Home

Waiting

Leave a comment

“I am to wait, though waiting so be hell…” ~William Shakespeare (Sonnet 58)

Doesn’t it seem sometimes like we spend most of our lives waiting?

  • When we’re young kids, we can’t wait to get “bigger.”  Any version of bigger will do, as long as we don’t stay “little.”  We wait for the bus, or for family members to pick us up from school.  We wait with one eye open for Christmas morning to arrive.
  • As teenagers we wait anxiously until we get our driver’s license.  We wait for our parents to say it’s ok to wear makeup.  Or go out on our first date.  Or stay out past 10:00 PM.  And then when we break curfew, we wait (grounded) in our rooms on a Saturday night for that one cute guy to call and talk about nothing for four hours.
  • In college we wait for “real life” to start while we sluice through the learning of information that we wonder if we’ll ever use.  We wait for Mr. or Ms. Right to show up, and then we wait out the realization of our mistakes as we watch the imposters walk away.  We wait for graduation, so that we can then start waiting for our “big break” to come along.
  • So then “real life” starts, the big break never shows up, and we wait for a puny paycheck from a stair-stepping job to pay rent and buy food, all on our own.
  • We wait in traffic to get to the job with the puny paycheck.
  • We wait on a tax return to give us back (not enough) money that was deducted from our puny paycheck.
  • We wait for a few measly days of vacation time in order to get away from the job with the puny paycheck.  We spend half that time waiting in airports or on long stretches of highways or on buses that smell like bratwurst.  But we glimpse a spark of paradise, and we can’t wait to go back.
  • We may decide to bite the marriage bullet and tie the knot (or knots), in which case we then wait for a year while all kinds of “important” wedding plans can be made.  Which all seem so useless when we’re later waiting for our final divorce decree to be mailed to us so that we can get untangled from that knot.
  • If it’s in the cards, we wait for nine months to greet a child.  If it’s not in the cards, then we still wait many more months…or years.  And then we wonder how long we’ll have to wait to be ok with that.
  • We start to get older.  Maybe we wait on another few stair steps, through another few jobs.  We wait for that “fulfilling” career opportunity to come along, the one we don’t mind waking up for in the morning.  We wait for dreams to finally happen, and we wonder what’s taking them so long.  We’re not getting any younger you know.  Anytime now would be fine.
  • We start waiting in more doctors’ offices.  Waiting for more test results.  Waiting to feel better.  Waiting to find out what the genetic roulette wheel might have in store for us as we enter the later phases of life.
  • And then of course as we get much older, like black-socks-with-sandals older, the ultimate waiting begins.  You know, for that last curtain call.  The final ka-bang.  I hear some people move to Florida during this time to make the wait more pleasant, but how could it be, with all the humidity and the hurricanes?  No thanks.

Yeah yeah, all the positivity-addicted optimists out there will read this and say something like “you can’t just wait for life to happen to you, you have to go out there and make it happen for yourself!”  If you’re sitting next to one of those people, punch them in the arm for me.  (Thanks.)  Actually, I’m willing to admit that’s probably true to a degree; I think we do reap (or suffer) the rewards (or consequences) of our choices.  And we’re each responsible for those choices of course.  

But I also think there are many people out there (more than we could ever know about probably) that feel a bit paralyzed when it comes to making life choices.  Especially the big ones.  And so they get caught in a pattern of waiting.  I think this happens to everyone at some time or another.  It’s just that some people are able to find their way out of the waiting room, and some people aren’t…or, it just takes them a bit longer, for whatever reason.

So, if you’re stuck in a waiting rut, what to do?  I wish I knew.  It’s easy to just say “go do something.”  I know it’s much tougher to make that happen sometimes.  Lack of motivation, resources, support – they’re all contributors to getting stuck.  

I guess the best we can hope for while we’re caught in the stuck waiting room of life is some really good 80’s music to entertain us while we’re there…like Pat Benatar or Bananarama.  Duran Duran and Simple Minds also acceptable.

À la prochaine.

Ant Kristi

Advertisements

Le Bel Age of 43

Leave a comment

Last week I attended a social function for the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers group I belong to here in Austin.  There was a good showing of about 20 or so, people of all ages and backgrounds and ethnicities who have served in countries all over the world.  Some of them had literally just returned home from their service a few weeks earlier (with glazed eyes and reverse culture shock); some, like me, had been back for many years.  At one point, I sat down at a table next to another young woman and three young men to chat with them, and learned it was the young woman’s birthday.  After a few minutes, the man directly across the table from her asked her “so, how old are you today?”

You would think that the old-fashioned adage which dictates men should never ask a woman her age had gone the way of the eight-track tape long ago in this age of straightforwardness, but even this young millennial looked at the guy asking her this with more than a little surprise on her face.  She acquiesced though with a flirty laugh and said “Ok I’ll tell you guys how old I am, but it means everyone here also has to say how old they are.  I’m 28 today.”  

Now at this point I began to get a little uncomfortable.  I could tell that all four of them were significantly younger than me.  Was I really going to have to tell them my age?  I pictured the shocked looks that would appear on their faces and perhaps even receiving sad but comforting pats on my ancient hand as I revealed a number that surely their youthful group would consider prehistoric.

One of the guys across the table then said “Oh god, 28…it’s been the worst year of my life so far, I’m 28 too right now.”  And then his friend sitting next to him nodded knowingly in miserable affirmation and said he was 28 too.  Finally the third guy broke the curse and said he was…wait for it…29.  I think they all started talking about this horrible, miserable time in their lives but honestly I didn’t hear any of that…I was too busy thinking of what I was going to say in the next few seconds when it was my turn to answer.

And then suddenly I thought of a clever quip, a way out of having to tell them my age at all but at the same time acknowledging my um, advanced wisdom (yeah that’s it) in a humorous and self-deprecating kind of way.  “What a coincidence, I was 28 when I left to join the Peace Corps!” was on the tip of my tongue as I waited for it to be my turn to complete the round.

Except that moment never arrived.  Which was confusing, because it was my turn, with the briefest of pauses in the conversation, and I think a few eyes even glanced my way for a fleeting moment in fearful apprehension…but then the subject was changed and I was passed over.  Literally.  The subject turned to something else entirely.  I really don’t think they meant anything malicious or mean by it, and I guess I should have been grateful for the reprieve, but the feeling I actually got from the rest of the group was “don’t worry, we know you’re obviously way older than us, so no need to even answer the question.”

But should I have been grateful?  The more I thought about it, the more it gnawed at me.  I’ve never shied away from telling someone my age in the past, so why had I been intimidated at that moment?  Why shouldn’t I have felt at ease with telling them my age, and why shouldn’t they have felt at ease hearing it?  Why did I feel dismissed when I didn’t get the chance to answer the question?

I’m really not sure.  Maybe it was the way the rest of them were talking and laughing and flirting in their loosely-choreographed dance of young life, and I felt somehow excluded from that even though I was right next to them.  It was maybe the first time I’ve actually and tangibly felt what it’s like to be stranded by the proverbial generation gap – but from the older side this time, the one that’s just slightly over the other side of the hill. 

What I wish I’d had the chance to say, now that I’ve thought about it, is this:  I’m 43 years old – which doesn’t make me ancient, it just makes me experienced, and that’s a good thing.  Yes I like Pat Benatar,  Journey and The Go-Go’s, so sue me (I took their cassettes with me all the way to Africa by the way).  No we didn’t have cell phones and laptops and tablets when I did Peace Corps – we were truly unplugged before that was even a catchword, and were lucky to have one (landline) 10-minute phone call every 3 weeks with our families, which cost them a small fortune.  There was no Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Snapchat…there were only long-awaited letters in plain white envelopes with red and blue borders, and they were our addiction.  When it got dark at night, we didn’t log on, we lit up – our lanterns, that is, so that we could read dog-eared paperbacks by lamp light and listen to BBC on the radio.

It’s been 15 years already since I left to join Peace Corps, so 28 was actually a very memorable and good year for me, because as I mentioned above, that’s how old I was when I left to go serve.  I’m glad I waited until I’d finished grad school and was older to serve – for me personally, it was just the right time in my life to go.  And I’m not sure why the 28th year now apparently has such a bad reputation amongst those presently living it, but all I can say to them is just wait until you’re 43, or 53, or 63, and you’ll appreciate 28 much more than you do now.   Just let it be good.  (Does that make me sound like a crotchety old woman?)

Actually years 28 and 43 have been amazingly similar in my life.  They were both years in which I made huge life-changing decisions and took leaps of faith to start new ventures.  Both were years in which I made (or will make) voyages to the other side of the globe to pursue adventure and change.  Both were years in which I contemplated new directions and committed myself to self-study on things important to me.  Both have been categorized by determination and resiliency.  Now that I think of it, the ages of 28 and 43 have been two of, if not the most, important years of my life so far.

So maybe those youngsters at that table did me a favor after all…they’ve helped me remember and reflect on times that were pivotal in my life.  I’m grateful for that.  Maybe as a thank you I should take them to a Pat Benatar concert.  Or at least give them one of her cassette tapes…

pat-benatar-le-bel-age-big

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Easing Up On The Brakes

1 Comment

“Frame your mind to mirth and merriment, which bars a thousand harms and lengthens life.” ~William Shakespeare (The Taming of The Shrew, Introduction, ii)

Last week, I took my car into a small local brake shop to have some squealing noises looked at (the car, not me).  The owner of the shop was a nice guy and seemed thrilled that I’d chosen his shop instead of one of his competitors, who I told him had treated me badly in the past.  While I usually hate taking my car into any shop for any kind of work because I feel (as I imagine most women do) that they’re taking advantage of me (and I hate admitting that I’m actually pretty hard on my brakes when I drive), this guy actually seemed honest and dare I say genuine, and didn’t try to sell me any unnecessary services.

In fact, he almost seemed to be one of those too-chipper people that I was complaining about in a past post.  He seemed way too happy about a new granite countertop that they’d just had installed in the waiting room.  And then he said something that made my jaw drop:  he was talking about working there at the shop and helping people with their car problems, and he said “This is the best job IN THE WORLD.  I’d do it for free if I could!” 

And he was being totally, completely serious.

This guy works in a hole-in-the-wall greasy mechanic’s shop next to a busy, noisy freeway, with six meager seats in the waiting room and frustrated customers who are having to sometimes spend a lot of money on costly auto repairs.  And yet he is HAPPY to work there.  Joyous, even.  What is going on??  How is this possible??

Is it because he’s the owner of the shop and feels pride in something that is his, to run under his own tutelage and direction?  Could be.  Is it because he actually really enjoys working on cars and now has a shop where he gets to do just that all day, every day?  Hopefully. Does he live for the days when cars break down just so he’ll have a chance to fix them and help people out? 

It’s still such a shock to me when I meet people who are genuinely happy doing the jobs that they’re doing, I guess because the grand majority of people I’ve known are in the opposite camp and are miserable in their jobs.  In any case, that guy’s statement and genuineness around it made an impact on me.  Maybe because I’m more UNunhappy lately, I’ve been able to notice it more in others?

When I look back at the past few years, it feels like my life was being driven in emergency-brake mode. Grating, pressured, dragged down by resistance.  Unable to move forward with any real progress or meaning.  Stuck.

brake

It’s nice to finally feel – sometimes, not all the time – that I’m able to ease up on the brakes and just breathe, reflect, ponder.  Move more freely and with more purpose.  I’m trying not to pressure myself with time constraints when possible, although in our hurry-up society, that’s not always easy.  But slowing down naturally without slamming on the brakes, recharging, allowing – we should all make time for these life-charging aspects.

Many people I see when at my new university job ask me “So how are you liking it here so far?”  I’ve had the surprising pleasure so far to be able to say “I really like it” and actually MEAN it!  I was also pleasantly surprised when I started another new job last week and the company owner exhibited concern and gratitude for my contentment and labor.  Why are we so surprised when people are nice and kind to us?  What does it say about our society when we are sometimes more suspicious than thankful of people who demonstrate consideration towards us?  Because that’s the temptation, isn’t it?

(There’s a great moment that embodies this tendency in one of my favorite movies, “Sense & Sensibility,” where Elinor states to Edward “The unkindness of your family has made you astonished to find friendship elsewhere.”  Like a tragic sucker-punch to the gut, that line.  One of the best movies ever made, period, based upon the masterpiece by Jane Austen.)

sense

I had another moment of pure joy yesterday when I booked my plane tickets to go back to the UK next summer.  I’d signed up a while ago to volunteer for the organizing group of the 2014 Tour de France kickoff in Yorkshire, England (yes the French race is starting in England, then they’ll fly back over to France after the first three days of racing).  Buying the tickets for actual dates has made it real!  There’s a wave of anglophile happiness that rushes over me when I think of going back to England, but it’s also because I feel good about making something happen that’s important to me and that I want to do.

phoneboothslondon

(The other reason why I was so stoked at the moment of booking: because I “beat the system” of maddening frequent flier reservation sites that give you the worst flight choices and mandate eleven-hour layovers in Detroit…  I was able to use a combination of miles from two different credit cards/airlines to get exactly the flights I wanted on the dates I wanted, reasonable layovers, and with all of the cost covered except for those darn fees and taxes. It took a week of searching and finagling but when I finally did it, I had saved $1,200 and felt like I could conquer Kilimanjaro at that point.)

I’ll be staying three weeks this trip, which should give me plenty of time to explore some corners of England I didn’t even get close to when I was last there in 2012: Cornwall, Bath, the Cotswalds…and I’ll definitely be going back to Shakespeare country and hopefully ticking off a few more London boxes.  And of course the Tour kickoff in Leeds and York should be amazing.  I’m giddy about planning the itinerary, even though I’ve told myself I’m going to be more relaxed about the trip this time and less over-scheduled. I want to truly relax and rest while on the sceptered isle, take in the tea and the scones, and relish in the wonderful rain-soaked afternoons.

savrain

So while it hasn’t been all good things in the past week or so – I got TWO tickets from an overzealous sheriff’s deputy, I’m still getting over a case of shingles, and I have yet to conquer my chips and queso addiction – focusing on what IS good is indeed good work if you can get it.  The good things act as tonics against the not-so-good, don’t they?

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

The Gift of Unexpected Time

2 Comments

Pleasure and action make the hours seem short.” ~ William Shakespeare (Othello, II, iii)

As I write this, I am relishing in a rare treat:  my first real day off from both jobs in the past three weeks!  I didn’t think I’d get a day off for another three weeks from now, as part of my 42 days-without-a-day-off dual jobathon, but due to working too many hours in the past few weeks at my university job I was “forced” to take today off.  I almost don’t know what to do with my time, it’s so unexpected!  Actually that’s not true – I’ve got an overloaded to-do list and the day is almost half over already, but it’s still so nice to have the time to catch up on things undone. 

So in that spirit, and in honor of the best speech ever by Sunday’s Emmy-award winning actress Merritt Wever:  I gotta go, bye.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

%d bloggers like this: