By Alyssa Velazquez
Elm Staff Writer
Children have no concept of time or space. Perhaps that’s the reasoning behind the fact that, to them, the idea of flying to the moon on a rocket does not seem improbable. Likewise, the existence of a little prince on the asteroid B-612 seems no more unordinary than a young boy fighting pirates on a magically enchanted island. Furthermore, to children, the future is knowable. There is a complete and utter firm belief within a child’s reliance on their own imagination. This is a superior sense of knowing that adults both envy and scorn in equal measures, even as they utter, “you’ll understand when you’re older.”
As a senior in the last semester of my undergraduate education, I too often find myself filled with trepidation for the future. Not knowing when I’ll “finally understand,” or if I even want to understand is a common consideration.
When I was little girl, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, there would have been no hesitation. I never would have paused for second thoughts on my finances, resume, CV, or my current GPA. I would have simply looked up at you and replied “an actress,” and just like that, the conversation would have been over.
Conviction used to be a quality that I possessed, just as so many other children do. The same children have answered that same question with equally brief answers. “Firefighter,” “police officer,” “a painter,” “a doctor,” “a neurosurgeon,” or even “a pirate.” I walk to class with them now; I sit across from them in the dining hall. Those very children, now grown, are asked that question now and can no longer reply with a concrete answer. The response has turned into a physical act such as a sigh, or a verbal groan, but never a straight answer. The subject is quickly skirted and they try to steer the conversation back to a bantering level. A young man used to be a young future-firefighter with a wish and a plan. Now all he has is expired time and immeasurable pressure.
This occurrence is so commonplace that I began to wonder if this happens with a concrete idea–an occupation–what potential impact does our growth cycles have on our abstract ideas? If we know less about ourselves as we grow up, to the extent that we are increasingly dreading the future, what can be said of our perception of relationships? What we once thought we wanted to find in love has inevitably changed. But have we begun to learn more or less about relationships because of age? What happens when you put love on an adult two-year plan?
Because I stayed on campus this weekend, I thought Sunday would be the perfect day to get away for a few hours. Over winter break, because of my love for Starbucks, I received many gift cards attached to presents and inside cards. Not wanting to spend money on an excursion during the first week of school, I decided the best place to go would be the Starbucks in Middletown: not too far away, but far enough for me to feel a semblance of no responsibilities.
I arrived mid-afternoon and the coffee house was packed. No table was empty, so I had to patiently peruse the stock shelves of Starbucks merchandise four or five times before someone’s grande latte had finally run dry. After their departure, I thankfully sat down, opened up my protein box meal and began to read literary sources for my senior thesis–well, I knew I had to at least be somewhat productive.
After being there for an hour and accumulating over fifty notecards of important pieces of information, I looked up to see new occupants in the armchairs on the other side of the sitting area. I noticed one new guy in particular who was sitting in front of a laptop. He looked up for a brief moment and we exchanged smiles, after which I got back to my work.
A little while later, I saw from the corner of my eye that said guy had gotten up. I had no idea for what reason he had left his seat until I found the answer standing right in front of me, holding a napkin. I looked up and we both smiled once again. Then, he placed the napkin right on top of my stack of notes and abruptly returned to his seat while I sat alone, red in the face. I left the napkin where it was and as it read: “text me if you would like to go out on a date sometime.” Complete with a phone number, the message was written right along the Starbucks logo.
Mr. Starbucks, which I have decided to name him because that was the only name on the napkin, left thirty minutes after our “exchange.” Not one time in the half-hour he remained in the coffee house did I pick up my phone. All I could do was stare at the note, analyzing, judging, and thinking it through. Here was an opportunity to have a potentially nice date, one thing I have not had in a really long time, and I never acted upon the chance that had been handed to me on that napkin.
I never texted Mr. Starbucks, and opportunities such as those do have an expiration date. Numbers are only so good as the day in which they are given. In my adult mindset, I had put a two-day plan on a one-day occurrence, which I now realize is perhaps the root of all our problems.
This year, for many of us, will be our last here at Washington College, and we have already begun to put a two-year plan on a lifetime of business, educational, and occupational opportunities. Two years here and four years there: deadlines of the future. As kids there were never plans farther than what was happening that day, and yet we saw our future so much more clearly. If we stop over-thinking the future, we may be able to look it dead in the face and respond with a simple, clear, and sure answer. And if we stop overanalyzing Starbuck’s coffee house napkins, the relationships may just plan themselves.