She used to climb the stairs in threes, and claim reward in the hot cup of coffee waiting for her lips in the small mail room by the flight. Half a mile from the building, the rich brown beans appeared in her mind’s eye, patiently waiting for the next academic to push the hollow, plastic black button. If she just went a little faster, those beans would belong to her. She could predict, and carry through with action to control her future, if just one sip at time. Life was many little games, just like these. There was infinite power in the threes.

But somewhere between her stoic bravery to survive that which was not meant to be, and an impenetrable heartbreak that catapulted her dimension of emotional experience five rainbows farther than one can perceive, she stopped thinking about the future. It existed in the expectations of others that were blurrily mapped onto her daily rituals, and appropriately perceived as life goals. It was unspoken and expected to want things in a year, two, or perhaps even three. But into that near, somewhat near, and approaching future, this girl did choose not to see.

They don’t talk about what it feels like to feel nothing at all, and to question the underpinnings of the human experience. They also don’t talk about the gift that results from such adversity, a selfish, wampant desire for constant, emotional feedback in the present. To wash the brain in the things that light it up is the ultimate ecstasy: akin to adding happiness bleach to make whites from a colorful wash cycle. It is choosing consistency over uncertainty. It is more alluring than any drug. She learned that heartbreak and predictable inconsistency are painful, and should be avoided at all costs.

He was her maybe. She never knew what it meant to have someone emotionally care for her, because in such perfect households to experience emotional roughing of feathers is to show weakness. Dually, she longed to be needed, for the opportunity to emotionally take care of someone. But to accept emotional support is to offer vulnerability, and reveal such shameful weakness. There was no room for weakness when she had to be strong. So it was always from within herself that she pulled strength, muffled away her vulnerabilities, and felt the overwhelming build up of everything that was not logic inside of her chest.

She found affirmation through music. It delivered the emotional validation from amygdala to prefrontal cortex that was undoubtedly matched to the color of feeling that she was experiencing at any moment. There are some things in life that are certain: creamrinse getting stuck in the top of the ear after a shower, things tasting better on the first bite, cars having faces if one looks closely enough, and the emotional salience of music. Music was the gentle stream that could invigorate and then wash away the things that were not logical inside her heart.

She searched for a love that would bring her peace. She kept such a fantasy in her mind, and so in most of the time when she was alone, that was all she might need. She searched for another that would reach between the cells and break the sheathing of perfection that cradled her heart. She searched for a love that made her feel free. But deep down, she understood what the naive, positive-thinking and biased average brain would typically rationalize away. The harsh reality was that people that she loved, or that might love her, eventually went away. There was only certainty in the hum of the self, and choices that were made for it, because this would endure as long as the heart beat and the mind remained sharp. And so this promise of a love was nothing more, could be nothing more, than a rosy, idealistic dream that served as an emotional blanket when the night felt a little cold.

The exception was in her dreams. The details of reality in the fabric of stories woven together by her subconscious were strangely more sharp than anything her eyes could see in the real world. If evolution and natural selection were still relevant, her extremely poor vision would have caused her to be eaten by a more important animal many years ago. But in the age of survival, when everyone who is broken can be fixed by metal rods and expensive procedures, she endured.  And so in these dreams she found a strange sense of present in interactions and scenarios that could never be placed in time. It might have been her subconscious producing that which she needed so badly. In these dreams she found comfort, love, and richly bodied cups of coffee produced by impossibly perfect beans.

She used to climb the stairs in threes, until she realized there was more to appreciate in the current step than hope for what might be at the top of the flight. She was empowered in that moment, unstoppable and driven, and it no longer mattered what might be at the top of the stair.  Indeed, thinking about the future is common, and can be alluring, but it just wasn’t for her anymore.