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  • Alexandra Hillenbrand

still at the restaurant

You know how sometimes something happens to you that you deem unfair and it is completely out of your control to stop the situation from spiraling. And it's frustrating, truly, that you can't interject logic and reason into the situation - or pathos even. You cannot force empathy onto those who aren't interested in using it. So, you're left there, stuck rotting in the past and all of its manifestations. In Taylor Swift's words: "Help! I'm still at the restaurant."

When you wake up in another cold sweat after spending the night passing through several iterations of a dream where you are knocking on glass and trying to convince other people to understand your perspective, maybe that's when it dawns on you that it's enough. It's ridiculous, certainly, but definitely not something that is unique to my experiences. Being ignored is hurtful, being dismissed is terrifying, and being invalidated is heartbreaking. If you're not careful, you'll stay at that restaurant for the rest of your life. Dirtying silverware and staring at empty seats, hyper-fixating on all of those you lost because you weren't agreeable enough.

It's something I fumble with a lot, this inability to introduce closure and peace for myself. The unfortunate truth is, it cannot come unless I want it to. If you go on a walk to clear your mind, but fight with the past the whole time, then I hate to give you this breaking news - you're not trying to heal. I'm not saying it isn't okay, everyone moves at their own pace, I'm just giving you some truth that mainly, I myself need to hear.

Here me out. Last night, I had the same pattern of devastating dreams. Until the end, when I dreamt that I was having dinner with someone new, but familiar. It felt strangely hopeful. I woke up for the first time in a while with a sense of optimism in the morning. And do you, stranger, know why that was? It was because I had been thinking about positive aspirations and experiences when I went to bed. How insanely shocking.

So, maybe the bad has to balance out the good. Maybe you can mourn the past while looking toward the future, but you don't have to stay there forever.

Maybe you can go to the restaurant with those who bring out the best in you. The best that was arguably always there, but needed to be sought out by yourself first. Take them there and then let them lead you out of it.

I saw someone say the other day that when you grow enough and you see your friends again it's like they're meeting you for the first time. I find that concept so beautiful and hopeful. That it's okay to hold the past at a distance and move on. That you can find the little girl you once were and be as ridiculous and sunshiney as her, but with the wisdom and experience to tackle the world.

Maybe you can finally let things go at dinner with your favorite people. You won't have to pick up your phone and check who's trying to reach you and especially who's not. You won't even want to. You're at the restaurant by choice now, and all you need is the present moment. Put the past in your pocket and only pull it out as a reminder of how far you have come. The restaurant will always be there, waiting for you with its dust and its dread. Walk past it next time. I heard there's a great new sushi bar on Main St.

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