We are always waiting for something. Little or great though the thing may be, we wait for it.
This summer I have begun reading Jane Austen for the first time. Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and now Persuasion. And though so much is different about our lives then as opposed to now, so very much is the same. We are still caught up in waiting and finding means out of our boredom… we only have different ways of occupying our time.
I sometimes find it surprising that so many people (women, especially) wish to live in the days of Jane Austen’s novels. We forget that Mr. Darcy and Mr. Farrars are as much fairy tales as Mr. Wiloughby is… and that Elizabeth Bennett was merely the proto-feminist dream of Ms. Austen, a dream whom Ms. Austen in all likelihood saw as just that—a dream.
But I suppose that now, as then, it is easier to pin one’s hopes and fantasy onto a fabrication than to acknowledge some of the harder realities of one’s own life.
I am struck with a memory of living in New England. Though I had chosen to move there willingly, it was not a place well suited for me, and I soon found myself driving 20 or 30 miles to the nearest shopping mall for a distraction that would remind me of home. How little I saw then just how I was rebelling against my surroundings; I was trying so hard in those days to find a place that was familiar—the comfort of a suburban shopping mall—that I was resolutely set against the time, commitment, and waiting it would take to become familiar with my new surroundings. I was too anxious to return to the familiar that I sought it out without realizing it.
How I hated that season in my life, and how I hated myself in it. I would walk in the midst of distracted shoppers, not looking for anything in particular and never buying anything of consequence. I felt so lonely in a place that, by all accounts, should have felt welcoming. It’s not that I was ever a prolific shopper, but shopping malls were a staple of my suburban Southern upbringing… just the experience of it should have felt like home.
Living in New England was an experience that required waiting—patient waiting. It required that I was patient enough to wait out the uncomfortableness of anxiety and to wait until I was at home there. I was not content with waiting it out, so I sought out an end to the anxiety in a memory that was, in the end, unrealistic.
Unlike wishing to live in one of Jane Austen’s novels (which are in most respects entirely unfamiliar), I wished to be in a place that was decidedly familiar… it at least came from an experience of living that was mine. Call it homesickness, call it a lack of adventurousness, call it what you like… but it was still an attempt to live in a dream instead of patiently live out the waiting. Even though I was only driving a long distance to sit in the swirl of a suburban shopping mall, it was still pinning all my hopes of happiness on a fabrication from my past.
I delve into this memory as an example of the waiting that is necessary in life. We are still waiting—and I hope we can do it more patiently than I did in New England. We still wait and wait and wait for our lost chances to return to us, for our hopes of happiness to be vindicated. We wait and wait and wait.
Now, as I wait for the completion of my degree, as I wait for the season in my life when I can live close to my family and my partner, as I wait for even a small sign or direction in where my life is going professionally, I am reminded that there will always be waiting. The choice comes in whether to wait patiently.