Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Waiting List

In May 2011, the class that entered college when I started my current job graduated.  This class inspired change on our campus; from participating in protests and rallies to becoming student leaders in residence life, student government, and cultural clubs, they literally took over the campus and turned it into a positive, more diverse environment.  However, the beginning of their senior year was fraught with emotion: elation at making it to senior year when some of their cohort didn't, sadness at the thought of leaving the place they'd called home for four years, and worry over what their future held, especially in these tough economic times.  I had grown extremely close to this class over the past four years, so I attempted to help them through the transition from college to "The Real World".

Many of these optimistic "Generation Y"-ers wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world, much as they did in college.  As college students, they raised awareness about issues affecting people around the world, studied abroad learning about healthcare and education disparities, and spent their own money donating to enterprising women in developing countries.  They applied to jobs and internships through various non-profit organizations. Throughout this process, some of them expressed their concern about not finding something right after graduation.  Some of them watched as their peers got accepted into programs or internships or got jobs.  While they attempted to support each other as a group, individually their anxiety was mounting as graduation day grew closer.

A few of these students were placed on the waiting list for positions they had interviewed for.  I received this news from them along with a mixture of hope and disappointment.  My duty as a counselor was to remain positive and tell them that they were great and would be chosen for their coveted positions.  I also attempted to convince them that, in waiting, they could rest and spend time on leisure activities or on personal growth experiences.  Of course, as they waited, I also held my breath in a figurative sense.  These students were such amazing people who brought me joy just by their mere presence and could transform the atmosphere of any room they walked into.  One by one I received emails and text messages saying, "Ms. G, I got in!"  And my response was, "Well of course you did, what did you expect?"

The "waiting list" is one of those concepts that evokes a multitude of conflicting emotions - worry and anxiety, relief and hope.  It can cause self-doubt, have us wondering why we weren't chosen first, even lead to a lowering of our standards and expectations.  The process of waiting can also be an invaluable experience.  In waiting, we can rest, recuperate, and reflect on our past experiences and what we want to take with us as we move forward in our lives.  In waiting, we are growing in the safety of a cocoon that we know, even while that very cocoon might start to become uncomfortable as we grow and transform.

I have been waiting a while for certain things in my life.  At this point, I've been "chosen" to receive some of my desires, but I'm still waiting for some to be fulfilled.  In the process of waiting, I've learned that everything I want might not be what is best for me at this particular moment.  I've learned to let go of expectations that had nothing to do with my personal values and were more learned behavior.  I've learned to accept myself for who I am while holding on to the perseverance and resilience necessary to move forward in life.  Although I still wait for some of my heart's desires, I appreciate the lessons I'm learning in the process of waiting.

Recently, I spent time with someone who I had been dating on and off for a while.  We'd both been divorced and were guarded and cautious about committing to a relationship.  I told him that, despite our strong connection, I knew we were looking for different things out of life, and I shared that I desire marriage and children.  After having time to think, he told me that, although he never considered remarrying, my desire for a family is causing him to rethink his perspective.  Of course, the process of "rethinking" for him translates into a process of waiting for me, if I so choose to.  Much like my students, the idea of waiting brings me anxiety and hope - anxiety that I might be waiting for something that might never happen, and hope that somehow, it will.

Most recently, he and I took a walk on a beautiful pier, and as I felt the breeze and listened to the waves gently rocking against the docked boats, I said to him, "This is the life I want to live."  His response: "You're living it RIGHT NOW."  Those five words put waiting into perspective for me.  I'm actually NOT waiting, I'm LIVING.  And, as all living beings do, I am growing, learning, evolving, and maturing.  So, although I might think I'm on the waiting list, in reality, I'm right where I need to be at this very moment, and I choose to enjoy it.  This moment, RIGHT NOW, was worth the wait.


  1. As usual, fantastic piece! We must remember to live while we wait, rather than being in a walking coma.

  2. Thanks Marie! Walking coma - hmm, reminds me of the times I've said I feel like a zombie. It's so hard when we let life become a rut. Argh, just enjoy the moment!