Grandma Chic and the Illusion of Choice

The walls are painted in that pale shade of pink that is as non-committal as a lover who calls at 21.30 on a Saturday night. From the theatre black ceiling, industrial lamps and rescued lampshades from the salvation army hangs in clusters over mismatched tables, where no chair is the same. Pale pink cushions in all shapes and sizes offer seating in the windows and against the walls.

Homemade cake and overflowing sandwiches are served on floral plates and next to a hot pot of coffee there is a wall of cups of different designs offering the guests a chance to pick after their own taste and preference. It provides an illusionary sense of freedom of choice. The content remains the same, yet the experience is altered based on the selected container. I’ve picked a Jugend-style cup in gold and light blue, large enough to fit more coffee than I should drink, yet easy on the eye. It’s my favourite place in town (A Piece of Cake, Linkoping) and my computer connects to the wifi even though I haven’t been here in months.

Outside, the weather is going from a rainy and windy autumn to a cold and crispy winter. On the news, they said that tomorrow the first snow will fall also over my head. Dreaming myself away, I see an old man smile as he is taking a selfie outside the window. The scenery on the street is bland at best as the cafe lies on an uninteresting side street, but his phone reveals a good photo and I imagine he sends it to someone who loves him; a partner, a child, maybe his dentist, and the happenstance brings a smile to my face.

Life is going in all kinds of directions of late. And without jinxing it, two job contracts are being formed on my behalf providing 2021 with a strange and uncomfortable layer of determinism. One back in Germany the other in smalltown Sweden. It’s the irony of life. Out of all the things I swore I would never do it was to move back to Germany (arguing that there are so many other amazing places to experience) or to move to a small town. Craving the hustle and bustle of a city alive, of the freedom of being a stranger in the masses of people and finding my place in the variety, not in the familiar. In the past, I learned the hard lesson of having expectations. Now I am learning that having constraints leads to just as much irony.

Yet I am grateful, hopeful, trying my best to fight my instinct of running away proclaiming my destiny as a drunken author, as the struggling artist, as another lost soul joining in the footsteps of the glorious names in history on the intersection between excellence and misery. Instead, reinforcing the researcher, the scientist version of myself. It’s another format, another cup, serving the same content of life. An illusionary sense of freedom to be someone other than we are.

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