Seattle, Washington, United States
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Where you are, How you are, and When you are

I started school today. I'm changing high schools as a Sophomore from a campus with all of my friends to one where I know three people. And I learned quite a few things today about standing alone.

My mom drove me to school early in the morning, which was a drag because summer really should last until after Labor Day. I felt calm, cool, and collected. That is, I felt calm, cool, and collected until we drove into the main parking lot. My heart started hammering in my chest and an uncomfortable sensation of adrenaline ran coursing through all of my limbs. I smiled weakly, stood up straight and walked up the hill and the steps into the school building.

Upon reaching the social setting of early morning, I think I almost had a panic attack. There were eight hundred highschoolers all hugging and laughing after their summer breaks away from each other. I passed the twenty minutes before the first bell as well as I could, trying to stay either out of sight or connecting with the few people I knew. Meeting new people, though my goal, was a daunting impossibility at this point.

I stepped into Mentor (Homeroom) and immediately saw Judy, a girl I had met the day before at orientation. She's a transfer student from Taiwan and must be one of the sweetest people I've met in a long time. I smiled and talked to her for a while, and then my Mentor group began to file in. I smiled as familiar faces - far more than I expected - stepped through the door. I met four new people that period, all friendly.

Then came first period drama. Immediately, I felt more at home. Drama - my element. It ended up being a lot of laughing and a half-hour of ridiculous, hilarious improv games. I walked out of that class with three more new nearly-friends and entered the second most daunting part of my day: Morning Break. Here was the entire high school once again, but this time in nothing more than a brief respite from the day's classes. That should have frozen me solid. The social undercurrents of Morning Break are about twice the intensity of Lunch...and that's saying something.

I made it through. There were a few awkward moments (three that I can think of), but I made it through. And once again, I walked away having met four new friends, and I re-met a friend from several years back. I'd forgotten I'd lost her, and she'd forgotten all about me. And there we were, mashed together during Break by someone I hardly knew. Guess that's the first day of school for ya.

The next few periods of the day went really well. By now I felt like I'd conquered the hardest parts of the day. So I smiled and introduced myself to people. That was a relief - it was good to have people who genuinely wanted to meet me.

I looked toward lunch with a mixture of curiosity and also with the feeling of sitting and waiting for impending doom. I bought my lunch and stood frozen for thirty seconds with absolutely no idea what to do. Then I made a decision. I walked up to two strangers sitting outside, jumped up beside them and told them: "My name's Michael. I'm aggressively friendly. I think I'll eat lunch with you guys." I figured if I said it fast enough it wouldn't sound that stupid. Thank God they laughed. I mean THANK GOD.

I met a whole group of friends at lunch and spent time with a long-time friend of mine. The rest of the day? Smooth sailing.

But it was those handful of awkward, horrifying, terrible, plain evil moments of standing alone that I hated the most. It hit me, later, at the grocery store that standing alone is not what's awkward. It all involves where you're standing. Then it's how you're feeling. And then there's when you are standing there.

Where is a big deal. Standing in a grocery store your mother practically raised you in is different than standing alone, surrounded by highschoolers at morning Break.

How is also a big deal. Standing next to the deli, slightly bored and slightly annoyed at your mom for disappearing somewhere around the produce is a very laid back emotion. Frozen by social pressure? Completely different.

When? Now when is important. Lunch time? There's a when for you. It's scary to be in the wrong "whens". Waiting for Mom in the grocery store? That's not really a when.

Today was a really strong, really hot cup of coffee. I was worried it wouldn't be drinkable. But it was.

Can't wait to go back tomorrow morning.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

For more about the author (and Stronger Coffee!) visit: http://twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sidewalk Revelations

I spent a lot of time walking today. It was seventy degrees outside, and in my black t-shirt, tight-ish gray jeans, disintegrating fabric tennis shoes, and hipster leather bracelet, I felt purely, ridiculously teenage. And that's okay with me.

People used to always tell me I was born thirty years old. If that's true, I hope I've aged backwards in the last fifteen years, because, frankly, I like where I'm at. I'm writing, I'm laughing, I'm having fun, I'm drinking coffee, and I'm being a kid. And there is no shame in that. At least, not anymore. I used to think I had to insert myself into every "mature" situation I could. That, my friends, is the sign of an insecure child looking for a place in the world. Thank God I've moved past that stage.

There was one thing I never understood about my mother. While I died with joy the first time I sat at the adult table on Christmas Eve, she never moved from a proud spot at the little kid's table. Now I know why. There is nothing to be gained at the adult table that can't be gained, in a different way, at the kid's table. Kids are kids, adults are adults, and we're all just people - people with our own passions, views, loves, hates, and quirks.

This hit me while I was walking along the sidewalk and thinking about how the "grown-ups" (who are really just teenagers with mortages) must view me. With a Starbucks bag in one hand and a cell phone in the other, I probably screamed high school. I hope I screamed high school. There's no more running from where I'm at and who I am. Yes, this may seem like a profound statement of the obvious, but I'm fifteen. And I'm not going to be thirty for another lifetime.

Funny, isn't it: how you think when you're on display. Or just when you're on a sidewalk.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

To learn more about the author, visit: http://twitter.com/MichaelJAbraham

A Whole New, Even Stronger Coffee!

Hello, everybody! And by that, I mean: Hello, one to four semi-regular, kind-of readers. I'm going to be making some changes to Stronger Coffee. First off, it will only exist here, on this site. The tumblr blog will be notified, and changed to something completely different (I hope).

I will also be linking Stronger Coffee more closely with twitter.com. I will provide a link at the end of every entry to my Twitter Profile, and my Followers on Twitter will be hearing a lot about Stronger Coffee in the weeks to come.

In an effort to normalize this big exploration on life, I will be posting on a regular schedule (finally!). I am confident that I will be able to keep to it (don't blame me if I can't). From now on, there will (probably) be a new post every Thursday morning. Please keep reading!

And, lastly, tell your friends, your Facebook friends, your Followers, your family, your disciples, your pastors, your rabbis, your president, your favorite So You Think You Can Dance contestant, and anybody else you can think of that we exist right here at: http://strongercoffee.blogspot.com

Thank you guys for being the best one to four semi-regular, kind-of readers in all of cyber-space.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

To learn more about the author, visit: http://twitter.com/MJ_Cheshire

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Silence

I realized something today. We are considered wrong when we are quiet. It is not until we speak that we are understood, and that is a sad, sad thing. From our first moment of life we are crying out for air and sound and the ability to create more disturbance. We are told to reach for the stars, upset the apple cart, forge a path - to make noise. We are told that we will never be understood if we are the strange, quiet kid who sits at a table by themselves and reads at lunch. Our parents balk at that possibility, and they are even more frightened by the idea that we would sit and read nothing, that we would sit in silence and simply stare off into space. That is torture to most people, because most people do not understand that we do not cease communication when we are quiet. So many of us, instead of listening, choose to formulate our next sentence, whether it connects to what we just "heard" or not. Very few people listen (myself included).

Even fewer people understand that silence is its own way of communicating. If you scream and swear at me, I cannot be certain you are angry. Or, rather, I can be certain you are angry, but only temporarily. But if you simply respond with silence? That is true fury, cold fury. If you write me poems and fall to your knees at my balcony to confess your love, I cannot be certain you love me. At least, I cannot be certain you love me forever. But if you smile and quietly grab my hand? That is certainty.

A person (who is probably my only reader) told me that she was disappointed by my lack of words on my trip to Guatemala. I guess I was just trying to communicate something powerful in the most powerful way that I know possible: silence.

Silence is humble. It does not cry out to be noticed. Rather, it waits for you to accept it on its own terms. True silence is a gift. The choice to stop speaking for a moment is the most glorious choice we've been given. Humans are only human because they can choose, and sometimes I choose to be silent.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-Michael

For the original Stronger Coffee, please visit: http://strongercoffee.tumblr.com
And just a side note: tumblr.com is down for the time being as I write this. The above post may or may not find its way onto the original blog. Thank you, as always, for reading!