I used to sit in the window of the same Starbucks on New York’s Upper East Side, morning after morning.
I watched the crowds go by; couples holding hands, girls laughing and children on their way to school.
I just watched. I wondered what it would be like to be a part of the everyday hustle bustle.
How would it feel to just jump right in?
There were so many options in that moment! I could spontaneously take the bus over to the museum, grab my yoga mat and try a new studio, or just take a walk with no particular destination. But I didn’t move.
Instead, I sat there writing, reading and checking off items on my to-do list.
What was holding me back? Why did I always have to plan for fun? Or plan for my workout? Which was only allowed after finishing the seemingly never-ending items on my silly list.
When did I have this idea that everything had to be written down?
I mapped out every detail, charting its course. It was as if my daily life was a route in a GPS system. Every activity had a time. Every email I received belonged in a file. Everything I owned belonged in a special place. I was so organized, I was not free.
I wondered why I couldn’t just dive in?
I was scared of being unprepared. What if I appeared out of sorts? What if I didn’t know what to do? I planned because I thought I couldn’t handle the unplanned.
I was scared of being flawed. So much so that I no longer felt human; I no longer felt alive. I did not feel I was part of it because I was not letting myself.
A friend once said to me, “I cannot wait to see the day when you go for your weekly manicure and pedicure, just because. You don’t schedule a time, you don’t care if it takes longer than the hour you penciled in on your calendar, and you just let go. Kind of like how you ate cake the other night and got that frosting on your nose. It was cute.”
I blushed with redness at his comment, but part of me didn’t care about his mention of my incessant planning. There was something to this messy frosting approach to life.The truth was when it came to eating a piece of cake, I wasn’t scared to dive in. The stickier the better and if I took a little longer than others to eat it, I didn’t care.
One day, I left Starbucks to walk a few blocks up to pick up a slice of cake. I went home, took out a fork and dove right in, frosting first. What was it about the frosting that made me not feel afraid to just tackle it, taste it and not worry about making plans? I liked it. It was simple. I would leave parts of the cake uneaten, but every last drop of the frosting would be gone. I savored each moment and I enjoyed it.
I didn’t second guess frosting, so why was I questioning the other things I liked in life? Why was I letting the tags hang on the dress I loved? What was I waiting for?
That night, I put on the dress and walked out of my apartment with no plans. I thought of a little cafe I had been waiting to try. I walked in, sat down at the bar and ordered a glass of wine. Here I was dressed up with no place to go, but everything to try. I read a book as I drank my wine. Other people sat around me, talking to friends, enjoying the evening while I soaked it all in; the new cafe and the new dress.
A man approached and asked me what I was doing. I didn’t shy away from answering, while I read, “Reading. And I think a movie later.” I don’t know where the movie idea came from. It just rolled off my tongue. He sat down next to me. As was about to leave, he asked if I’d mind if he joined for the movie.
There I was diving right in, and it tasted so good.
Ten years later, that man is one of my best friends. I’m forever thankful for the frosting that taught me how to dive in and taste sweet life.
Author: Jane Cowles
Apprentice Editor: Annette Huebner / Editor: Caitlin Oriel