Chapter 22

A bitter, sharp scent tinged the air- not for the first time that day, or even with the last half hour- and Kaneki wrinkled his sensitive nose. Burnt coffee smelled horrible to his ghoul nose. He would have thought that burnt coffee- coffee being the only normal thing he could ingest- wouldn't somehow smell even worse than human food now did.

From across the cafe, Kaneki could see Koma's shoulders rise in a resigned sigh. Kaneki could sympathize. This was Hide's thirteenth attempt at making coffee manually- the way Anteiku was known for. Thus far, they had all ended up burnt. Kaneki wondered idly if his nose would ever be the same. It seemed as though he would never forget the acrid, bitter smell.

Luckily, Touka wasn't working in the store that day- their second day and the manager had already seen fit to schedule the aggressive young woman separately. Kaneki found himself hoping she wouldn't remain so hostile. Surely nobody could stay that cranky?

Koma walked over to the counter, inspecting Hide's latest crime against coffee. "Little Bro, you're still pouring it wrong. If you aren't consistent about how you pour the hot water, your grounds are going to get to hot in certain areas, while in others they won't get hot enough."

Hide huffed, frustrated at his continued failure. "This is ridiculous. It's pouring water over a paper cone with coffee grounds. Why is this so difficult? Also, why don't you just use a coffee maker machine, like everywhere else?"

Kaneki bit his tongue. It's not that difficult, he thought. There weren't any customers in the cafe at the moment, which gave Koma the opportunity to teach the duo how to make Anteiku's famous hand-brewed coffee. Hide had volunteered to go first and both Koma and Kaneki had been regretting the blond's enthusiasm ever since. Is it possible that Hide angered some deity of coffee somewhere? Surely no one is THIS bad naturally.

Koma winced as Hide dumped the ruined liquid down the sink,already preparing to try again. That boy was consistent, if only in his determination. "Alright," Koma said, "How about you take a break and let Kenichi have a try. Sometimes, it helps to take a step back from problems and come back with fresh eyes."

Hide scowled down at the mess he'd made of the counter- coffee grounds scattered from his previous attempts- and for a moment Kaneki feared he might refuse. Then, Hide huffed a little sigh and rolled his shoulders. "Yeah, I think you're right, Koma. I think I'm just getting too worked up about the whole thing. Your turn, Kenichi."

Kaneki slid off the bar-stool he had been sitting on and walked around the counter to take Hide's place. "Okay, thanks, Hideki."

Once behind the counter, Kaneki frowned down at Hide's mess, feeling his OCD take control. There was no way he could make an adequate cup of coffee with such a mess everywhere! Kaneki immediately began cleaning up the counter and surrounding area. Koma didn't seem to mind, he was relaxing and reading his phone where he sat on a bar stool. Kaneki supposed that when there weren't customers in the cafe, messes to clean, or pastries to prepare Anteiku was probably a very slow job.

Once the counter was clean, Kaneki carefully set up the coffee pot. He put the water pitcher over the hot plate to boil and poured some coffee grounds into a cone made using special coffee filter paper. He placed the cone over the top of the empty coffee pot.

Once the water was boiling, he carefully pulled the pitcher off the hot plate. The water was warm, heat radiating from the pitcher. Kaneki smiled softly, feeling warm steam curl lazily across his face as he cautiously tipped the pitcher over the filter paper. A steady, yet gently, stream of water made a soft hissing noise as it made contact with the room temperature coffee grounds in the cone. Kaneki slowly moved the pitcher around the cone in smooth, steady circles. He was careful never to linger over one patch of grounds, but to pour consistently over the cone so that every ground came in contact with the hot water equally. His eyes halfway closed as the scent of rich, dark coffee filled the steam rising from the pot. After passing through the grounds, the water- now coffee- dripped steadily into the coffee pot beneath.

Both the smell and the smooth brown color of the coffee in the pot made Kaneki smile softly. He had done it correctly. Koma grinned at Kaneki from across the bar, abandoning his phone when he got the first heady whiff of hand brewed coffee. "Well," Koma said, "I guess we don't have to wonder where you two will get assigned. Hideki's waiting tables- cause you have great customer service, Hideki- and Kenichi's behind the counter making the coffee. This works out great."

Hide pouted from his respective bar stool. Kaneki noticed that he had pulled out one of his manga books from nowhere- despite Kaneki telling him not to bring distractions to work. "Seriously? First try, Kenichi? You could have at least made it look difficult, you big Gary-Stu. There is no justice in this world!" Hide theatrically slumped onto the countertop, peeking one eye out of his folded arms to wink at Kaneki, so he would know that Hide was just playing.

"Aww," said Koma. "Don't be too upset over it. I doubt you would have wanted to be stuck behind the counter all day anyways. Can't pick up any babes like that, little man."

Hide picked himself off the counter laughing, "Yeah. On second thought, you keep being a Gary-Stu main character, Kenichi. And I'll just keep being a babe-magnet."

Kaneki rolled his eyes and answered, "Only if both parties are the same charge. You do a great job repelling them."

Hide sputtered and turned red as Koma laughed- the sound filling the room. Kaneki took a moment to breathe it all in- the scent of a finely brewed pot of fresh coffee, the sight of his best friend's blushing face, and the sound of their new friend's boisterous guffaws. Why were humans and ghouls at odds when they were truly so similar? Why did ghouls choose to prey upon humans? Why were theypredators?

The chime of a bell disrupted the moment and Kaneki found his attention caught by the people entering the cafe. It was a mother and her daughter. Two ghouls, if he was reading their scent correctly. Kaneki knew he hadn't met many other ghouls, or even been a ghoul for very long, but the little girl seemed particularly familiar. When the little girl looked at him- recognition flashing across her young face- he knew he must have met her somewhere. It was odd, though. Kaneki didn't spend time in areas that children frequented, so where would he have met her?

Koma smiled broadly at the pair as they walked into the cafe. "Why, hello there, Fueguchi-san, Hinami-chan. How can I help you, today?"

Kaneki jolted upon hearing their names- he could remember the little girl from the library. She had good taste in literature.

Fueguchi-san smiled cordially back at Koma. "Hello, Koma-san. We're just here for our usual. Has it been busy, today?"

"Nope. As a matter of fact, it's so slow, I've been showing the ropes to Anteiku's newest hires. These two are Kenichi and Hideki."

The surprised, appraising look that passed over Fueguchi-san's face could be the product of Kaneki's paranoid imagination, but he doubted it. This woman was well aware of the kind of business Anteiku truly was. It seemed his suspicions after the library were true. They were ghouls. Little Hinami was a ghoul, too.

"New hires? I wasn't aware that Anteiku was looking for fresh faces. It seems like it's been just Irimi-san, Touka-chan, the manager, and you for years at least."

Kaneki supposed the woman must be fishing for information. It probably wasn't everyday that a shop run by ghouls for ghouls got a new human hire. Kaneki suddenly had the intense desire to be on the other side of the counter, between the ghouls and his very human best friend. His mind flies back to Touka's vicious warning and he wonders amidst his accelerating heartbeat if they shouldn't have paid it more attention.

"You might be right. But, that's even more reason for Anteiku to hire new people. It gives the rest of us some room to breathe. I may finally get a day off, if one of them learns how to cover the kitchen." Koma seemed to grin even wider at the mention of a day off. Kaneki had to wonder how long it had been since the big guy just got the chance to relax. With only a few employees, it couldn't be very often.

"Oh, really?" Asked Fueguchi-san. "Who's looking to be the chef, then?" Kaneki notices her glancing curiously at Hide and has to suppress a hysterical giggle. If they were assuming Hide could cook because Hide was the only human in the room, they were in for a nasty surprise. It occurred to Kaneki that the woman may think Anteiku hired a human in order to throw off the scent of any investigators and to aid in the kitchen- apparently, due to the lack of taste, ghouls made for poor cooks most of the time.

Hide grinned widely, as though to support what the woman was likely thinking, and Kaneki suddenly had the great desire to make sure his aniki never set foot in Anteiku's kitchen. They needed no more fire hazards. He beat Hide to the punch, trying to keep the woman's attention off of him by saying, "Actually, we haven't had the opportunity to learn anything in the kitchen, yet. This is only our second day."

Throughout the conversation, Hinami was fixated on Kaneki, not even glancing to Hide, despite his sweeter scent. Her mother didn't notice, however, and asked Komo, "You haven't shown them your domain? I'm surprised."

Was it Kaneki or did Fueguchi-san seem uncomfortable? Her eyes were still sliding over Hide, yet Kaneki doesn't think she does it out of predatory intent or malice. She almost seems…. afraid of Hide. She was making pleasant small talk with Koma, but she also never fully left the vicinity of the doorway.

"Hey, I've given them the tour. We just haven't gotten past the front counter part of training, yet. We'll get there. You can't rush perfection, you know. As a matter of fact," Koma gestured to Kaneki, still standing near his fresh pot of steaming coffee, "Kenichi here is a master barista in the making!"

Kaneki had to keep from jolting in surprise, not prepared to be brought into a conversation that appeared to be between old friends- or at least steady acquaintances. He wondered which was more awkward, being brought into a conversation between two close friends or being ignored for such a conversation. Regardless, he smiled, hoping he didn't look as out of place as he felt. "Ahh, Koma-san is being over generous. This is my first pot of coffee." Kaneki gestured to the coffee pot and hoped his smile didn't turn into an uncomfortable grimace.

Fueguchi-san took a deep breath- which Kaneki knew she didn't need with her keen nose- and said, "And what a fine pot, indeed. As a matter of fact, Koma-san, Hinami and I are feeling a bit peckish. I'll order two cups of this coffee and a snack for the both of us to go."

Koma smiled, already ringing up her order on the register. "Your usual, then?"

Fueguchi-san made a show of consideration before nodding and humming her agreement.

"Alright, then. I've got your order rung up on the register. The item you requested isn't on the counter this morning, but we doe have a few left in the back room. I'll let Hideki finish ringing you up, while Kenichi fixes you that coffee, and I'll grab that order for you."

Koma left the register to Hide, swiftly heading into the back of the cafe. Kaneki could hear him opening a second door, before his footsteps faded. Hide started klik-klacking on the keys of the register as Kaneki grabbed two of Anteiku's to-go cups- good quality, recyclable cups with Anteiku's logo stylized on the side- to pour the fresh coffee into.

Kaneki has just poured the second cup of coffee- he sticks a lid on each, with a colorful bendy straw in Hinami's, because she seems to like colorful things- when Koma returns from the back foom. In his hand are two wrapped to-go boxes, each of substantial size and wrapped in one of Anteiku's decorative wrappers. Kaneki cannot see into the boxes, but his keen nose catches a whiff of something sweetly savory. It's all he can do to keep from choking on air or making a face. Hide doesn't appear to notice what's really in the to-go boxes, or if he does, he is better at withholding his reaction than Kaneki.

The coffee and to-go boxes are handed over- along with a receipt from Hide- and Koma bids the two ghouls a cheerful goodbye. After that, the day continues smoothly. Customers begin to flock to Anteiku's soothing atmosphere in search of their coffee fix and they provide Kaneki with much needed busy-work. There were no more ghouls walking in- or at least none he could smell- and it gave him time to process his first encounter with one of Anteiku's ghoul clients. This though kept him occupied mentally until it was time to close and Koma shooed them home with instructions to return the next day ready for a cooking boot camp.

Kaneki wonders if he can tell how distracted he is.

Kimi is waiting at Kaneki's door and it takes him a moment to remember that tonight was one of their meetings. They were supposed to be discussing a better way of getting the chemical ingredients for the smoothies. They had been stealing ingredients from the college for weeks now. Kaneki was honestly surprised that they had not been discovered yet.

Hide trots up, still full of energy and not as introspective over the events of the day. "Hey, Kimi," he said. "We had our second day of work today!"

Kimi laughed as Hide danced around her with a gleeful energy. "I take it, you had a good day at work?"

"It was great, Kimi!"

Kaneki is unlocking the door to his apartment as he asks, "What about when you burnt ten plus pots of coffee?"

Hide sputters and Kimi laughs in delight. "I didn't know it was possible to burn a liquid, Hide. You'll have to enlighten me on how you managed that."

The door is open and Kaneki smoothly glides inside, leaving the keys on the front table as he slides off his shoes and pads through the hallway in jus this socks. His friends follow, still bickering over Hide's questionable new skill. Kaneki grabs a pre-made casserole from the freezer and sticks it into the oven to warm up for his friends- and what a wonderful word that is- whilst they make themselves comfortable on his old beat up sofa. It should be ready in ten minutes.

With dinner settled, Kaneki moves to sit on couch with them, wedging himself into the thin space between Kimi and the arm of the couch. The couch- a beaten up, old thing Hide and Kaneki found at a yard sale, creaks ominously in complaint, but bears the weight well enough. Hide is in the midst of bragging to Kimi about his exploits in flirting with Anteiku's female customers- Kaneki can bear witness that, while he did make female customers laugh, it wasn't because they were attracted to him, they were laughing at him- but he lets Hide spin the tale however he likes, Kimi knows Hide well enough to read between the lines for what really happened.

Kaneki waits for Hide to finish his story, before he cuts in, "We saw our first ghoul customers, today."

Kimi blinks and Hide has no reaction- so Kaneki assumes that he noticed that they were ghouls as well. Kimi says, "Well, I'm surprised they let you see what was going on so soon- you would think a secret ghoul establishment would be more wary of strangers- but knowing what Anteiku's purpose really is, it was inevitable that you would come in contact with ghouls."

Hide chips in, "It was neat. They weren't what I was expecting. I know ghouls obviously aren't exactly like some kind of stereotyped predator- otherwise they would all be recognized long ago- but they were really just two normal people. A mother and her daughter."

Kaneki sighs, still not sure how he really felt about seeing the two ghouls in Anteiku. "Their appearance was certainly deceiving. I would have never known they were ghouls without their scent or their connection with Anteiku."

Kimi turns to look at Kaneki curiously as she asks, "Their scent?"

Kaneki realizes he has never mentioned his growing skill with determining people by scent. "Err, yeah," he says, "As time goes on, I've been noticing that my sense of smell is becoming more keen. At first, I just noticed that certain people have a different scents- which is normal, people do have naturally different scents- but I can smell them without being near them and I can differentiate them between people, now. Then, I realized that I could smell ghouls apart from humans. At first, ghouls were a void in my sense of smell. They didn't have a particular scent- unlike humans who smell….. kinda good. Ghouls didn't have a noticeable scent, which is how I started picking them out from humans, though I am starting to be able to detect a scent from them as my sense of smell keeps improving."

While Kaneki had been talking, Kimi was taking notes- he had noticed that she kept information she learns from him in a conservatively decorated navy blue composition book. Idly, he hopes she keeps it safe from unwelcome eyes. It wouldn't do for their group to be discovered by a nosy busybody.

Hide laughs and asks, "Does that mean you can help me find my phone, when I lose it? My scent must be on it pretty strong, right?"

Kaneki tilts his head. "Maybe? Your scent is also all over the apartment, Hide. And, I'm not super good at this yet. I've just gotten to the point that I recognize you and Kimi by scent."

Hide sags in disappointment, saying, "Aww, darn. It was worth asking, though. Do you think the other ghouls can find my phone?"

"Ummm, I've never asked them about how much they can smell. I honestly don't even know how to bring that up in conversation. And you shouldn't bug them about it either, Hide. You should just learn to keep up with your own property."

Hide is probably going to retort with something overly sassy, but the beeping of the oven timer- signaling the humans' dinner time- interrupts him. Kaneki heads to the kitchen, pulling the dish out of the oven and setting it on some potholders, before serving generous portions of the casserole onto plates for Hide and Kimi. When he brings the food into the kitchen area, Hide and Kimi are already sat down at the table; and Kimi has brought out a thermos of Kaneki's smoothie, setting it at his place.

This- eating together in good company- is new to Kaneki's life, but he finds that he quite enjoys it. It gives him a warm sensation under his collarbone, to be sat with a group of friends enjoying a meal together.

Kimi glances around the table before pointing to the thermos and saying, "I know we've mentioned this before, but, we have got to find an alternative source of raw materials. There's only so many ways I can incorrectly organize the chemicals in the chemistry back room before the teaching assistant realizes someone's been nicking them."

Hide winces, chewing his way through his bite of casserole- which smells terrible, but Kaneki knows his mother's recipe actually tastes divine, even if he can no longer experience it himself- before answering, "Yeah…. I've been working on it. One of my brothers works in a pharmaceutical lab in a different ward. He has the clearance to purchase the ingredients we can't get, he just doesn't know why we need them. I've been wearing him down, though, don't worry."

As if on cue, a cheery ringtone- the intro for My Hero Academia season 1, Kaneki notices- sings out, causing Hide to jump and pull his phone from his pocket. "Well, speak of the devil," Hide mutters, as his fingers fly over the phone's keyboard.

There is a moment of silence as the trio patiently waits for Hide to finish his reply. Once he's finished, he looks up at them with a mischievous smile, his white teeth flashing in the kitchen lighting. "And we have lift-off. My brother says we can order the supplies through him, so long as we aren't giving them to anyone else, we don't use them for pranks, and he doesn't end up seeing us on the news for something my mom would get on to him about."

Kimi smiles too as she says, "Sounds easy enough."

Kaneki elbows Hide in the ribs gently, saying, "Yeah, good thing he didn't make you promise not to eat any of it. You would think the one time you tried to eat the cactus plant he sent you, he would be a little more reticent."

Kimi stared at Hide with a flat, quizzical expression, "You tried to eat a cactus?"

Hide huffed. "I wanted to see if you could live like a dust bender out of avatar: last airbender. People in the real desert use the cacti all the time, whenever they're thirsty. I didn't expect to have so much trouble with the spines."

Kimi stared at Hide while Kaneki started laughing. Kaneki turned to Kimi and said, "It makes more sense than it should, in theory, but he didn't cut the cactus open for the liquid. He just pulled off the spines and tried to take a bite. But, he didn't get all the spines, so he came to me looking like he tried to eat a live porcupine- cause he didn't want to go to his brother about it. I ended up taking him to an urgent care center and his mom and brothers found out anyways."

Kimi rolled her eyes and addressed the room at large, "I wonder how the two of you ever survived without me or some other form of adult supervision."

This prompted another bout of comedy and Kaneki started cleaning up the empty plates as their conversation began to dwindle to contented silence. Before Kaneki could take the plates into the kitchen, Kimi grabbed his wrist, as she says, "Hang on, Kaneki, I wanna talk to you guys about one more thing."

Kaneki returns the small stack of plates to the table and sits down, idly sipping on the last remains of his smoothie. Kimi very seldom asked for anything, despite all the help she'd given the two boys. Kaneki sometimes wonders if her lack of reaching out for help is related to the melancholy she still carries in her eyes after losing Nishiki to the ghoul's own jealousy. In his own experience, feeling lonely often is its own weapon against seeking a cure to such loneliness.

Once Kaneki is settled, Kimi begins, "I know we've had this brought up at least once before, but we never really came to a concrete decision on the matter. I think we should revisit the idea of providing smoothies to the ghouls that would be favorable to a, for lack of a better word, vegetarian diet. Before, we didn't have the means to produce any kind of surplus over what was necessary to keep Kaneki healthy. Now, we can forseeably make as much of the ghoul smoothie as we want."

Kaneki feels the breath whoosh from his lungs in a rush. It always came back to this, then? Kimi has a much more optimistic outlook on how ghouls would view their intervention in their diet choices. Kaneki is not so favorably convinced. He still remembers the feel of teeth in his flesh and the dread he felt when he looked into red, hungry eyes. No, he wasn't sure that most ghouls would like the smoothies at all.

Kaneki draws back, resting his weight against the back of his chair. He didn't like to tell Kimi 'no', but he couldn't logically see anyone else wanting the smoothie alternative. Hide is frowning in his own chair and Kaneki hopes that his Aniki will tell Kimi 'no' so Kaneki won't have to.

Hide opens his mouth and completely dashes Kaneki's hopes to bits.

"Well, Koma is very nice. I bet he would drink the smoothies, if we offered."

Kaneki had to wonder if Hide had grown a second head without anyone noticing. What part of 'be careful, you could get brutally murdered' did he not understand?

"I don't think it's a good idea," Kaneki says softly, hoping to curtail Kimi's proposal before it takes on momentum. "We don't know them. They don't know us. We can't just expect they'll be amenable to strangers coming in and telling them to change their way of life. How would you feel if someone random came up and started telling you to change how you live?"

"Okay, well, yeah. I wouldn't go in just telling them they're living wrong. I know better than to do that. I just mean that if we offered it to them,as an alternative. They said they don't seek conflict with humans, so I bet they would like the smoothie," argues Hide.

Kimi is glancing between the two with an eyebrow raised. She probably hasn't seen them disagree on something so completely before. "Do you think they would be dangerous, if you told them about the smoothie?" She asks.

"Yes/No," answer Kaneki and Hide respectively.

They turn to look at each other, Hide sporting a frustrated, yet sorrowful look as he meets Kaneki's serious eyes.

"Bro, Koma wouldn-" Hide started, but Kaneki interrupted softly.

"No, we don't know what Koma would or wouldn't do, Hide. We've barely really known him for two days. That is not enough."

"But he wouldn't hurt us. I know he wouldn't," insisted Hide.

Kaneki sighed, knowing he wouldn't be able to change his stubborn brother's mind. He turned to Kimi instead. He said, "Kimi, I appreciate what you're doing, I really do. But ghouls are masters of deception, it's how they haven't all been caught. It's only been two days. I would have a hard time judging their sincerity after two months. I really don't want to show or tell them anything about us that we don't have to."

Kimi sighed, for some reason exchanging glances with Hide, before she conceded, "Alright, that's fair. Two days isn't very long. But, I do want to bring this up again later. I think this smoothie could really help ghouls avoid conflict with humans."

"Kimi, I really don't think they'll even want to try the smoothie. Ghouls have been around just as long as humans, yet nobody has found any alternative? I find that hard to believe. There's no way that the first alternative was found by two college students and a grad student. There must have been other ways before this, if we can figure it out. So, this leads me to believe that any alternatives people came up with previously weren't accepted, or we wouldn't be in this mess."

"No way," argued Hide. "If there were any other way for ghouls to live, there would be at least a few trying to live that way. Even if most of them rejected the alternative, there would still some among the population that would at least give it a try. To say that 100% of the population rejected a way of getting sustenance that avoided conflict doesn't sound the slightest bit feasible. Especially if it would keep them under the radar."

"Then why aren't there any peaceful ghouls? If there were any, they would be affiliated with Anteiku, but we haven't even heard of them. So, what happened to them?"

"Wellllll, okay," Hide finally concedes, "that doesn't make any sense. But, I think we can trust the ghouls at Anteiku. I have a good feeling about them. Plus, what if they're in a different ward? Isn't it a little harder for ghouls to cross wardlines than for us?"

"Even wardlines don't keep people from making any progress in over a hundred years. We've had the science for this kind of thing for ages. There are literally no more excuses for not making some kind of change."

Kimi cuts in after Kaneki, saying, "And, not that I'm taking sides, but, ghouls have ways of crossing ward lines. Nishiki would cross them all the time, now that I think about it. I doubt he used the subway, with all the scanners they have at ward gates, so I assume ghouls have some other, secret way of getting around."

Hide sits back thinking on the concept. "I guess that explains why the CCG has such a hard time containing them. Even if they could, in theory, clean out a whole ward at a time, as soon as they move on to the next ward, the original one is full of ghouls trying to escape the purge."

Kaneki takes Kimi's admission as evidence to support his argument. He concludes, "Still doesn't seem likely that no progress has ever been made. Ghouls aren't stupid and they aren't as limited as we think they are. So, why has nobody tried this before? And if so, why weren't they successful?"

The trio, normally intrepid in pursuit of progress, sits back in contemplation. Why weren't there any viable answers? The ghoul diet problem was ancient, so a lack of progress was abnormal. If it doesn't make sense that there weren't any scientists or problem-solvers had not applied themselves before Kaneki, Hide, and Kimi; then where had such people- and the progress they advocated- gone? What happened to them? What happened to the change they represented?

Kimi frowned, unusually dour, before she asked, "Why indeed?"

AN: well, turds. I totally didn't mean to leave this for so long. I have been busy, but not so busy to excuse such an absence. Once again, you can thank Blitza, my twin sister, for encouraging me to write this chapter. (By encourage, I mean kick my butt and nag me until I open the word document.) So, if you enjoy this update, you should go check out her stuff- she is a fantastic writer, honestly better than me.

I know a lot- all- of this chapter is a bunch of little interactions. I promise that they are necessary. These little interactions are setting up some big conflicts in the next arc and it didn't feel right to just gloss over them as a summary. Also, before I get into the next arc, I am going to have to rewatch season 1 to figure out what happens first- it's been a while since I last watched this, ok?- and plan my storyline for at least the next 5 chapters. So, I know that you probably don't want to hear this, but between that and stuff going on in my personal life- mentioned below- there may be another delay on the next chapter. I'm sorry, but at the same time, real life comes first and I'm hitting some major milestones in my life soon that will affect my future for a long time.

In my personal life, I have changed officially from pre-med to pre-PA. This was not an easy change for me. I have always been told to be competitive and to fight to win, because otherwise in a world where there is always someone smarter, more intelligent, then no one will give you the time of day. I was always told that to be a doctor was the most demanding, difficult job that I could choose. That with my work ethic and brains, it would be a shame for me to do anything else. I changed my mind over the summer, when I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer at a rapid care center. This was during Covid- like life has been since last year- so the clinic was short staffed and overworked. I was super scared at first. I didn't think I was smart enough or good enough to be able to serve in this way. But, the nurses that I was working under were super kind and patient- even when they had to show me how to take manual blood pressure a bunch of times, cause I didn't have the confidence to listen to the stethoscope very well- and taught me the things I didn't know how to do. I only volunteered with them for three weeks- circumstances prevented me from serving longer- but it changed my life.

I want to serve like that for the rest of my life. I want to be able to help people, and I came to the realization that I didn't need ten extra years of schooling to do so. I can help just as many people as a PA as a doctor. So, why should I stress myself to death trying to outperform all other students- many of whom are much smarter than me- and meet expectations that I really never needed to have in the first place. So, I decided that if the end result is roughly the same, if the amount of people I help is roughly the same, then why not just be a PA instead?

So, I'm going to be a PA. And I feel much better for it. I am going to graduate my college this spring- super excited- and I'm going through the PA school application process right now, I actually have an interview with a PA school this weekend- super nervous!

Hopefully the next update sees me being accepted to a PA school. Cross my fingers. PA school is also very competitive, but because of Covid, they are relaxing the prerequisites and requirements for applying. Wish me luck!

Sorry if that was a whole book on my personal life, I just wanted to share it in case someone may also be going through something similar and this could help. Moral of the story- don't stress about outperforming every other student out there- not everyone is an Einstein or a Newton and that's ok. Also, don't count yourself out before you've even reached the starting line. All you have to do is do your best. The people around you- like the nurses that helped me- will be happy to help so long as they know you will put in the effort.

Well. I hope you enjoyed the chapter, bye!