This life—always a mixture of happy and melancholy, sweet and bitter. It’s not that different from my morning coffee, strong and spiked with cream, milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla sugar. I love coffee mornings. I like to drink coffee every other day. This habit of mine first started as a way of keeping my morning caffeine and sugar intake within some sort of arbitrary, reasonable limit. Now it’s really just habit because I trust my body to tell me when it has had too much caffeine or sugar. But I like the ritual, something to look forward to on alternating days. I drink coffee for the flavor and for the caffeine. It tastes good to me. My friend James thinks this flavor explanation is just rationalizing my addiction, but I’m sticking to my story. Also, I have no comment about addiction.
Last night, I finally admitted a piece of truth to myself: I’m lonely here in Texas. It feels good to acknowledge this fact, like I’m exhaling a breath that I didn’t know I was holding. My loneliness shouldn’t come as a surprise. I gave up all my local friends when I left Chicago in October and of course I haven’t replaced them. I can’t replace them, not exactly. I can make new friends, yes, but my old friendships were molded and baked into something solid by years spent together, talking, dreaming, cooking, eating, laughing, crying. It takes time to make new friends, and for me, it seems to take an extraordinary amount of time. I can’t dive into new friendship like a swimming pool. I walk around the edge first, peer into the water, maybe dip a toe into it to test the temperature. I open up to new people slowly and carefully.
In some regards, the fact that I am a lab scientist is not helping things. On one hand, I’ve had a brand-new set of colleagues given to me by my circumstances. My labmates are all very nice. But I’m also the only woman in my lab, and I feel starved for female companionship. My lab, like many biology labs, is a mixture of Americans and non-Americans. In our case, we’re split directly in half, American and Asian. Though we seem to get along, I am sometimes exhausted by the extra efforts that it takes to accommodate this fusion of cultures. It’s interesting to me that in science, we take it for granted that everyone will do what it takes to deal with the cultural diversity. Yet little is ever said about how to understand, let alone work with, people who come from cultures or backgrounds that have little in common with yours.
Even from far away, though, my friendships have been filled with celebration and delight. My friends Daphna and Daine, both of whom have inspired recipes on this site, were accepted by medical schools. Oh, and Daphna was busy having twin baby boys at the same time (a team effort with her husband, Ian). My friend Ammie and her new music group were accepted to attend a cool music festival in Germany this summer, so she’ll be flying across the pond to play her viola. And then this morning I received an e-mail from my friend Elizabeth, who relocated to Germany for her postdoctoral research, and it was so good to hear from her.
It’s such a big world in which we live, but I thank my lucky stars for e-mails and telephone calls. And coffee. Because drinking a cup of coffee, face to face, is the best way to reconnect, whether we’ve been separated by a mile or thousands of miles. I’ve got to start saving my pennies for a plane ticket to Germany. But first I’ll be helping Ammie get to Germany because that’s what friends do. And even before that, I hope I get to drink coffee with Ammie, Daine, Daphna, and Ian in the city that first nurtured our friendships. Chicago, I miss you and your people. Save me a seat on the el because I’m coming soon.