Lately it feels like I'm leaping in place. Like I'm stretching my limits and expanding my comfort zone, but not moving forward. At least I'm learning some fantastic life lessons on patience and perspective. I'm quite excited about this.
One of our current library reads is Dr. Seuss' Oh, The Places You'll Go! I owned a pocket-sized companion in my early twenties but never realized it was incomplete. As a result, I came across this part for the first time last week. Can't nobody say Theodore Geisel didn't understand a thing or two about people.
The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
That's not for you!
So onward I go.
Last week I came across a commencement speech that really knocked my socks off. Neil Gaiman, a super-famous comic book artist and writer known by everyone in the world except me, addressed the graduating class at The University of the Arts last month. He talked for twenty minutes on doing what you love, the growth that comes in making lots and lots (and lots) of mistakes, and the best piece of advice he got but didn't follow. You can watch the video here, and I strongly recommend you do, if you're in the market for a healthy dose of inspiration or at the very least a dreamy accent. My new favorite English word is "proper."
Anyway, the points in Gaiman's speech that most resonated with me address my current layover in The Waiting Place. The first was his admittance that there are things you have to do to get where you're meant to be, and it can be hard to know if you're on the right path. His coping mechanism was to treat his dream like a mountain he was trying to climb and measure each step not on its own merit but against his own personal plan - the mountain. He would base job decisions on whether they brought him closer to his mountain, or farther away.
"There was a day when I looked up and realized that I had become someone who professionally replied to e-mail," he says at one point, "and who wrote as a hobby. I started answering fewer e-mails and was relieved to find I was writing much more."
Note to self: "Answering e-mail" is now the metaphor of choice when describing any kind of distraction, ever.
It's not very productive, answering e-mail. But it sure is safe.
Somehow, Gaiman's speech led me to the one that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005. It's a few minutes shorter but arguably more impactful - passionate words from an iconic business figure now gone from cancer, crediting death as the primary driver in his personal and professional achievements.
"Knowing I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever enountered for making the big choices in life," he said, citing a quote that went something like, "If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."
There's no way my paraphrasing will do this speech justice, so put me out of my misery. Go watch it here.
Meanwhile, as I work through what can only be described as a personal crisis of the First World variety, life goes on. Last weekend, Luke and I officially become members of our new church - a big step for us, since this is the first time we've joined a parish together, and a milestone for me, committing to a denomination considerably more progressive than the one I grew up in. Nothing about my core beliefs are changing - if anything, they're just better represented - and I hold on to the parts of the Catholic tradition I still identify with, but my initial emotions around this were complicated. A mixture of celebration and mourning, a heavy-hearted saying good-bye to a label I've worn like an old sweater, reluctantly acknowledging the thread's undone.
Kara and Nathan just completed the third of eight swim lessons at the local rec center. They kick off the side of the pool and dunk their faces in the water, and as I watch them, I'm in awe. You can especially see the hesitation in Nathan, clinging to his instructor as they progress to the deep end, but even through his fear he outstretches his arms. Our kids are so brave, I tell Luke proudly after coming home from our lesson. I want to be like them.
Last but not least, Liam turns one on Friday. I'm not ready to write about it yet, but his birthday is a powerful reminder that we really don't have a choice in moving forward. Whether it's graceful breast strokes or frantic doggy paddling, every day we age, leave an imprint on the earth, and pass on a legacy. It's scary when you're not reaching your mountain as quickly as you'd like, but also oddly refreshing, because it means the little things matter. We can't reach big without the small.