I was talking with a friend the other day about life and purpose and where we're headed. There was a general sense of frustration - we both felt like we would have had things (that is, our lives) figured out by now. I still feel pretty young, but I turn 25 this year, which sounds like an awfully big, old, and grown-up number. Does something magical happen when you turn 25? Like all of a sudden you know what you want to do with your life, who you want to do it with, and how you can get there? I'm guessing not, because that hasn't been the case for the past 24 years of my life. And I guess I would have missed out on a lot of the adventure and awe that I've experienced up to now if I had it all sorted.
After mulling over some of life's biggest questions, I was babysitting that night and the little 2 year old, bless her heart, picked out Dr. Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go" for a bedtime story.
It's quite remarkable, really, just how right on Dr. Seuss was. In many ways, my life has paralleled Dr. Seuss' book of places - though perhaps with a little less color and rhyming. I think my favourite "place" is "The Waiting Place...for people just waiting":
"Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.
"Waiting for the fish to bite or the wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night, or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting."
Ah yes, The Waiting Place. I know it well. I don't so much mind the waiting for a train to go or the mail to come, but I really hate the waiting around for a Yes or No, for Friday night, a Better Break, or Another Chance. Those waiting places seem to be the very worst. I think that is when we hear those Hakken-Kraks howl and when we forget all the places we've gone before and have yet to go.
And then you forget there are millions of other people in the world - many of them waiting, and many of them hungry or cold or thirsty or sick. You even forget there is a neighbor next door and a mom back at home because the waiting can get so lonely.
"I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.
I've known that too. It's true, alone will be something you'll be quite a lot. People never tell you that when you are 5 and dream of becoming a zookeeper or a ballerina People don't really talk about loneliness much at all, even though we all experience it - some everyday. The most startling experience of loneliness I've had was when I lived in Cape Town for a year, where alone was something I was quite a lot. Because of that experience, I have never felt such gratitude for community and for my people. I also gained a deep sense of empathy for the widower down the street, the orphaned babe across the sea, and the weary travelers so far from home.
"You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go."
Sometimes the mix ups are where you start to find your way. And those strange birds? They are some of my most favourite birds, the very best kind for a venture to Great Places. And I suppose after all that waiting and loneliness and mix ups, you're ready for just about anything. Sometimes the Great Places are rather large. Sometimes they are quite simple and small. Sometimes Great Places are way over there. Sometimes they are right here, right now.
So with that, I bid you great traveling - whether your name be Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O'Shea, you're off to great places.
Go on. Get on your way.