Overall, the last few weeks have gone well — busy, and filled with the typical “end of school year” work, but still very positive. I’m on much firmer ground again in both my personal sense of self and my attitude toward the world around me, and that’s something I’m going to continue working on…in other words, the fewer negative thoughts, actions, and reactions, the better. Personal growth is, of course, an ongoing, life-long process, but when you’re coming back from the edge of a cliff, it’s easier to quantify progress as you see the cliff recede behind you.
I’m also sticking to a strict workout schedule and diet, and have kept off the 30 pounds I’ve lost since January, but this time by doing more of the right things. I have more energy, endurance, and generally just feel better physically than I have in a long time.
That’s not to say things are perfect. Shadows, as I mentioned in a previous post, always remain. But staying busy, being productive, spending time with good people, trying new things, and going new places all help to keep them largely where they belong…which is out of my way. Life can and does come at you fast, but the groundwork is in place for a positive and productive summer.
And with that in mind, I’m gearing up for my summer writing routine, which I’ll begin almost as soon as the school year is over. I’m aiming for June 17th as the starting date, and from that point on I’ll do my best to park myself at the local Panera five mornings out of every seven, and also some evenings at the nearby Starbucks, for the next eight weeks — when I’m not traveling or otherwise running around. I know, I know, there’s a whole cliché about writing at Starbucks, but I like being out among people, especially during the summer, when you can enjoy the sunlight or twilight without feeling rushed, and sometimes sit outside and enjoy the warmth too.
There are few quiet pleasures more satisfying than sitting on the patio of a bar or café on a sunny morning or warm evening and feeling the world hum around you. Everyone should have at least one “Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” as Hemingway put it, and everyone should visit it frequently.
One of my favorite memories is from the end of my junior year at Penn State. My friends and I were all 21, it was early-May, the semester was coming to a close, the sun was shining, the temperature was in the mid-70s, and it was a late Friday afternoon, so all our classes were finished for the week. So we grabbed a table and sat on the patio at Café 210 West, right on College Avenue, drinking beer and bullshitting the afternoon away. Other students filled the surrounding tables, and State College came alive the way only a college town entering the weekend in good weather can. It was perfect. We had worked hard to get to that point in our lives; our futures stretched out before us, great unknowns but full of potential; and to me, the sunlight seemed brighter, the beer tasted better, and the world’s hum was more vibrant and euphonious than at almost any other time I could remember. To this day, the sun only rarely seems quite as bright as it did that afternoon…and when it does, I take notice, because it means life in those moments is truly good.
So I do like being surrounded by that hum, and in a place – sometimes familiar, sometimes not – where I can really hear it and feel a part of it. In other words, as I said before, I like being around people, even when I’m working…because those special moments can happen at any time, even when it’s only while writing in a public place on a summer morning or evening. They can’t be planned, so they’re always a surprise. But if you tuck yourself away from everything you can be sure they’ll never come. You must get out and, however dramatically or quietly, be a part of things, whether that means skydiving in New Zealand or writing outside a Starbucks in Pennsylvania.
So if you’re in the area this summer, and you stop by that Panera in the morning or that Starbucks in the evening – where I’m writing this now, in fact – there’s a decent chance you’ll find me there, working on stories from my inner world while also quietly enjoying the world around me.
And if you do, please tap me on the shoulder and say “Hi.” Sometimes even a little thing like that is all it takes to make the sun shine a bit brighter, no matter what time of day it is, or how many clouds are in the sky.