I’m sitting in one of those cafes. You know, the kind that formerly housed a family grocery or hardware store, where the window front is covered in concert posters, Blik decals, and magazine cut-outs of community bestowed accolades. The now Mojito Green and Palm Springs Peach painted brick walls are thick with layers of paint with trendy names of time’s past. The tin ceiling tells us that this building has been around a lot longer than any of us have.
I’m in the Mission District, San Francisco. I’m in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. I’m in Hawthorne, Portland. I’m in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
But I’m actually sitting in Austin, TX and watching a beautiful, lanky young woman in glasses that resemble that of my great aunt Stella’s, talk very purposely to her similarly clad friend, with a cigarette in one hand, and a Lone Star beer in the other. She was the gawky twig with the overbite that kids had no option but to make fun of in 8th grade.
She gets up from her seat. The manner in which she walks says that she still is that awkward child, but the way she moves her mouth, enunciating each word perfectly, passes off as a seductiveness that she is 100% aware of.
She knows that her kind is revered now. She wouldn’t be wearing the glasses otherwise.
Behind me is a portrait of the ghost of Buster Keaton. The faint introductory beats of LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean” comes over the stereo and I have to laugh. In roughly 3 minutes, when the chorus kicks in, every single person in this cafe will be bobbing their heads. Every single cut-off jean wearing, vegan cupcake eating, Chuck Palahniuk reading patron will be individually thinking that their life soundtrack is playing for them and only them. That some omnipresent voice is writing their story. Or maybe some girl wearing over-sized glasses, sitting in the corner by herself, writing very purposely and trying to tell herself over and over that she is different from all of them.
But who am I kidding?
I’ve lived in Austin, Texas for one year and nine months. What originally started as a three month trial period turned into a fall-held-over-heels-in-love-with-a-city like no other. Deeper and deeper I fell as I met people just like me, people who have David Lynch-themed parties and bike-in screenings of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventures and love to dance, dance, dance to Michael Jackson and wear dresses of their great-grandmother and want to be writers, musicians, lovers, and dreamers too.
I was home.
A year went by of attending these events, meeting new people, telling and hearing stories until one day it hit me like a ton of bricks: I was swimming in a culture where individuality mattered and nothing else. To talk and to appeal means more than doing, producing, or committing. I was not only losing my individuality in a competition for who was the most unique, but I was subsequently becoming less goal-oriented. More nonplussed.
Am I insinuating that ambivalence is synonymous with the hipster culture?
Or maybe it’s that the majority of our generation was raised to believe that each of us are so unique, that we can do anything, go anywhere, have any job, have any partner.
Think about that.
That is one heck of a load of options bestowed upon us.
I could be a producer in Los Angeles, an urban planner in New York, a writer in Austin, a world traveler, a homebody, a bachelorette, a wife, a mother, or I could just sit at this cafe, listening to my life’s soundtrack hoping that some omnipresent voice will write my story so I don’t have to.
But I think it’s time for me to get up.