Waiting. Strange how 30 seconds can feel like such a long time. Or how slowly minutes tick by when you are waiting for classes to end. Or…days, weeks or years when waiting for graduation.
Waiting for my turn to speak. Or, you waiting to hear what I have to say. Waiting. Such a strange word and concept. Webster’s has a number of definitions, the one I like is… “to remain in a state in which you expect or hope that something will happen… soon.” Not eventually, but soon. That is the key word. In some ways, waiting has a nice feeling of positive anticipation, don’t you think? And yet, waiting is something most of us try to avoid or just to get through as painlessly as possible.
Waiting for school to end. Waiting for summer to start. Even, waiting to get older…
My grandson cannot even speak, but he needs only to point at something and his doting grandparents get it for him immediately. No waiting there. Waiting seems to occur more frequently the older we get and it takes on a less positive tone. Sometime around 3 or 4 years old children are introduced to the “not now, but wait for later” concept. I never trusted that one. Always seemed to be a clever way of adults saying, “no”. As a child, I remember “waiting” as always a bad thing. “You kept me waiting” or the old favorite, “Wait until I tell your father”. Or, another adult standby “no, Jon, you are not old enough—wait until you grow up”.
Waitlists. Waiting rooms. Wait time. Waiting for your mom to pick you up. Waiting for a package to arrive. Waiting for a text or email. Ever notice how time slows to a crawl when you are waiting? Unless it is something we are dreading and then time seems to speed up. You would think a person would get better at waiting as they age. Maybe, at my age, I just accumulate more things that I am waiting for…than an 8th grader? On the other hand, maybe not all those things I am waiting for are good things…better not go there.
Most people who know me know I hate waiting. Some invisible barrier that is preventing me from doing what I want or think I need to be doing. Frankly, waiting for things has always seemed to me to be a colossal waste of time. Waiting prevents me from doing enjoyable things or from being productive. The most common thing people do these days when they are waiting is to work or play on their smart phone. Even though you are waiting you can entertain yourself or get work done while you are waiting. This seems like a good thing, right? I do this–maybe you do this, too. It is what our culture does.
Lately I have been thinking differently about waiting. Maybe I need to embrace waiting more. Instead of thinking of it as something that interrupts my daily rhythm, perhaps I should think about it as an integral part of my daily living. Not jumping over it as quickly as possible, but thinking about it…as a legitimate, even important, part of my life. An opportunity to think about something I need to think about or talk with someone with whom I might not otherwise talk. Maybe even…and I shudder to say this, an opportunity to do nothing. Not just filling it with busy-ness or technology.
My advice to 8th grades is this. There is a whole lot of waiting in life. Short term waiting like right now waiting for me to finish talking. But, also long term waiting such as choosing a college, picking a career, developing a longterm relationship with someone you love. Most of those things are worth waiting for, and in fact, are better if you do wait for them. Maybe waiting actually helps us consolidate what we are learning. Maybe waiting actually makes those things we are waiting for better. Remember, 8th graders, unlike we older folks, those frontal lobes of your brains that help you plan and organize are still growing and developing and will be well into your twenties. Unlike me, you will continue to improve in these areas. Don’t be afraid to wait a bit. Maybe, even enjoy it.