It was 52 weeks ago when I unceremoniously smashed the blue coffee mug I had been drinking out of for far too long. It turns out that the transition from my favorite mug to the conformist adult-like blue one didn’t go as smoothly as my anxieties had hoped.
In spite of the friends I had made while drinking that coffee, there remained so many unanswered questions regarding the blue mug and how exactly I had allowed myself to protect it so heedlessly. Was this the kind of coffee I wanted to drink for the rest of my life? Was this the mug I would be so proud to tell my friends, family and, one day, children about? Was I unequivocal about growing too old for the other mug that I had known and loved?
Somehow, I elected to watch my coffee sour and to drink more and more of it became my only remedy. I was convinced that doing so would permit me to affect people’s lives and that, for whatever reason, it needed to be done within three altruistic minutes. The coffee was just that relentless in its procrustean values. I couldn’t ever be late in drinking it, couldn’t take time away from it unless I had seniority over my coffee-drinking counterparts, and could barely take a minute to piss it out unless that minute was formally accounted for.
The worst of it was that despite the dedication I had shown to this blue mug, I had no control over the time I had so willingly committed to it. I was at the mercy of forty randomly arranged hours that made no distinction between Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. Its answer for our need to try other beverages from new and exciting places was simply to find time perhaps early Friday or anytime Tuesday afternoon because taking two consecutive days away from the eminent mug was usually out of the question and demanded prodigious justification.
It wasn’t always bland though. Once a year, there would be an ostentatious banquet thrown for all of the blue muggers to share their coffee drinking experiences with their co-addicts, so long as they had the thirty-five dollars to attend the wildly unentertaining assembly. Of course, some would be left behind because they had been randomly selected to continue drinking their java alone, one cup after the next. They would be compensated for their efforts, in Tim Hortons gift certificates, no less.
Why? asked 22, the only real friend I ever made chugging from that mug; the one other person who could absorb the blue coffee and spit it out when no one was looking. We asked ourselves the same question every single day, in different fonts and sizes between the billions of emails exchanged on computers that couldn’t explore further than coffee beans and Wikipedia. I am forever indebted to her because it wasn’t till her departure that I came to understand the stultifying effect of my mug’s contents. I had gone so far in the wrong direction that if I looked back, I’d find nothing more than the outdated scripts, policies, and exchange rates that my coffee had smeared.
For ten grueling semesters, I gravitated towards the same comforting white mug. It was stained and cracked but its unusual handle made it perfect in every sense of the word. I had embraced everything about it because it fit who I was, who I am. It was my brother’s favorite mug. He’d say that it always allowed for the exact amount he wanted and I agreed. Although he would occasionally drink from it, I suspect that our father had wanted us to mature and grow into the blue one instead, being much more accessible and dependable than the one we wanted. It was the safer mug, essentially.
They often disagreed so when my brother moved away, he left the mug behind and I was able to inherit it as my own.
Somewhere amidst the books being read and the money being made, the lines between desires and expectations were quietly blurred. I was so focused on the immediate that I couldn’t find time to glance over at the big picture. The truth is that I couldn’t bear retreating to it anymore. Moving up only meant burying what was left of who I wanted to be, so uncertain of who I was but so content with the poltroon I had become. Paralyzed every morning, unable to turn my neck, unable to put weight on my ankle, unable to shut my brain off. Unwilling to ask myself the open-ended questions I was conditioned to broadcast, unwilling to digest the lunch hours that had been designated to me four weeks ahead of time. I wanted all these feelings to just stop; the overcasting disappointment when there was bad news to be delivered; the falsified enthusiasm when there was irrelevance being shared; the apparent empathy that needed to be demonstrated when stupidity and neglect were the only causes. Walking into that fusty room on the second floor, flooded with the same fucking people drinking the same fucking coffee out of the same fucking blue mug. I felt like that kid who couldn’t swim when he was summoned to the indoor pool, struck by the overpowering whiff of chlorine swooshing up against the tiled walls. I couldn’t breathe through it all…
So I took one last sip and I smashed that tawdry blue mug.
Quarter-life crisis — over.