A Pluripotential Coffee Moment

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The icy, biting Denver air is stinging my face, numbing my fingers. I’m walking out from the coffee shop on campus, sitting down on a cold bench. The sun is bright and blinding, cold light encasing me in a huddled cocoon with the hot, steaming cup of cinnamon latte in my hands.

The icy air urges me to get going, but the wafting cinnamon steam comforts me to stay.

The cinnamon overpowers the lingering smell of formaldehyde that followed me from anatomy lab. It’s a different smell that follows me these days — different from the turpentine and acrylic smells that used to linger after painting classes. It feels more studious this time, but it makes me anxious about my choices. I sit in that moment and think, where will I be in five years? Where do I want to be? Am I sure?

The nostalgia of being a college student — open to so many possibilities, like a pluripotent stem cell, the excitement of believing that I can become anything, if I only try hard enough. The only thing holding me back is my own fear of choice. Am I choosing the right thing?

Why, with a completed art degree, did I return to school for pre-med? Was it the guilt of not feeling useful enough, the shame of not meeting parental expectations, or the insatiable desire to learn more about the human condition? Where would I really want to be in five years? Would I be a medical student, hiding any evidence of once being an artist? Would I be an artist, forgetting that I once wavered from the original path? Would I be neither, finding any job just to get by?

These days, when I drink a cinnamon latte, my mind transports back to that college moment. The icy winter day, the comforting latte, the wondering thoughts.

I think back to the anxiety, the fear of choice. My path has changed many times since that day, and yet, I still feel a sense of accomplishment and a deep gratitude for all opportunities that have since come my way.

If I could travel back to that moment, I would tell my younger self to not worry so much. To enjoy. To wonder at how it all fits together. To have faith that, no matter what, all the paths would converge into one. That all the choices I made really were the right ones. In patience and time, I will know why.