What To Do When Your Usual Gets Taken Off The Menu
Nearly every essay I wrote during my first two terms at Dartmouth was composed at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, sitting in the lobby of Baker-Berry with a King Arthur Flour scone and an over-cinnamoned cappuccino in front of me. I’d never had any reason to believe my writing ritual was problematic, but when faced with my first essay of the remote term, composed at home and far from Blobby, I came to a grave realization: I was incapable of writing without KAF. Playing both Pavlov and his dogs, I had unwittingly conditioned myself to rely on the ritual.
At school, I was a quick-witted master wordsmith. I was the queen of the English language. At home, I was but a fool reaching for escaped words and an invisible pastry.
Since realizing how much I miss it, I’ve spent a lot of time this term fantasizing about my triumphant return to KAF. Life during the pandemic is so abnormal that it’s hard to imagine what the world will look like after, but a maple oat scone seemed like a hope for the future so simple it was almost inevitable.
However, as per the opening line of every email I’ve received since March, we live in uncertain times. KAF’s closing announcement in early May shocked students already deprived of normalcy. It was an especially crushing blow in the wake of a similar announcement by Morano Gelato, a beloved Hanover staple.
The closing of these two institutions comes at a time when many are already struggling with feelings of displacement, navigating derailment by focusing on the small and immutable joys of life. Though our plans for the future have been cast aside, our favorite places, foods and activities will always be there to comfort us. We will always have hazelnut gelato. But what do we do when even those most foundational sources of joy disappear?
If there is a simple answer to this question, I cannot provide it. The loss of something I perceived to be permanent means losing the future I had planned around those things. It’s weird to realize so suddenly and tangibly that nothing I depend on is guaranteed — not even coffee and scones. This realization has forced me to look deeper into my memories of these foundational aspects of life and to appreciate them not for the simple fact that they’re there, but for the fact that their presence shaped me. The only thing I am certain of, after all, is that no matter how the world changes, I’ll still be myself.
Maybe you recently discovered a new favorite drink at KAF. You won’t be able to order and enjoy this drink every week like you planned, but its discovery taught you that just like every unordered menu item, each unexpected experience has the potential to be good.
Maybe Morano Gelato was the gift you gave yourself to celebrate little victories. You can’t go back and pick up a cone the next time you ace a test, but you learned through your celebratory trips to Morano that it feels good to recognize and appreciate your accomplishments. Even if you’re not celebrating with gelato, you can always take Morano’s lesson to heart and do something for yourself.
I will never be able to replicate the winter night I spent with my best friend at Morano, but the happiness that memory brings me will always remind me how important it is to make time for the people I love. I can’t write in Blobby with a scone and a cappuccino, but I can remember how proud I felt after my productive work sessions there and use it as motivation to engage myself just as deeply in the other things I do.
I’m aware that reflecting on things this way, from an introspective angle, is not a fix-all. Not every experience has a lesson, and not every lesson learned from the past will make the future more comforting. Nothing you learn about the power of friendship or self-love will curb your primal need to eat lemon sorbet, and not having unfettered access to that sweet, citrusy goodness is going to suck for a while. It’s okay to mourn that loss. I only hope you can take comfort in the fact that you haven’t lost everything, because you haven’t lost you.
The world only spins forward, but at least we’re going with it.