My phone alarms every day at 7:15 in the morning. I wake up, pick out my clothes, take a bath, and go through the motions of getting ready. My favorite part of this routine is fixing the bed. There is something therapeutic about folding the sheets and pressing them down until they are wrinkle-free. I now understand my neat freak of a sister’s funny obsession: there really is an odd calm that comes with putting things back in order, with turning the night time’s chaos back into something pristine. These pedestrian moments — the alarm, the sheets, the shower — color the margins of most of my mornings.
My favorite rom-com to this day is You’ve Got Mail. I think Nora Ephron is a literary genius for penning this short and iconic monologue:
“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life — well, valuable, but small — and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave?”
Ms. Ephron does that thing that most great writers do. She lets her words loose and they go ahead and in the going, somehow manage to make sense of my life. Because in between that morning alarm and the satisfaction of a tidy bed, even though I know deep down that I love my quiet and possibly boring life, I wonder the same thing Kathleen Kelly did. I wonder if I’ve failed at courage.
I tell my friends that I often feel like a 50-year-old woman. I love napping. I’ve settled well into a meaningful career and created things that I’m actually pretty proud of. I’ve loved and been loved. I am still so damn young yet on some days, when I sit back taking stock of every story, I find that I’m just a little bit done with life.
I’ve been coasting on still waters ever since getting over my quarter-life crisis. I’m not restless or unhappy. I’m not soul-searching. But after living through four years of perpetual calm it’s hard not to stop myself from looking for a wave to ride.
Maybe it’s the rise of Instagram and how everyone posts snippets of their fabulous life. Maybe it’s my generation’s general thirst for adventure. All I know is:
Alarm. Shower. Smooth sheets.
Alarm. Shower. Smooth sheets.
Morning after morning, today and tomorrow and, most likely, a week from now.
It’s not terrible. It’s just… life.
A week ago I had dinner with my cousins. We celebrated their 30th birthday in a Japanese yakiniku restaurant. One is a chiropractor and the other a radio DJ-slash-hands-on-mother-of-two. The chef poured oil on the grill and slapped the meat on top. Over the roar of the fire, we talked about the stories that make up our day-to-day existence. They seemed unremarkable in our heads but they scurried excitedly out of our mouths like children. We hold a certain fondness for them, the beautiful ordinariness of these lives that were conceived at the intersection of personal will and destiny. The doctor talks about his patient who was once involved in a gang in Chicago. The mom boasts about her beautiful son. The teacher recalls the funny stories that unfold inside the classroom.
Suddenly the table beside us erupts in flame and sizzle. Their chef is doing a trick that involves slicing the vegetables in midair like a gastronomy ninja. We watch, enraptured, and end up clapping after the short show. I exclaim loudly and my cousins shush me. “What?” I reply defensively. “I love magic.”
And I do.
Sometimes there is the big magic of a wild and whirling life. There’ll be a chapter someday soon that will greet me with waves upon waves to ride. When the time comes, I will miss this quiet. So what I’m teaching myself now is how to spot the moments that are golden even when they’re a slight shade of mediocre. The chef makes a volcano out of onions and my cousins and I watch in wonder. Tomorrow will come with an alarm, a shower, and a bed to make and I will greet all three without a hint of resignation. Maybe Ms. Ephron will agree with me that that in itself is a certain kind of courage.
Featured image by Madel Crudo
When she isn’t writing, Isa Garcia is a teacher in a private college in BGC. She is also the author of Found: Letters on Love, Life, & God, published by OMF Literature. You can read more of Isa’s thoughts and her writing at her blog, Isa Writes.