Updated: Nov 13, 2021
The cafe’s cozy, picturesque decorations put the young girl at ease. The wooden paneling and fireplace crackling to the left of the eatery gave it a ‘cabin in winter’ atmosphere. I guess not much has changed, she chuckled to herself, glancing at all the different desserts displayed on the cashier’s counters; lemon cakes, cinnamon rolls oozing with syrup, strawberry truffles with powdered sugar snow on top. And milkshakes! She thought excitedly. My future self picked a good place to meet.
Ordering the “cookies and cream delight” for herself, she stood by the bookshelf near the fireplace to wait for it. She tried to ignore the irritating pang of guilt that had started worming its way through her anticipation. She rolled her eyes.
It’s one milkshake she snapped at the feeling. And besides, I don’t want anything to ruin today. I’m meeting my future self, finally. She was nervous, but mostly eager to see what her future self looked like, acted like. Perhaps ordering this milkshake was more evident of her anxiety than anything else, since her adult self was most likely already here, seated at a table somewhere, and she could always order later. But the young one didn’t want to think about that. I’m not stalling. I just want a milkshake, She thought stubbornly.
Moments later, milkshake in hand, the teenage girl peered around the cafe in search for someone very specific. Her eyes landed on a 20-something girl with pastel pink hair, coiled, and short, clipped to the side with a pin. She wore a black turtle-neck sweater tucked into her knee length skirt, and burgundy combat boots peeking from beneath her table. She was sipping on her own milkshake, tapping at her phone, a single earphone hidden behind her locks of hair. The younger girl blinked at the grown one, at once in disbelief and flabbergastation.
She looks so different, but like, not at the same time, she ruminated. She took a breath and began walking to the table her future self had chosen, right next to a window overlooking the trees beyond. Do I just…sit? She thought, awkwardly. She isn’t even looking at me. Then, as though her future self had acquired telepathic abilities as well as an aura the young one found unfamiliar, the adult looked up and grinned coolly.
Moments later, the two girls had exchanged pleasantries and began the standard issue small-talk one always has when they speak to someone new. But this was a most unusual form of small-talk, a conversation between two of the same self. The elder girl glanced at her budding self’s choice of beverage and smiled.
The younger girl then became aware of the fact that both girls had ordered the very same thing and joined in her companion’s amusement.
“You too,” she grinned. The teenager looked down at her lap as her smile slowly shrunk, remembering what she was here for. She cleared her throat and looked back up at her older self, who’s eyes softened with concern.
“I assume you have questions to ask me?” The adult began, encouragingly.
“I do, yeah.” The teenager’s own eyes, the color of pale jade, shone with resolve. “Was I too hard on myself? Academically, I don’t know… like my goals and stuff…” she trailed off.
The grown one looked to the side thoughtfully, sipping on her drink. “Yes… and no.” She concluded.
“Well that was unhelpful.” The teenager responded flatly.
This prompted a sputter of laughter from the elder girl, causing a few people to look her way, startled by the sudden sound. The young one couldn’t help but admire the unwavering carefreeness her older self seemed to have mastered.
“Sorry,” she continued to chuckle, before sobering at the memories her growing self prompted. “I meant, yes, you… we’ve been unfair to ourselves too many times to count. Not just in terms of academics, but just whenever a plan we had doesn’t work out…or if we can’t look, act, or be this ideal person we have in our heads.” She raised an eyebrow. “I’m sure you know what I mean.”
The teenager nodded in response.
“But if I’m not hard on myself, I just won’t get anywhere. I know myself well. I’ll just slack off,” the growing girl sighed in annoyance.
“There’s a limit though. You’re only human, you know. You can’t be perfect.”
“I know, but…”
The teenager’s frustration throbbed in her chest, like a caged beast clawing at the walls of its prison. She wanted to free herself from so many things. From caring too much about what others thought of her, from persisting insecurities. But at the same time she longed to know if her adult self regretted anything in her life, so that she, the one whose path was still to be determined, wouldn’t make the same mistakes. It was this she was tired of, the paradox of a determination to change and a dislike of the pressure to change. More than anything, she wanted to be comfortable with herself, who she was.
“Do you have regrets?” the young one asked, suddenly.
The older girl blinked at her, taken aback. “Regrets? Why do you want to know?” the adult enquired, despite knowing perfectly well why she was being asked this question.
“So I won’t make the same mistakes. So I make the right choices the first time.” the teenager said resolutely.
“Let me ask you a question then. What is a ‘right choice’?”
“What, are you gonna go all philosophical on me now?” the teenager teased.
But the adult’s face was still like stone. “Answer the question.”
“Alright, jeez.” the young girl glanced downwards. “I don’t know… the thing that’s meant to happen? The best thing for you? You know what I mean, why are you asking me this?”
“Because if you ask me for all the answers, you’ll never make the right choice.” the adult replied, coldly.
Her companion’s uncooperative answers only served to frustrate the teenager more. She couldn’t understand why her future self, of all entities, would refuse to help her. “Listen. I’m just trying to do what’s best for myself in the long run.” the teenager started.
“No you’re not. What you’re doing is robbing yourself of the experiences your life is trying to give you. What you’re doing is like a…cheat. In a video game.” The adult folded her arms, her piercing gaze stupefying her young self. “You’ll only get to the ‘right choice’, if there is one, after you’ve grown and learned from your mistakes. And we’re both still growing.”
The youthful one sighed, still plagued by her worries. “I just don’t know how to get to where I want to be. Is it by just going hard until the end? Am I even capable of doing that?”
The adult, upon hearing this, was once again immersed in her memories of the past. Dreams, diets, New years’ resolutions… “I’m not saying you can’t work hard. And I’m not saying give up. I’m just saying: It’s okay to have drawbacks.”
“But like I said I know myself and I’ll just give u-”
“You won’t!” the adult exclaimed, the volume of her voice rising. “Why do you think so little of yourself?” she asked desperately.
“Don’t you remember what it was like to be me?” her younger self muttered, gazing at the window listlessly.
The flowered girl sat up, frowning, almost insulted at such a thought.
“I remember it more than you know. And that’s why I’m frustrated. I want you to start seeing all the amazing things about ourselves.”
The teenager, at this, fought against laughter. “Amazing? I think that’s pushing it a little.” The teenager gave a small smile, shaking her head. “But I’m trying to.” She added, quietly.
The older girl nodded, glancing at her younger self’s empty milkshake glass. “I know you are.”