Last Memo of the Semester

The problem with being a kid and going off to have adventures is that you always have to answer for them when you get home. It is imperative to have learned something unique, impressive and intellectually/spiritually moving during each and every adventure as if it is some type of agreed upon price you have to be for being a kid and for being fun. I know the inevitability of family questions when I get home will sound like this, “What did this semester teach you”, “How have you grown”, and my personal favorite, “How will this experience shape your future?” Despite the repetitive nature of these types of questions, I know they are well intentioned and, for once I actually HAVE learned something, so I am not completely dreading giving an answer—mainly because I won’t have to make up some tear-jerking answer. Here it is. Here is my 4 months in the making, unique, impressive, intellectually/spiritually moving answer: I’ve learned to wait.

I’m the youngest of four. I have always been the one to be waited on; waited on to pack, to put on my skis, to grow up enough not to cry when they use me as a human punching bag, to reach a certain age where they could tell particular jokes around me. Basically, I haven’t had to do much waiting in my life because I’m always the last sibling. I’ve always known waiting to be negative.  But this semester had taught me that there is a vital difference between waiting on and waiting for.

Waiting on implies impatience; a duty not a choice, a fear, an annoyance, an aggravating process and a lot of watch checking and toe-tapping. You wait on people because you have to, because, for whatever reason, they are necessary for the next event of the day and, whether you like it or not (which most of the time you don’t) you’re stuck with them.

Waiting for is a choice: a consciously considered process that had led to an amiable decision to sit and trust, enjoy the time in which you wait. I’ve learned this mostly because at the OE there is nothing but time to sit and enjoy. We don’t have the opportunity to wait on one another because there is never a situation in which being punctual is necessary, even if there is such a situation, nothing at the OE is more than a 20 second walk from wherever you are.

Waiting for is like days when you can’t tell whether it is mid-morning or late afternoon. Not that time doesn’t exist but that all time, any time, is a good time to start. It is an acknowledgement, a submission that my schedule isn’t the most important consideration. I’m sitting in the end of November waiting for Michigan to land at my feet. I’m waiting for my two new nieces/nephews to be knit together and placed in my arms. While I’m waiting the sun prickles my cheeks and I watch bluegill flirt in the seaweed. If I was waiting on home or my young relatives to arrive I could curse the sun and ignore the fish.

I’m waiting for the Ebersole’s to let me be a live-in friend. I’m waiting for a walk with Doug when he visits Calvin in the spring. I’m waiting for Talia to live in the Midwest, to see her and her art and her garden. I’m waiting for Alyssa to become a world-famous psychiatrist. I’m waiting for Katherine’s first book of poetry book to come out- I want to brag that I shared a cabin with her. I’m waiting for Ellie’s infamous Shenk-style letter full of drawings and inside jokes and her raw, beautiful thoughts spilled across the page.

                Not only am I the youngest, but I am also the only girl, which means I live in a male-dominated family, which means that in our household Die Hard is validated as a festive Christmas film. Every Thanksgiving night is centered on putting up wreathes, plump Santa dolls and watching Bruce Willis fight bad guys. My brother, knowing I was upset about being away for the holiday, sent an email assuring me that the family missed me too, and that they are waiting for me to get home to watch Die Hard.

When we wait on we believe that whatever we are waiting on is not ready, not good enough. We say I’m prepared; I’ve got my shit together (even though we don’t and never will). Waiting for is space. Space to nap, read, and play the ukulele. I know I am waiting for when I blink slower- holding in the gentle darkness—because I know that the world will still exist when I open my eyes and that there is no need to rush. 

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