“It felt like waiting for something to happen. Which has to be the worst part of being young. So many of your decisions aren’t yours; they’re made by other people. Sometimes they’re made badly by other people. Sometimes they’re made by other people who have no idea what the consequences of those decisions might be. The bastards.”Patrick Ness
Recently, I stepped outside and under the bright blue sky, I read The Rest of Us Just Live Here. It’s my first Patrick Ness book, but it won’t be my last. It was funny, endearing, had a unique perspective, and well-written. The Rest of Us is about the normal ones, those who aren’t the chosen ones. The “background” characters in a plot like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. The ones unlikely to be remembered and those get to watch the chosen ones do their thing. The story resonated with me deeply.
The end of high school is an interesting time, and it brought me back to a few months ago, when I lived the end of my college experience. The future is scary–there can be a lot of unknown, and you don’t quite know what the change will look like until you’re in it. But an ending always makes way for a new beginning.
Or so I thought.
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What are you waiting for, gentle reader?
It seems like everyone’s waiting for something. A package in the mail. A letter from someone you love. Your birthday. Or someone else’s. A check. A ring. A house. Waiting is one of the great unifiers of human existence. Even those with lots of money still have to abide by the rules of time.
So much of childhood is waiting until you get older. To gain that degree of freedom. Or what adults know better as responsibility. That path is paved by many things out of our control. When you’re young, like Ness says, it seems like all the important decisions about your life are handled by other people. And you’ve got to learn to live with the consequences. That feels about right for me. I honestly feel like I’ve learned way too much about rejection these past few months. I think I’ve learned the lesson by now.
I’m old enough to know that rejection isn’t always a personal thing, that there are bigger things at play. But I’m young enough to feel disheartened anyway, to let that disappointment give way to despair, despite what I know. Rejection is, whether we like it or not, redirection. The thing we’re waiting on ends up being delayed or it’s not meant to be ours anyway.
The hard thing is discerning which of those is actually true. Gentle reader, if you have an answer, please let me know!
I think we all get a bit anxious when life becomes a waiting room. Waiting for the diagnosis or the result of surgery. Waiting for the test score. Waiting for the news, good or bad. Sometimes life likes to keep us in suspense. This is the moment that makes us. We either fall into despair or we persevere in hope. To be honest, there is neither good nor bad here.
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Hope is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson said, and that means it so easily flies away no matter how badly we wish we could hold onto it.
There are reasons for our different responses to the waiting room.
Some of us are assured the outcome is in our favor. Others of us are fearful of getting hurt. Still others of us have hoped so long, we have developed calluses and hard hearts holding out for something that never seemed to come. For me, it all depends on what I’m hoping for. Lately, I’m starting to question my sanity about job searching and might be soon applying to grad school. I’d hate the debt, but the job market has not been kind to my heart.
It’s ironic. To be young and waiting for something to happen is the beginning of every adventure. It simultaneously is a source of torture because even though you think adventure is on its way, you could so easily be let down. I wonder if this means I’m a pessimist. It’s easy to say that “you’re young and you’ve got a lot of life ahead of you,” but I’m not sure we ever stop to think about how much of that life is out of our hands. We don’t know the number of our days, or what’s truly around the corner. We aren’t in control of the good gifts that come our way or the troubles that find our way to us. And sometimes it’s due to the agency of others, rather than what we have or haven’t done.
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If we can do anything about the waiting, we can choose to accept that it will happen to us. We have no way of telling what it holds for us on the other side. Part of me wishes I knew I’d be in for a long wait for a job. I probably would have prepared a good chunk of longer novels to enjoy, courses to take, and activities to do.
Waiting does one thing well.
Waiting shapes us to accept our lives as they unfold, not as we will them in being. I have to accept whether or not I actually get what I was waiting for. I have to live with either the joy of finally receiving what I desired or the sorrow at its absence.
May your waiting shape you well. May you receive what you are waiting on. And if not, may you learn to grieve and then to rejoice in its absence. May you wait in hope or in despair, but never alone.