This is a fragmented memory of the year I drank sparkling caffeinated beverages and took a lot of stimulants in order to try and become a better worker. This is not a cautionary tale or a poignant anecdote about finding myself amid waves of imposter syndrome. And this is certainly not an advertisement for caffeinated sparkling drinky drinks, but I’m not gonna stop you from living your life.
I always get to the office too early because of my fear of being late and semi-irrational fear of having to say hello to each of my coworkers individually if I walk in when everyone’s already settled at their desks. I also know I can leave early if I get to the office first to get a jumpstart on work. This is my first “big girlwp_postsjob and, like most necessary jobs, I’m giving it slightly more than the bare minimum.
This job is not the publishing house or the film archiving collective I applied to. This is the Financial District on a winter day, and I am a glorified intern shoving overpriced pineapple jerky and organic muesli into my tote bag for dinner.
I’m still in the phase of my life where intermittent fasting appeals to me for some reasons you might be able to assume, so when my stomach gives me away, I opt for a drink instead.
I mosey over to the fridge stocked with various beverages and skim past a handful of flavored still waters and a row of La Croix, picked over with only limoncello and coconut left. Chapstick flavors, yuck. Not a pamplemousse, tangerine, or lime in sight. If there’s one thing these people know how to do best, it’s take everything and enjoy it first.
What’s left at the bottom of the fridge is a small party of fizzy yerba mates. Ah, yes. What I’ve come to know as adderall in a can! My late night savior and early morning treat! I probably shouldn’t be doing this on an empty stomach but, bottoms up!
Despite what I wished, this sparkling can of caffeine did not make me better at my job or more confident that I knew what I was doing.
For me, writing is as much a practice as it is a pony show. I’ll write something that awes myself one day, and the next, I feel like I need someone or something to slap the nuances and sensitivities that should come so easily to a writer out of me. For the perfectionist I try to keep dormant in this vessel of mine, writing can feel like a chore. And at times, housing sentiments of that kind can mean “forgettingwp_poststo check your post’s comments — even if that means missing a gorgeous compliment or two advertising men’s leather shoes or online casinos. Or, stopping yourself from going too deep into what you want to say in favor of being aloof. Both stemming from the fear your work isn’t as good as you want it to be. And why not? Aren’t you supposed to be a writer?
And that’s where the mundane aspects of work feel so good to succeed in. Like, yes I did in fact finish a week’s worth of work in two days. All thanks to this little can of caffeine! And perhaps if I chug an entire can of yerba mate before I sit down and type for pleasure, my words will also be significantly more clear and enjoyable.
But the main character of that story was fated to end up as a horrible self-insert, and the love interest was just a figment of the girl I thought I loved for a few mere years of my adolescence. I didn’t write it. It was immature to believe I was a teen prodigy of Pulitzer Prize proportions. I fell in love with another girl, moved to a different city, and began my second year of college somewhere new. Always seeking another story I felt too afraid to put on the page.
At college, I learned about ways to pass classes you hated and how to participate enough to where it seemed like yes, you did the reading. I learned the best energy drinks for productivity and how long they would last. Celsius was good, but it was too much like pre-workout powder and gave me the sweats. Bang energy drinks worked, but only if you could stomach the taste of sugared food coloring. But Yerba Mates were solid. They came in a sleek little can and tasted like better versions of La Croixs. The classic flavor was reminiscent of Coke and the grapefruit one had those small bubbles I always liked in a Perrier. Plus, when I was on them, I typed more accurately and came to conclusions faster.
These little cans made me feel like I could write anything well. Like all this potential was building inside me over the past few years, and it was just the right time to let it out. And my worthy subject? Some six-page essay about a poem I can’t even remember the name of now. For the last years of college, I let this dependency hold me. It kept me up through finals season and late night shifts at my university part-time job. It gave me the confidence to power through even the most boring of subjects and carried me into my first job outside of college.
In these drinks was limitless potential and I was tipping the can to get every last drop.
The things I was writing became sloppy — at work and in my personal practice. I was more irritable and cried at every botched draft and lackluster poem. I’d just started dating someone new and felt less like myself when I was “working.”
My body meant too much to my mind. So, I stopped. Not cold turkey, but I spent less time searching out methods of curing my writer’s block and fear of mediocrity with consumables.
And the healing still goes on. It doesn’t end because she no longer lives inside of you.
Bubble Trouble is a series helmed by Autostraddle Managing Editor Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about the nostalgia, effervescence, and never-ending appeal of carbonated beverages.