May 18, 2011

Once and Future

I'm 23 years old now, and I guess I feel it, although I have to confess ignorance as to what exactly that means. I am 23, and I feel as I do, so I suppose I feel 23. That's logical, but it seems to be missing something. When people talk about feeling their age, they talk about certain aches and pains, certain feelings triggered by hormones in flux, or perhaps a now fleeting memory. That is, they talk about their age implying certain experiences. And they say that they are having those experiences; thus, they are feeling their age. 

I'm 23, and part of that, I think, is anxiety about the future. I'm supposed to be fretting about the job market, about debts to be payed off, and debts yet to be created. There will be no social security for me, no government net to catch me if I fall on hard economic times. And let's face it, that's the trajectory many of us are on. There are no jobs. The jobs there are don't pay. We are a generation with no anticipation of financial success. We will either pursue it regardless, ducking our heads under a hail of paperwork, our cubicles as trenches, or we will accept our defeat with panache, opting instead for a life of masturbatory self fulfillment. 

I think that's what it is to feel 23, to eye the swirling maelstrom, wondering how we might navigate it. No one really expects to get through it; you just want to keep your head above water for as long as possible. But if that's what 23 is supposed to be, it's not what I'm experiencing. I'm generally pleased, which is not the same as apathetic. I care about a lot of things; but caring does not require endless neurosis. 

I've got my coffee gig, and right now, I'm happy with that. I get to work with ingredients I enjoy preparing, consuming, and learning about. And I get to share them with swarms of people a day, a captive audience for my conversational indulgences. I have goals as well: to make a better drink that I ever have before and the best drink a given customer has enjoyed, to improve my latte art from passable to exemplary, and to do a more consistent job of wiping off counters. 

But you can't do that forever, people say. And they're right, most likely. But no one does anything forever. Certainly, no one sticks with the first "real" job they get right out of college forever. Things change. Life happens. Maybe I'll be a barista until I'm dead. Maybe that will be in 80 years; maybe I'll get hit by a bus tomorrow. Maybe I'll own a cafe, or work for a roasting company, or source beans, or do any number of coffee related things. Maybe this blog will blow up, and I'll have book deals and sponsorships galore (but probably not). Or maybe someday I'll decide that cubicle looks awfully comfortable, that the hail of paperwork looks more like a light spring shower. 

I don't know, and there's no way of knowing. But that shouldn't be cause for anxiety. Ignorance is bliss, after all. So yes, I'm 23. Yes, I work at a coffee bar. And yes, I'm quite happy with that.

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