I recently read a book called ‘The In-Between’ by Jeff Goins. It’s an anecdotal book for the most part, full of memories and small stories that illustrate his major point; that we spend most of our time waiting. Seriously. In fact as well as in our heads. We spend more time than we think in lines, on hold, in our cars traveling; always waiting for something. We also spend an inordinate amount of time waiting in our heads and hearts – waiting for the next thing to happen to us. For graduation, marriage, kids, retirement, death…and everything in between. We spend so much time waiting for the next day or next whatever that we rarely find time to live in the moment. Sure, living in the moment has some bad connotations, like being flighty and irresponsible and never having a plan for the future, but most of us aren’t like that. We may occasionally let ourselves go in the moment when we’re having fun with friends or doing something we love, but those moments are like bright stars in the dark sky – small and minor compared to the vastness of life.
In Goins’ book, he talks about learning to appreciate the small things. Trite advice, you think. Perhaps. But true nevertheless. Look back at the past week or so and think about when you were happiest. Was it a grand moment full of importance and splendor? Or was it a small thing that simply made you very happy? If I do this, I think of being with some new friends. I’ve been anxious to make friends at school, and I’m finally starting to. At the club meeting, Tuesday evening in a bus on the way to a lab – I was merely talking to people, but I was supremely happy. Oh, and discovering that my library is huge and has an extensive selection of books in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese…
All these are small things, but it’s these that I remember. Passing my exams is great, but it’s more relief that I feel, not joy.
I’ve spent my entire life in the purgatory of waiting. I felt like my life wouldn’t begin until college, and now that I’m in college, I’m feeling like it won’t start until I get married or move to Korea, whichever comes first. But it’s not true. Life is not a goal, it’s a state of being. I am alive now. I’m living, no matter what I’m doing. Waiting to live doesn’t even make sense. Neither does regretting something. I’ve regretted a few things. I always feel guilty that I’m not already done with school, that I’m not already married, that I haven’t already gotten an amazing job or traveled more. But looking back, every single experience I’ve had has made me grow in a way that wouldn’t have happened in any other circumstance. I’ve needed all those waiting bits and periods in order to become what I am now, and all the waiting bits ahead will be necessary to get me further. I’m not the person I want to be, so I need a lot more waiting. I now appreciate the waiting, as time to reflect and grow. For, as Goins says, it’s frequently in those waiting moments that we do grow. We think, we reason, we imagine and learn within ourselves, often in a split-second.
I think we tend to hate the waiting and feel it’s useless because we often escape into books or movies, worlds in which no one ever waits for long and things happen consecutively. Action is frequent, speech is parsed down and simplified to exclude the nonessentials. We want life to happen like that, but it won’t. Imagine a book that actually followed, moment by moment, real life. It would be unutterably dull.
So we need to stop and consciously observe the waiting time, and learn to grow in it. Reflect more, learn more, think more, appreciate more, and be grateful for the small things. We all live in-between the big things, and that’s where most of life happens.