I sighed as I pressed 'end' on my phone. Melanie had a way of making me feel guilty. Not only guilty that I wasn't spending time with her, but her call made me question my choices. Did I work too much? Was I ignoring my friends and family? Was what I giving up worth it to start college next month? Was my career choice even the right one? Groaning, I shut the dishwasher off and drained it. Standing hunched over a sink washing dishes was always good for a sore back. Melanie had been my best friend since childhood. Lately it seemed like we had drifted a part. After graduation, I applied out to several colleges and had just received my letter of acceptance. Melanie chose to take a year off, travel and spend time with friends and family. After getting back from a holiday on the East Coast, Melanie wanted me to go and check out the new club that had just opened up. However, being late summer, tourist season was still at its peak. The restaurant had been packed from shortly after opening right until close. I was too tired to stand, never mind go out all night clubbing.
Just getting to the point where I was eligible to go to college hadn't been easy. My parents had divorced when I was a small child. I can still remember my dad, but it's more a vague impression than a clear image. Dad's financial contributions had been almost nonexistent growing up. Mom worked hard to support me and my sister. The sacrifices she made left a lasting imprint in my mind. We never went without, but there wasn't anything left over for extras. My scholarship would cover a good chunk of my tuition, but not all of it. Plus, I still had books and daily living expenses on top of it. I considered myself fortunate to land the waitressing/dishwashing job in the café. It's full time job for the summer, and the tips aren't bad. The downside is I don't have the time or the energy for anything else.
Walking back to my tiny, rented apartment, I thought about how quickly time had passed. It seemed like just yesterday I was studying for finals. Now I was getting ready for college. I really do miss spending time with my friends and the wild, crazy times we had when we went out together. Lately ' nose to the grindstone' seems to be the most fitting term to describe my life.
Flopped out on the couch after dinner, I surveyed the remains of my meal. Kraft dinner and hotdogs were certainly quick, and with in budget, but when was the last time I actually cooked a decent meal? When was the last time I actually took a little time out of life just for me, for that matter? I grew up believing that attaining the goal was everything. But surely there was at least a little room for self-care? I can't remember the last time I took even a couple hours off just for myself. A period of time in which I didn't do anything or think anything, just simply be.
Looking outside, I could see the sun edge towards the horizon. Tomorrow was yet another day of drudgery. But did I really need to worry about that now? Of course school was going to be stressful with exams, timelines, and a whole new routine to figure out. This was all a ways 'down the road.' Just for a moment, I could simply stop.
Opening the patio doors, I stepped outside. The heat had passed, but the day was still warm. I sank with pleasure into the patio chair. I couldn't even remember the last time I sat in it. My gaze strayed to the railing planters of flowers. I'd picked them up at the grocery store on a whim. Everyone's life needs a little color in it, right? Pansies, geraniums, and petunias nodded their greeting to me in the breeze. Surveying the marigolds, I gasped with pleasure and surprise. Situated on one of the bright orange flowers, was a monarch butterfly. Its wings fanned slowly as it basked in the flower. Finally having its fill, it spread its wings and flew away.
Coming back inside, I eyed the phone. There really was no reason I couldn't have Melanie over for dinner. It didn't need to be a wild night out to catch up, just time for the two of us. After all, chicken cacciatore and a bottle of white wine make everything right, don't they? Smiling, I picked up the phone.