Change is Like a Cup of Coffee
Change is a funny thing. Some of us crave it. Others of us are so terrified of it, we’d rather be frozen in place, even if the place we’re stuck in is objectively shit. But what molds one person into being a risk-taking change seeker is the same thing that causes someone else to live their lives in a sad little bubble of their own making.
Think about it. Half of us rock the boat as little as possible to stave it off as long as we can, while the other half of us rock the boat as hard as possible on the off chance that death will come scraping his sickle at our front doors tomorrow. But are any of us - no matter the camp we fall in - really living in the meantime?
Angela laughed at herself.
“Are we really living, man?”
Is this what she’d been reduced to? Recording voice memos of hippie platitudes into her iPhone while staring at the ceiling at 2 AM? She’d never get to a Ted Talk stage at this rate.
But it’s true, what Heraclitus said, she thought.
“The only constant in life is change.”
So why was she trying so hard to control it? She, more so than most, should recognize that this was an exercise in futility. It was her job to coach other people on their lives.
“Live in the radical now,” she’d say. “Live as if death does not exist, measuring life in feelings, not minutes. Not time to fill, or use, or waste. Just time to live.”
The problem with that, she was discovering, is that time moved much more slowly in the woods, and the quiet here had settled over everything, resting on her chest like a heavy stone. She missed the whir of sirens and angry car horns. Cricket chirping at night was Musetta’s Waltz, but the city was Purple Haze. She missed the rock and roll.
As she drifted off to an uneasy sleep, she dreamt of a long corridor with a bright red door at the end.
“Angela...” it whispered.
She walked toward it but didn’t seem to get any closer no matter how many steps she took. It was like walking on the moving pathway in the airport, but in the wrong direction. She gazed down at her feet and noticed that she was not standing on a floor at all. Rather, she was in the sky, gazing down upon her new cabin in the woods.
“Huh,” was all she said before taking her next step, which sent her falling through the air and straight toward the forest floor. She tried to scream, but her voice caught in her throat. Just before she hit the ground, she woke with a start. A particularly loud songbird cooed outside her window.
“Moving here was a mistake,” Angela told her mother over Zoom. “People buy second houses in upstate New York because it’s nice to be here on weekends, not live here permanently. I know I wanted peace and quiet, but all I have is the silence.”
“It’s only been three months, honey. Give it time. Use this challenge as inspiration for your next seminar.”
Angela rolled her eyes. “Easier said than done. I’m not sure I’ve learned anything other than I’ve made a complete mess of my life.”
“Some people would be quite happy to be in that ‘mess’ of yours, Angie. A home in a beautiful place and a stable job that helps change people’s lives. What would you tell a client in your position?”
“Hhnn..” Angela sighed deeply before responding, “It’s all about perspective.”
“There you go,” her mother said, with her soft smile.
“But I feel like a fraud.”
“Explore that feeling then, darling. See what it’s trying to tell you.”
Having a therapist for a mother often exhausted Angela, even if she was right…which, most times, she was.
“Okay,” she said, “I love you.” Then she clicked the red x in the corner and watched the little square containing her mother’s encouraging face disappear from view.
She’d chosen to be a life coach because she was good at ticking boxes off lists. Knew what was expected and how to get there. She loved a good five-year plan. Therapy was about emotions, but life coaching was about concrete results. And that’s the way she’d liked it. At least, until now.
“I’ve got news – we’ve maxed out at 500 attendees since the feedback was so great from your last program. It practically sold itself, Ang. Have you thought of the title yet? We need to get it to the designer by end of day so he can mock up the programs and signage.”
Angela’s heart pounded in her chest. She gazed out the window, attempting to steady herself with the serene naturescape outside her door, but it only made her anxiety worse. She felt isolated. Trapped. The backs of her knees sweat.
She glanced at her empty mug.
“Sorry, Joy. Um, I think change is like a cup of coffee. I…” Angela would have continued to try to talk out of her ass, but her manager interrupted.
“Change. Is. Like. A. Cup. Of. Coffee.” Joy said, repeating the words with aplomb.
“Of course! I’ll let Mary Rose know and she’ll send you the renderings by Friday. One month until you impart all that fresh air wisdom to us high strung city folk. Chat soon!”
That little sound of that call ending was the sweetest thing she’d heard all day, maybe since she’d moved out here altogether. Sure, it looked romantic and amazing online when people sold all their stuff and traveled the world or moved to tiny houses. But now that she’d done it – and her 2500 square foot A-frame in the Hudson Valley was far from roughing it – she realized how stupid she’d been. Of course it looked great on the Internet. Nothing there is real. It’s all stories and curations and outright lies. She’d done all this – uprooted her life – just because she felt stuck and decided she needed a change.
“It will be good for the business,” she’d said to Joy. “If I want my clients to be brave, I need to lead by example.”
She should have just gotten bangs like a normal person.
That evening, Angela wrapped herself in her favorite oversized sweater and went for a walk along the creek that ran through her backyard. It led to a river somewhere, perhaps a big one like the Hudson itself, but she hadn’t given it much thought until now.
“Change is like a river, maybe…winding, unpredictable, raging one minute and quietly gurgling the next. I could have made that work. But change is like a cup of coffee? My ability to completely screw myself apparently knows no bounds.”
She continued berating herself for some time, until she looked up and realized she hadn’t a clue where she’d wandered. She was so caught up in her thoughts that she wasn’t paying attention to where she was walking, and now, she was in the middle of the woods as the sun was beginning to set.
She placed her hand on a nearby tree for support. “Take a deep breath,” she told herself, before looking in all directions for something, anything she’d recognized. In truth, she hadn’t spent as much time learning about her new home or the wilderness lifestyle as she should have by now. She felt like a New York City skyscraper in a field of trees. Exposed and out-of-place. In the not-so-far-off distance, she swore she heard branches cracking.
“Hello?!” Angela called into the space around her, growing darker with each passing minute.
And then, a shuffling of bushes behind her.
Angela did not turn around to find out the source of the noise. She ran as fast as her new Chelsea boots allowed, not knowing where she was going accept forward. No time to second-guess or equivocate, her focus was singular.
When the blister on her heel and the stich in her side became too unbearable, she collapsed to the ground and stared at the dirt, panting on all fours. Eventually, she caught her breath and turned over to lean against a tree. This time, in the not-so-far-off distance, she saw the star pendant light she’d hung at her front door. It shone like a beacon for her and she began to laugh.
Angela laughed and laughed until she lost her breath again, and then laughed some more at the thought of the sight of herself.
“If anyone walked by right now, they’d probably think I’d completely lost my mind. Hell…maybe I have.”
And then she sat with these feelings for a while, just like her mother urged her to do. By the time she made her way inside, she was eager for something warm. She put a pot of coffee on and as she waited for it to brew, she realized for the first time that feeling lost didn’t feel so bad. In fact, it made her feel alive.
“Who knows what will happen next?” she asked to an empty kitchen.
“Four months ago, I decided to leave the city behind for the Hudson Valley. I thought I was seeking a lot of things…peace, space and, above all, change. But when I got there, nothing was as I’d imagined. It was lonely, there were spiders and the WiFi was spotty. I struggled to find the inspiration I’d sought and felt more stuck than when I’d left. I missed the city, my friends, and my bagel guy – especially my bagel guy.”
Quiet laughter rolled through the crowd.
“Until one night, I wandered into the woods and quite literally got lost. A harrowing run from a bear (that was in hindsight was much more likely to be a confused squirrel or someone’s lost dog) made me feel terrified, but giddy. It made me feel free, but focused. And then, it hit me. That’s how change should make you feel. Because change is like a cup of coffee. It wakes you up. The question is, what will you do now that you’re no longer sleeping?”
Angela turned to the screen behind her, pressing the clicker to reveal a pensive photo of herself sipping coffee amidst a forest of tall pine trees.