You are allowed to be here.

Recently, I saw a TikTok in which someone described patiently waiting behind a woman at a cafe who was adding cream and sugar to her coffee at the drink station. The moment she sensed him standing there, she apologized and frantically scrambled to move out of his way. Why, he wondered in the video. She was using the coffee shop’s amenities as intended. She was doing what she needed to do, efficiently, not bothering him in the least. And yet.

How many times have I waited my turn for the ATM outside the bank, looking at the geese walking around in the grass or watching the traffic pass by, happily lost in thought, when the person ahead of me finishes their transaction and turns to walk back to their car, muttering sorry! as they pass? You don’t need to apologize for a thing, I want to tell them. There’s no hurry. You’re allowed to be here.

But, on the flip side, how often am I the one simply existing in the world, moving about my business at a normal pace, and still somehow feeling like I’m inconveniencing someone else or getting in their way? I, too, have often apologized in situations like this, and why? For doing a completely normal, fully human task. Essentially, for living.

It extends to non-physical areas as well, this feeling that what I’m doing (or writing, or making, or considering) isn’t worthy. That I shouldn’t bother publishing my thoughts here or on Instagram, for example, because people’s feeds are already full enough and it would be inconsiderate to infringe on their day. That I shouldn’t go for a job I want because I don’t want to potentially prevent someone else from getting it, someone who probably deserves it more. That I shouldn’t speak up in meetings or conversations because everyone’s had enough of me already and I don’t want to be Too Much, an imposition.

So many times, I’ve made myself small.

But would I ever think any of these things about my family, or friends, or folks whose online presences I enjoy and have chosen to follow? Fully no. More than just allowed to be here, I’d tell them their ideas, their art, their existence, are celebrated. Craved! I want more of them, always.

So hey, hi, to that woman inside of all of us, rushing to add cream to her coffee: take all the time you need. No one standing behind you is in a hurry. They’re all watching you with admiration as you do your thing, knowing their turn is coming. Take up space, without apology, and stop trying to shrink. The metaphorical coffee shop is much better for it, and we’re all so happy that you’re here.

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