The hustle and bustle of the winter holiday season often brings a strange combination of tension and joy. For many, the tension comes into play because there is an awful lot of waiting. Waiting in lines, waiting in traffic, waiting for guests to arrive, waiting for the last day of work to end before having some much needed time off, waiting to see if the recipient of your gift will be surprised and content. Waiting for all of the holiday madness to come to an end, so you may find some downtime and then try to find a sense of normalcy again.
Last week, while waiting for over thirty minutes in a line to purchase one stocking stuffer gift for my husband, I began to think about all of the things I have waited for in my life and whether they were worth the wait or not. I probably could have left the Carolina Theater while waiting for the person in front of me to purchase nineteen $10 gift cards, which all had to be manually entered into the computer, but I really wanted Clark to have the gift of movies because it is one of his passions (and I would be his date when he cashed it in!), so I waited. Clark, himself, would likely have chosen not to wait. He does not like waiting. On this particular day, I chose to wait and use this uninterrupted time, a gift within itself, to reflect about waiting and to try not to give dirty looks to the man in line in front of me.
Later, that same day, I went to the pool to swim laps. I am a selfish swimmer and an introvert, so with those two qualities combined, sharing a lane to swim laps is very unappealing to me. In fact, it ruins the entire experience for me. I use lap swimming as a time to take care of my physical self, but more importantly, to keep my mental health in tact. It is, again, coveted uninterrupted time for me. If you are a swimmer, then you know that sharing a lane is a constant thinking process trying to avoid crashing into the other person in your lane. So, if there are no open lanes when I arrive at the pool, I wait. People always kindly offer for me to join them and share a lane. I opt out every time. It’s worth the wait.
The gift I was most proud of giving this year was a memory book that I created for Austin, fondly titled “The World According to Austin.” It was a compilation of some writing that I had done about his and my life from his birth up to age four. It also included a collection of quotes from him that I had jotted down as he would entertain and amaze me when he was a young child. One of the first pieces I wrote about in 1994 was titled “A Labor of Love”, which highlighted a not-so-joyful labor and delivery of my first born child in 1992. It was, however, a perfect example of a time in my life that was worth the wait. Nothing about Austin’s birth went as planned, including pre-eclampsia and a three-day labor ending in a c-section, but in the end, bringing him into the world was well worth the wait.
In 2005, I began dating Clark. I had been a single mom with two young children for over six years at that point. I was never convinced that I needed to get married again. I was an independent person and had no issues with being alone when my children were with their dad. My days and nights were full. I have always worked more than I should, but I also took time to exercise and find time for making memories with friends. I had the philosophy that if I was meant to get married again, it would happen in time, or it would possibly not happen at all. It was not something I was pursuing or losing sleep over. Then I met Clark. After two dates (two days in a row) it was clear to both of us that my days of being single would soon come to an end. It was worth the wait.
When Callie turned eighteen and was about to graduate from high school, I offered to take her to Spain to experience the Camino de Santiago. We went and we hiked / backpacked over 100 miles in eight days. It was an experience like no other I have ever had and I do not regret one minute of it. It was, however, not easy. Trekking through awe inspiring landscape, meeting people from twelve different countries, pushing myself physically beyond what I thought I was capable of at the age of 55. We did our share of waiting throughout our experience. Sharing a room or housing with others, anywhere from 4 – 50 others, provided some opportunities to wait for showers, wait for quiet (no snoring) to get to sleep, and wait for each other to get dressed and packed up for another full day of hiking. Callie had her share of waiting for me to get to the top of many mountain climbs. I believe she inherited my ability to wait and know that it would be worth it in the end.
As a teacher and now a mentor/coach to teachers, I have learned the value in waiting for others to share their fears, and hopes and dreams. I have watched and waited for students and teachers to have their own “aha” moments and their own leaps of growth as learners. The importance of waiting when you are guiding someone else to learn something new is underestimated. Every person grows at their own pace and in their own time. It never ceases to amaze me that children and adults will not only continue to learn and grow, but it is often beyond what they had even imagined possible if you sincerely believe in them. I do not regret waiting for the moments when a child or a teacher realizes that they have accomplished a goal, small or large. I do believe in them. I cherish those moments. They are worth the wait.
Having patience with myself is perhaps the most challenging waiting of all. I was raised by two parents who had high, but realistic, expectations for me and my brothers. I was encouraged and supported to find and push through challenges, but not at the expense of hurting others. I have always had the ability to understand what was possible for myself and others in my life, but sometimes I did not want to wait. My passions and compassion would drive me to move too quickly. I wanted things to happen immediately, even though I knew that change takes time. It was not until this past year that, in my mid-life wisdom, I learned to wait. I waited to think about where I should be and who I should be with to accomplish my personal mission and goals in life. In July, I made a decision to change jobs, yet again. I have moments when I still doubt my decision, but I find that if I wait long enough, it all comes together and I know I did the right thing. I have a quote hanging in my office that says, “If it doesn’t challenge you, then it won’t change you.” I am being challenged in my work, both on a professional and personal level, as I face the fact that I am no longer as young as I used to be. While I am who I am, and I generally like who I am, I never want to be stagnant or the older person who says I don’t want change because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Instead, I am trying to find the balance of knowing what works, sharing that wisdom with others, and knowing when change is necessary. So, sometimes that just means I need to wait. I wait for others to “come around” even when I am ready to move forward. I offer my thoughts and wait so others may have their own epiphanies so they are empowered to move forward. Changing my job, growing alongside others who are as passionate about public education as I am, has been well worth the wait.
The approaching new year will inevitably bring more change and challenges. I look forward to seeing what else life will bring to me while I am waiting. I am more than sure that it will be worth it.