And then

I have lived in Charleston, South Carolina, for one week. I have a job. I have an apartment. I have a laundromat. I have a grocery, and a “vegetable bin.” I have a brunch place and I have a coffee place. If I drive 25 minutes, I have a beach. I think I may even have a bar.

I have lived in this new place for a week, and everyone that hears this says, “Welcome to Charleston.” “Thank you!” And I tell them what I’m doing: waitressing, saving money (well, making money then seeing what’s left over), living with my sister and my cat and trying to run when I can and eat fresh fruit as often as possible and write in my journal and read for pleasure. “And then?” they ask. 

I always say the same shit: I’m going to write for a magazine or have a column in a newspaper or maybe my sister and I will co-author a twin-themed memoir.

What if I didn’t say this? What if I answered your “and then” with “what do you mean”? What if the first part of my “plan,” is really the plan after all?

For 18 years I worked towards the same goal: college. In college I’m not really sure what I worked towards, but I guess I never wanted to get a C in any class (I never did). I wanted to go abroad; I did. I wanted to make sure I didn’t gain the first year fifteen; I had a kind-of eating disorder, but hey, I achieved that goal too. I graduated with a decent GPA and I had a small but dedicated column fan club and I had best friends and a boyfriend and a place I was going to miss. What if I said that was enough?

I find joy in two cups of coffee. I find joy in the jingling on the sidewalk that suggests an impending dog. I find joy in a sourdough sandwich. I find joy in watching my cat leap from floor to chair, floor to chair. So when you ask me, “and then,” I feel like in answering, I will discount “and now.”

No, I do not know what I “want to do with my life.” I do not have a “great passion” and I do not have some piece of paper stuffed under my mattress, with all of my “life goals” written in dark and forever black pen strokes. Should I? Should I have these things to make me feel whole and good and purposeful?

I have lived in my new home for one week. In a week I have learned how to print documents at the public library, how to parallel park (no, really, I never knew how to), how to make a white chocolate mocha, how to join Green Peace (make eye contact with the guy holding the clipboard and regretfully hand over your credit card after bonding over the beauty of words and the livelihood of arctic polar bears), and how to re-apply air to a sinking air mattress. 

In one week I learned all of that. Should I have been chasing my dreams? What if this is my dream? What if sunburned shoulders and blistered feet and the smell of musty air conditioning and cheap black sundresses and muddled mint cocktails are all part of my dream? Would you hold it against me?

Next week may be different. In fact, it probably will be. With any luck I’ll have two jobs. Maybe I’ll meet a magazine publisher. Maybe I’ll start interning at a newspaper. I have told you that these are my ultimate goals; I fully intend to pursue them. But I want you to know–I’d be just fine if I didn’t. If I sat in this laundromat drinking black coffee and typing out my thoughts and breathing in detergent and sweat and melty cheese sandwiches for the rest of my Thursdays, then I would be perfectly content. And now, I have to collect my clothes from the dryer.

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