“Do not seek for things to hap­pen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what hap­pens hap­pens the way it hap­pens.”  —Epictetus

The author

I was sit­ting in a café, writ­ing. To the left of my lap­top was my phone, face-up, in case some­one called. To my right was a lat­te, my favorite treat. I had writ­ten end­less open­ing sen­tences and delet­ed every one. I checked my watch and lament­ed that I only had forty min­utes before gui­tar class.

Did I imag­ine it would only take a lat­te and a free hour for inspi­ra­tion to strike? For me, dead­line writ­ing is nev­er going to be any­thing oth­er than com­plete dri­v­el. I final­ly yield­ed, stowed my devices, sigh­ing in frus­tra­tion. I’m skilled at being dis­con­tent, want­i­ng each moment to be some­thing more, some­thing dif­fer­ent, some­thing else. My mind ques­tions con­stant­ly, look­ing more for busy­ness than real answers. I long for time alone to sim­ply be, then fill it with inces­sant mind chat­ter the moment I’m hand­ed the gift, noise as escapism. True silence is an endan­gered species.

That’s when I see the smil­ing man sit­ting by the win­dow. He’s sip­ping a cap­puc­ci­no and watch­ing peo­ple pass by out­side. Every now and then he clos­es his eyes and sighs hap­pi­ly, need­ing only hot cof­fee and a sun-drenched spot to enjoy it. I sur­rep­ti­tious­ly watch him until I have to leave. He nev­er checks his phone or picks up his book to read. He only sips and sighs, liv­ing his best life.

I think of the Stoic prac­tice of Amor Fati, accept­ing and embrac­ing every­thing that has hap­pened, is hap­pen­ing, and has yet to hap­pen. Like the Sanskrit imper­a­tive san­tosha – mean­ing com­plete con­tent­ment amor fati is direct­ly trans­lat­ed as a love of one’s fate. It’s a deep­er, rich­er emo­tion than hap­pi­ness, which depends on the absence of dis­con­tent. It’s a wel­com­ing of it all, an open-heart­ed accep­tance that the very nature of the uni­verse is chang­ing. And with­out change,  we would not exist. Whether we label the moment as good, bad, enjoy­able, insuf­fer­able, bor­ing, excit­ing, or heart­break­ing, it is nec­es­sary. It sim­ply is.

I think about how frus­trat­ed I felt just mere moments ago. We strug­gle and strive, and much of our dis­sat­is­fac­tion aris­es from our own mak­ing, a refusal to accept the moment as it is. 

Like a light­ning bolt, insight comes to me. I sit here, stunned by the mag­ni­tude of the aware­ness this smil­ing, con­tent man has giv­en me.

My biggest fear is that I’m basic. After dig­ging deep into mem­o­ry and opin­ion to write week after week about how to live a mag­i­cal exis­tence, the truth keeps com­ing back. I’m a dime a dozen. My sto­ries don’t make me unique or espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing. I’m not as spe­cial as I want to believe, and I’m not as tal­ent­ed either. I bad­ly want to believe that my great­ness can­not be con­tained by an algo­rithm, but truth­ful­ly, if social media has taught me any­thing, it’s that for every­thing I churn out, there are a hun­dred more on the same top­ic writ­ten by peo­ple with far more tal­ent than me. So I cre­ate this sce­nario where I con­vince myself that the world is wait­ing with bat­ed breath for my next opin­ion. As if the world needs more opin­ions, more sense­less noise. 

“Ma’am, are you ok?” the barista places a hand on my shoul­der, look­ing con­cerned. I’m sur­prised to notice that tears are stream­ing down my face. I assure her I am fine, embar­rassed. As she walks away, I real­ize that I wasn’t lying. They aren’t tears of grief for being a basic bitch. Instead, they feel some­thing like relief.

I’m the hero­ine of my own sto­ry, but I’m just a bit play­er – or, at most, a sup­port­ing actress – in the tale of those around me. Or, like the cof­fee shop guru in the win­dow, I’m touch­ing lives in ways I shall nev­er know. That is enough. 

A love of one’s fate.

Amor fati, indeed.

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.