On my windowsill there sits a queue of nicely-postured books, standing tall and waiting patiently for me to lovingly pick them up and delicately stretch out their spines and give them some quality one-on-one time. They call to me every morning in their most earnest voices, asking me to please love them, which I so want to do. I yearn for unstructured, loose, flexible, cheerful, bright, never-ending time in which to read until I pop open with jubilance, but it’s just not a possibility right now. I want to have hours upon hours to be emotionally invested in every single word written so thoughtfully into each story, but said hours simply do not exist.
I love to read, and it is actively hurting my heart to have to see my books daily but not get to read them. They want me to read them. I want to read them. But we both have to wait. Sometimes I think nostalgically about the sensation of un-focusing my eyes while staring at a page until all of the words become blurry, fuzzy blobs and then I am filled up with a great surge of joy and thankfulness for phonemes and ideas and literature. I miss inhaling and being pleasantly surprised by the smell of books twisting itself into my nostrils. I love the feeling of being so physically in but actually secretly apart from the rest of the world because I am emotionally invested in a story. I love having my mood contingent upon the mood of a story, and I love the feeling of closing a book for the first time in hours and looking around and feeling like I’ve just woken up from the most illustrious and satisfying dream.
My heart itches to have time to read. This semester I am taking a class on teaching students how to read, and the other day I found in my textbook this quote by Paulo Freire (who I’ve never heard of but fully agree with): “Reading is not walking on words, but grasping the soul of them.” I miss the souls of words.
I mean no sarcasm when I say that this really is hard and sad for me. It is hard to love and be so near to something but not get to act on that love. I have been telling myself that one day before I know it, Christmas will be here, and I will have much more free time and I will invest myself into abundant amounts of stories.
But that’s just the thing: one day, before I know it, Christmas will be here. My days have been moving so quickly. I sit in class all morning and then I go home and eat lunch and now it’s almost the end of September.
I’m pretty good at planning for the future. I make charts and master plans and goals with due dates. The whole point of (at least the academic part of) college is to be prepared for my future, but that often gets skewed into hyper-focusing on life plans. Looking ahead is good, but I forget increasingly more and more about what I’m doing in a certain moment. I forget to look around: look to the left, look to the right, look diagonally, look up, look down, look upside-down. I do not want to make a habit of only thinking about what’s next and never noticing what is presently right in front of my face. I do not want to remember college as a period of major stress where I was doing all that I could to ensure that my future would be perfect. I do not want to bide my time until my most ideal life situation presents itself to me (because it won’t).
Biding my time like this reminds me of “the waiting place” in Dr. Suess’s Oh The Places You’ll Go –
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.
I don’t want to be a person stuck in “the waiting place.” It sounds like Purgatory on earth, and that is certainly not what college or any stage of life is supposed to feel like.
One morning last summer I was driving around and pulled up to a stoplight next to a man in a little white car. The license plate on his car said “almost,” and I have been intermittently pondering what that was supposed to mean ever since that day. Was it supposed to mean something metaphorical and melancholy? Was it supposed to mean something quite practical, and my brain is too imaginative to think of what that could be? Am I trying to give meaning to something that doesn’t necessarily have any?
I think it means always being “almost” to the next thing, as in life-planning. Once I get to one place, I think about everything I need to do in order to be prepared for and get to the next. I am always “almost” at the place I’m going to be next. But that is not a great way to live life. I don’t want to spend all of my minutes in preparation for the subsequent minutes, which I will then spend in preparation for something else. If I do that, I will never notice the smell of the cookies or the taste of the coffee or the way that, if you tilt your head, the blobs on the ceiling almost make an amoeba.
So the plan is to deliberately live through my moments. There are only so few minutes that I get to be awake for, so I want to pay attention to them and notice them – the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything else. I am aware that bad days happen. Sad days happen. Good days happen. Great days happen. I choose to analyze all of the parts of my days so that I can learn the maximum amount possible – about God, about life on earth, about people – and then apply all of this knowledge to my future moments. I choose to make the time I am conscious worthwhile.