am sitting at a coffee shop on Broome and Centre and it has occurred to me that this is how so many of my stories start — with me sitting at a coffee shop, writing that I am sitting at a coffee shop. On this particular day, I am accompanied by a triple shot oat milk latte (16 ounces because I go hard) with a tablespoon of cocoa powder (again, because I go hard) and the caffeine has just kicked in. This, right now — the shuffling between my phone and computer, scrolling fecklessly through Instagram, but also refreshing my inbox, visiting my photo library and trying to write this story but having my cogs intercepted, feeling slightly like my head is spinning around my neck while my fingers maniacally type nothing — is my brain on caffeine.
If it sounds like a nightmare, I offer that this is the best part of my day, every day. I am intoxicated by it all, feeling like the world is my oyster and I am both its pearl and the water that facilitates its vitality. A true 360-experience that makes me uniquely self-sufficient and therefore empowered and especially free. Ah, freedom! I am veritably addicted. But this assertion comes with a contradictory caveat because it has come to my attention that for as much as I love coffee, I think I actually hate coffee. Without the bells and whistles, it’s just a bleak cup of a blackhole. Who knows if there’s a bottom. It’s harsh to look at and especially to consume. Like the current news cycle or something.
I’m sorry if that’s offensive — there are purists out there who enjoy the flavor of a cup of black coffee, who get out of bed just to achieve it and if I’m being really honest, I admire you. I think you’re having a much easier time confronting adulthood than I am because what I love is actually a milkshake.
I have been known to leave coffee shops for not carrying oat milk or hazelnut syrup. I went through a phase of drinking street-cart coffee because they serve non-dairy, flavored creamer. I frequent only the cafes that I know carry a parade of dessert lattes: salted caramel, maple spice, Nutella. And when I am really in a bind, I crush bits of an oatmeal raisin cookie into my drink and wait for the sweetness to cut the bitter beans. Of course I understand that adding sugar to anything will, by definition, make it sweeter, but these shakes also offer a sense of fantastical escapism. A sweet morning beverage lets me feel like a kid with agency, ordering dessert for dinner, but better because it’s breakfast, and no one is trying to stop me. As a matter of fact, they’re encouraging me. The drink exists on a menu from which I am prompted to choose, doesn’t it? It’s a fantasy, really, but better, because it’s real.
Does anyone else feel this way? To answer this question, I took to Instagram and asked the followers of my personal account if they are avid consumers of the sweet morning beverage. What I received in return was a resounding yes to the tune of at least 300 replies, many of which extolling a sentiment akin to my feeling like a kid. Some responses likened a sweet morning beverage to a morning cocktail, adult dessert, the feeling of being home, still under the care of your parents. Most of the responses that cited this hankering to feel like a dependent free from the burden of responsibility, couldn’t explain why, but in my view, that’s exactly it. Our sweet drinks free us from the grim matter — employment, taxes, managing our own dentist appointments — that move us away from the flame of innocent, joyful youth by reminding us that even when we think its been extinguished, it’s still there.
Growing up is scary as hell. Every time I have to make an adult decision, which I define as one that carries a ripple effect that will inform and impact the subsequent decisions in a specific order of consequences, I feel like I’m standing on one leg on a deserted island trying to figure out how to maintain balance, desperate to make it to mainland and yelling “Help!” at the high volume of boats zipping past me who definitely see me but won’t stop to rescue me. If I luxuriate in this vision, I can throw myself into a pretty severe anxiety spiral that nets out near death, taxes and dentist appointments, but I’m getting really sick of indulging these voices. It’s boring and unpleasant and fruitless and now that I’m like, two months away from turning 30 and I have two kids and I don’t regret drinking dessert for breakfast, I’m willing to acknowledge that yeah, it is scary as hell, but it’s also a privilege (after all, if you don’t grow up that means that time is not passing, and if time is standing still, you’re not living). So I have a choice, right? I can either continue to resist or I can embrace it; grab those fucking taxes by the horns and turbo the shit out of them.
Without implanting these blips of suspension that make us feel reckless in a good way to remind us that this, right now, is life, and that if we get too caught up in trying to secure our ducks in a perfectly aligned row we might miss it, we do miss it. And what a tragedy that is.
After 1,000 words, I think I’m finally getting it: Here I have spent the sum of my twenties pitching and writing about, around and because of coffee, while in the presence of coffee, and all this time I thought I was actually writing about coffee when, in effect, I have been trying to put words to the experience of growing up against your will because I have made myself believe that doing so necessitates abandoning our inner children and the flame of youth that ignites them. But I’m so sick of trying to “get through” stuff to re-find the flame. Sometimes I feel like a hurdle jumper whose crotch keeps getting caught on the hurdles because I’m running too fast but not jumping high enough. I’d rather just slow the fuck down. Where am I going anyway? The track is life. The dentist appointment is life. The boats can’t rescue me because they are me and I’ve been too caught up in resistance to see that this is life. The latte makes it so much sweeter.
Photos by Heidi’s Bridge.