I order my coffee and he asks my name. Smiling, I tell him. The word rolling off my tongue in its constant and familiar fashion. Our eyes lock for the second time during the transaction, “Ruby. You look like a Ruby.”
Oh, thank god, I think. At least something still fits. I’ve been floating around lately. Not sure if my feet are on the ground or pointed skyward. Nothing fits. I have no idea what the fuck I’m doing.
A week ago I told him what my life looked like. He pulled all the pieces of information I’d handed him over the last nine months and listed all the things I’ve ever expressed any desire for. Looking at me over the top of his mason jar glass he prods, “What’s stopping you from doing any of that?”
“I don’t know. It just wasn’t the plan. The plan was different, you know? We had one. We did. For the last year and a half I thought we were going one way, but very suddenly we completely changed direction. So I guess… I mean, I guess I just don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do now. I was working so hard on something that is no longer applicable.”
Like a college kid who suddenly realizes they no longer have any interest in pursuing their major. All the work I’ve been doing is only useful in moderate amounts. I’m struggling. Floor out from under me. What the hell am I supposed to do now?
Options are endless. I know that. I know. Paradox of choice, I guess. And it’s just been so long since I asked myself that. I dropped out of school almost three years ago. That was the last time I’d put any thought into any sort of plan. Even then it swung violently between the things I thought I’d find fulfilling and the things I thought I’d find fulfilling, but would ultimately destroy me.
Sitting on the tiny balcony of our Oakland apartment, smoking Newports, with my phone pressed to my head, I talked to Tobias. “You know, people say if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life, but I think that’s total bullshit. Working hundreds of hours a week will leave you depleted no matter how good the cause. I just don’t know if I want to do that.” So the pendulum took another swing away from law school and back to teaching. But that takes arguably more guts, doesn’t it? I remembered the conversations we used to have about knowing I’d done something important if I earned at least one death threat and wondered if standing at a whiteboard in a high school classroom would ever get me a genuine one.
Then you take into account that getting my Juris Doctorate would cost well over 200,000-dollars and it’s hard to tell myself that it’s something I have even the slightest interest in. What can lawyers really do anyway? And that’s just another question that was left unanswered when I put my key on the dining room table with a check for two months rent and a letter telling my roommate that, no matter what I’d try to convince either of us of, I wasn’t coming back. Mason was the only thing I’d been certain of my entire fucking life.
But at some point I have to start reintroducing those questions. Those, “If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do?” questions. Because I can. And I haven’t been asking them. Not lately. Not with any expectation that I might answer them. Definitely not with the inkling that I might answer them and then act on that answer.
Maybe that’s the fear. If I know the answer then I have very few excuses not to act. If I act I open myself up to fumbling, to failing. To putting the things that were important when the plan was different on a back burner. To having to ask for help and support. To not knowing if it will continue to be something that interests me, but sinking my teeth in anyway.
That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Really. I can talk myself into something and then right back out of it in less than a week’s time. Lists of pros and cons that are made up of nothing more than what I assume everyone else wants and expects out of me. Like my whole life has been a messy collaboration of “are you proud of me yet?” and “fuck you for telling me I couldn’t”. So I wonder if even when I thought I was skimming the surface of the big questions the answers were all coming from the mouths of everyone but me.
Come on, kid, what do you want from me?