Weeks ago, sitting in a coffee shop, spinning words for a deadline as if I were back in college, I paused and looked up from my screen.
And a man was staring at me.
In the space between breaths, he looked away and back again. I sipped my coffee and pretended our eyes hadn’t met, the ever familiar flush of pink coloring my skin. Minutes later, his order was ready at the counter and he disappeared through the door.
And though it was the most insignificant of moments, I write about it now because I’d completely forgotten.
I’d forgotten that I could be the sort of woman that a man might want to look at, to ask for a number, a date, a life. The sort of woman that he might want to sink into conversation with. To let the hours drift by, watching me smile in that way I do when I’m absolutely scared out of my mind.
I think the worst parts about this past year weren’t the momentous heartbreaks or the nights I thought, Surely, this will be the end of me; the worst of it was the slow, steady erosion of my confidence.
The quiet disappearance of any belief in myself, my choices, my passions.
But that night, just for a moment, I remembered that I deserve more. The truth. Maybe even dinner instead of drinks, someone taking me on a trip and wanting to do it again. Someone hearing that I write at night and love the smell of a good rainstorm, and thinking, Shit, I’m in over my head with this one.
Because I believe every girl deserves a partner who can’t believe what they’ve found, can’t believe how fucking lucky they are–as someone once told my date at a wedding. (Rather drunkenly, but nevertheless.)
And if I believe all this to be true for every woman, how could I possibly have forgotten about it for myself?
That night so many weeks ago, thankfully, I remembered.
That my life isn’t an apology for its shortcomings. That my quirks and weaknesses and inability to perform simple math without using my fingers and my love for old books make me…me. That my destiny is my own and the beauty of it lies in finding my path and making it up as I go along. Which all sounds so glaringly obvious and very much like something a grown woman should probably know by now, but damn what a year it’s been.
So, in remembering my resolution for this year (to trust), I think there is more to it.
I think that it’s time to find my spirit again.
To become the girl I used to be–a fiery redhead who didn’t take any kind of bullshit and knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to say, beer in hand, With all due respect, I couldn’t care less what you think. The girl who got into a car with her friends and drove to climb Enchanted Rock just to watch the sunset, to see the stars come alive. The girl who stripped down in broad daylight and jumped into the frigid waters of a Swiss mountain lake for the hell of it. Who decided, at twelve years old, that she’d be a writer and never, not once, apologize for it.
Somewhere along the way, that girl got a little lost.
But she’s here, and these past months I’ve felt her so powerfully. She goes dancing and scribbles furiously into the night and belly laughs until tears fall and she’s starting to look right back at the men who catch her eye. And on occasion, she forgets to be wary and feels courage surge through her like wildfire.
And in those moments, she cocks her head and she smiles.
So I’m finding that girl. Every day, slowly, I’m becoming her again.
And this lengthy series of delicious revelations is owed entirely to a stranger who stood in line, awaiting a cappuccino.
A man I just happened to catch staring.
[image source: Emily Lauren Alleman]