Sometimes when you least expect it, and perhaps most need it, you find yourself in a new place, with new people, and you learn new things. That happened to me one night on a dark, lonely stretch of road. In retrospect, my situation at that moment was symbolic of my life at that time. Just as I was lost on the road, I was lost in life as well—unsure of exactly where I was going or why I was moving in that direction.
I’d taken a week off from my job. My goal was to get away from everything associated with work. It wasn’t that my job was terrible. Sure, it had its frustrating aspects. More than anything though was that most days I found myself wondering if there wasn’t supposed to be more to life than spending ten to twelve hours per day working in a cubicle. The main point of which appeared to be a potential promotion to then work twelve to fourteen hours per day in an office.
During high school I’d prepared for college. In college I’d prepared for the work world. Since then I’d spent my time working my way up in the company where I was employed. Now I was questioning whether the people who helped direct me along those paths were simply repeating to me what someone had repeated to them in their lives.
It wasn’t bad advice really, but it wasn’t particularly fulfilling advice either. I felt like I was busy trading my life for money, and it didn’t seem like such a good trade. That befuddled state of mind is where I was mentally when I found “The Why Are You Here Café.”
When I’ve related this story to others, they’ve used terms like “mystical” and “Twilight Zone-ish.” The latter a reference to an old television program where people would show up in places that at first glance seemed normal, but didn’t always end up that way. Sometimes, just for an instant, I catch myself wondering if my experience was real. When that happens, I go into my desk drawer at home and read the inscription on the menu Casey gave me. It reminds me of just how real everything was.
I’ve never tried to retrace my steps and find the café again. Some small part of me likes to believe no matter how real the evening was, even if I could go back to the exact spot where I originally found the café, it wouldn’t be there—that the only reason I found it was because at that moment, on that night, I needed to find it, and for that reason alone it existed.
Maybe someday I will try to go back. Or maybe some night I’ll just find myself in front of it again. Then I can go inside and tell Casey, Mike, and Anne, if she is there, how that night in the café changed my life. How the questions they exposed me to have resulted in thoughts and discoveries beyond anything I’d imagined before then.
Who knows. Perhaps on that night I’ll spend the evening talking to someone else who also got lost and wandered into “The Why Café.”
Or maybe I’ll just write a book about my experience, and let that be part of my contribution to what the café is all about.