Why I’m Happy With My Coffee Shop Hangover

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There has been some blurry, overly enthusiastic, but mindlessly intoxicated nights where I’ve been kindly escorted out of small town nightclubs by security. There has been some other questionable Manhattan nights where I’ve woken up in a cold bundle outside my apartment, startled by the slam of a neighbours door to only begin searching desperately for a vanished wallet, missing keys and a nonexistent smashed phone. 

As I write this, I’m sitting in a local café, alone, sipping on a dusty cinnamon chai latte while making awkward eye contact with the bored barista. We’re halfway through Spring Break, and while other twenty-somethings appear unconsciously a few daiquiris deep on Miami beaches while wearing string thong bikinis and yellow neon nipple tassels of smiley face emojis, I’m bundled up in not-so-sexy sweatpants and a cosy knitted sweater in a wintry New York, surrounded by a meticulously well-kept planner, immaculate bullet journals, and tedious upcoming assignments. 

There are two types of people in the world. Well, there’s a few, but just to summarize - those that occupy the fear of being alone, and those abundantly comfortable with solitude. It’s weird, when you’re fifteen years old popularity is a frenzied obsession. When you’re in your twenties, sprinting home only to sneakily slip into a unicorn onesie is so much more desirable, and the posed question that interprets leaving your fluffy blanket pyramid before Monday is everything that defines effort. Personally, I feel there’s something liberating about being completely happy in your own company. When I was a teenager, I had always wanted to be the vodka-cranberry infused blonde with no responsibilities. A whole five minutes later, I had suddenly become a wide-eyed naive puppy trying to be a mature adult working two jobs in a skyscraper city thousands of miles from everything I’ve ever known. A sad realization stuttered and hesitated when someone recently challenged a question I had never been asked before: Do you feel you’ve made the most out of your life in New York? Oh, shit. Wait, what? Who are you? I felt like that very person had dissected a tiny incision before scraping and peeling back thin layers of my fragile skin that protected that exact emotion I was trying so desperately to hide. That exhausting emotional anxiety that was only between myself and my own thoughts. 

With graduation approaching in May, I had stumbled into this year with this concrete constructed fear that I hadn’t done just that. That I hadn’t mindlessly downed enough Tequila shots on a Wednesday happy hour, while still illustrating myself as a killer girl-boss that has her life together as she promptly sits her 9am exam the next day, with all the other flawlessly dressed millennials. That fear that I hadn’t inhaled enough messy bottomless brunches that would’ve simply began by slowly and delicately sipping sweet mimosas and uploading a complimentary photo of some carefully crafted avocado toast sprinkled with chilli flakes. Or, that I hadn’t overwhelmed my Instagram feed with enough Gossip Girl inspired candid shots wearing tartan skirts and leather berets, while holding a blue bodega cup on the famous steps of the Met. 

Did I really not make the most of my life in New York? The nerve that was already sensitive had been questioned. The solidification of my New York social life was impaired, and the hidden reflection of a suppressed belief that it was never good enough, or what I was originally expecting, was exposed. For a hot second, it made me sad. Before I blissfully found myself cuddled up in this very coffee shop, lost somewhere along the Lower East Side, knowing I couldn’t be happier doing anything else but this. Where the thought of straight vodka aggressively being poured down my throat on a sweaty saturated Miami beach, or stumbling out of a New York City bar fighting off an irritable flirt, illustrated more the person I used to be, rather than the person I am now. 

From within the first few days of college, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this wasn’t a place that adorned classic Hollywood movies of American beer-pong house parties with annoying fist-pumpers that had too much to say about politics. But instead, some highly strung, pretty competitive study sessions in the corner of Chelsea’s artsy coffee shops, discussing the convoluted details concerning Fashion Economics. But, does that mean I haven’t made the most of life in New York? Personally, I don’t think so. Working and studying in New York is the best thing I’ve ever done, for both my résumé and my self-growth. Where a demanding, fast-paced schedule is what life in New York is all about, and with the simplified realization that if you aren’t stressed 90% of the time, do you even New York? The hustle, chaotic movement and intense work ethic is what I love about it. It is a tireless place where the people are avidly prepared to work, and well if you aren't one of those people, realistically this isn’t a place for you. And so, as a result the literal meaning of Netflix and Chill exemplifies Saturday night perfection before the reminder of Monday morning hustle commences once again. 

So in defence of being a twenty-something year old miniature version of my grandmother, where a regular gin & tonic hangover truly narrates hell, where a coffee shop corner with fluffy pillows aligned with another project needing to be done has become my happy place, and where ending the day rummaging through my impressive collection of Penny’s pyjamas has become my consoling saviour. Don't get me wrong, some of my best specialities are gulping a second Cosmopolitan quicker than the next. But what I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with it being an occasional thing. And it also doesn't mean that I’m not making the most out of the quarters in my sobbing bank account. The Manhattan $18 vodka-cranberry infused blonde I once thought I could be, will just have to wait. I’m pretty happy making the most of my coffee shop hangovers - with all the solitude and perspective that it appreciates. 

Photography by Isabella Jenney