with the world, and they exude chilled contentment.
I thought a little of the time, years back when I had some money to invest. At the time, I thought a bar or massage shop? I knew bars, so that was the preferred option, but I ended up with a massage shop – which I didn’t know – and that didn’t work out so well. What if, I mused, I had partnered up in a cafe like this instead?
What attracted me was the carefree nature of it. I know it’s far from carefree, especially having survived Covid, but it seemed a simpler equation at that moment. I could feel it, a basic yearning just to turn up in my shorts and a t-shirt and start serving people I could have a laugh and a conversation with. Just a job – a pleasing way to spend some time between doing what I really want to do. Whatever that is.
I know it’s an illusion, and that if I found myself in such a situation, I’d just as likely be yearning for something else. And that it’s just as likely that someone working in a cafe might covet my job. That’s the nature of human beings. However, I can only speak for my own mentality and something of this appeals – at my most jaded I actually dreamt of taking myself off to become a barista.
Instead, I do what I do. It may pay-off for me, but I doubt I’ll ever truly feel satisfied again. The day after learning of what appears a decent promotion, I felt deflated. The brief sugar hit at the news, and all it meant, gave way to another feeling altogether. Unfortunately, it seemed crushingly banal to me. What was the point of it? Money, yes, and I need it, more than I can say – but nothing to nourish me, nothing for the soul, no other value but dollars and cents.
I feel like I’m chained to the machine, but it probably happens to most of us some time. And perhaps that’s just the reality I never saw before because I was caught up in doing and achieving and the sheer competitive sense of it. They were drugs in my system I’ve been weaned off in the years since. Without them…
I’ve written variations on this dozen’s of times, but that’s why I keep posting it – because it remains true. It’s all about being free, I think – free to be yourself, free to follow that thing inside you, free to be big or small or however you want. I know I still have a hunger inside, but I’m coming to believe that this is a thing that life makes compromises of. I understand I do, especially given all I’ve gone through – but I keep coming back to it because I can’t quite come to terms with it. I can’t accept it, not yet.
I’ve been through hard times and lost a lot, but I’m also fortunate in general and more so than many people even now. This is what checks me. I don’t want to be ungrateful or greedy. I don’t want to be accused of hubris. And I sure as fuck don’t want to be whiny. We all have a duty to ourself though, and, for me, it means I want to understand – in the deep of me. That’s why I keep coming back to it. I can’t accept it until I make sense of it. That’s me – I need a reason.
Half of this is probably mid-life crisis sort of stuff. From what I can tell, it goes away eventually or at least eases. I suspect a good part of that is acceptance. I reckon, not that I know, that we accept that what we hoped for professionally and strove towards previously no longer applies, and doesn’t matter. It’s not that we find the satisfaction we lacked, but that it becomes irrelevant.
I hope that’s the case, but it’s a hard one to get my head around. I am, by nature, a committed character – even now. In my case, I think it’s only half the story – the rest being the bitter residue of grief and hard times. And personality – I’ve always been restless, always been daring, and always keen to try different and more. I’m by no means an addictive personality, but I understand how one can crave new highs as the old ones pale. For me, that was travel and living well, women and sex, and work as well. There’s little of that now.
Now I fight the urge to be irresponsible – to do something just to be doing something. The impulse to risk remains strong because I want to know what can be and how far I can go. And, because everything now seems small and unimportant. There’s no heft or scale, no blood in what I do. There’s always been a danger in this urge, and I have the scars to prove it – but I’ve had fun too, and tested myself, and made it interesting.
Not sure if it’s in me to fade away or to accept a smaller take on things – not in my current configuration. But then, if I’m sensible, there’s no real alternative. Yes, give me a reason – but give me passion to, cos I’ve lived without it for too long.