Sarah Gu '24 is the editor for The Pingry Record, co-leader of the Asian Student Union, and head layout editor for the Pingry Community Research Journal. She enjoys reading and sewing—oh, and she's also a competitive fencer for the United States. Below, she shares her thoughts on joining the caffeinated masses in this humorous and touching Op-Ed, Endless Marathons and Coffee, originally printed in The Pingry Record and reprinted here with permission from the author.
One year ago, I yearned to adopt the impossible Gilmore Girls lifestyle. It’s a show that navigates the ups and downs of life in an incredibly safe, close-knit small town where anyone can jaywalk anytime. It’s where a kitchen at a small inn has an infinite budget for ingredients and where town meetings have perfect attendance. But most confusing of all, it’s where you can drink infinite amounts of coffee without health complications.
Faced with reality, I vowed to never drink coffee. I believed that if I experienced the magical awakening that follows a brew, I would spiral into toxic dependence. It would devour my wallet as I left for college and began morphing into an independent adult. Unlike the fictional Rory and Lorelai Gilmore, I didn’t have an endless supply of coffee from the local diner, and my body couldn’t function after a sixth cup in 24 hours.
Still, I’ve consumed at least 10 cups of coffee in the past few weeks—not as many as some of my friends, but it’s certainly more than I’m used to. Drinking coffee, for me, is a practice of self-restraint. I love the person I become while caffeinated: I have all the energy in the world to do everything. My excitement rushes in, my laughs are free, and I flick away things that irritate me like fleas. My neurons fire through the right paths, overriding the sluggishness from sleep deprivation, and the right words fall out of my mouth with perfect enthusiasm.
Our world follows the cult of coffee. Daily drinkers range from 62–70% of the U.S. population. Coffee fanatics will study and critique each step of production, from where the bean is grown to how the steaming water is poured over the filter. Chatting over a cup is standard practice, and we honor it in entertainment that mirrors our ideal lives—an unbreakable friend group like in Friends or Seinfeld, or a special mother-daughter duo in the perfect small town of Gilmore Girls.
Coffee separates a child from an adult. At the bottom of it, coffee extends our mortal hours. Children don’t need extra hours—they have a slower perception of time, hold no obligation to productivity, and feel no weight of the clock that ticks down their years (I know it was like that for me). Coffee is useless for them. But we need it to finish that paper, cram for another two hours, and cure the fatigue that prevents us from being our best selves. We want to do more, say more, and be more.
For me, drinking a cup reflects my desire to live in the fast lane. We might seek to maximize our time in hopes of fixing the discontent in our state of affairs. I’ll chug the cold brew to make more time for my schoolwork, whose time has been displaced by practice and a nap. I’ll have a cup in the morning to fight off my half-asleep irritation.
But after a few hours, I’ll sink into my bed, awake and unable to keep pace with the rest of the world. We might crash with headaches, anxiety, or insomnia. I’ll be irritated at everything and skip every song in my playlist. I’ll be awake enough to be conscious, but fatigued enough to find discontent in the smallest details. While caffeinated, the time we give to others is better, but the time we get to ourselves is much worse.
Is it worth compromising our solitude for our output? We live with many commitments and goals while aligning ourselves with American cultural values. We aren’t exactly supported to live in the slow lane.
Not all of us can live that Gilmore Girls lifestyle, where we can sleep like perfect humans after a 9 PM drink. So every time I reach for a cup of coffee, it’s more than just a judgment weighing a night of zombie eyes or much-needed energy. It’s a decision: do I take the bigger, designated road, or do I branch off into the quiet woods where no one else will see?
To contact the author: Sarah Gu '24
Portrait by Flex photographer Aiden de Asla '24