Waiting. That seems to be all I am doing lately. Waiting for the pandemic to end. Waiting for retirement. Waiting for sunshine. Waiting. And, like Godot, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. New variants and community spread; balance sheets and pension percentages; central New York grey draining all the color from the sky…it is a perpetual state of meh.
Another year of masks and distancing and missed conversations has left me wondering about the Big Questions. Why are we here? What is my purpose? What role do I play in the long lives of my students? Can I make an impact? The questions go on and on, begging for answers and spinning out more uncertainties.
In the past, I would have been more sure of the answers. I knew my goals and I knew when they were within reach. I knew when workshop was working and the writing was moving deeper, and I knew when a change was needed and a different direction was necessary. I knew when the poetry or story I shared was opening up a world they had never inhabited or even knew existed, and I knew when my big plans fell flat. I had a comfortable connection with many former students, reaching out to me from their lives in high school, college and beyond. Often, I would be stopped in the grocery store or the mall by a former student or a student’s parent, filling me in on their lives and filling my ego.
Now, the parts of their faces that are visible don’t reveal much and I worry about pushing too hard and accidentally breaking something fragile that hides behind their mask. Trips to the grocery store are quick and focused and the mall is avoided at all cost. I am as unsure about my words as I am about the things left unsaid. Purpose and place in the world is unclear for both me and for my students. So we wait. We wait for mask breaks and lunch breaks and school breaks. Colleagues wait for answers and musicians wait for the next beat. It is really hard to not sit down on the bench.
But, in all of the time spent waiting, life does continue. Like the conversation between Didi and Gogo in Beckett’s play, the time spent waiting is the story itself. I can sit on the bench or talk through the mask or find the purpose in the small moments. It is the embodiment of mindfulness and presence. I will continue to wait for clarity, but I will also embrace the story that is perpetually unfolding.