Arranging the pieces: Is waiting forever always the answer?

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By Tabitha Bozeman

The world lost the voices of three incredible writers in recent years. The poet Mary Oliver passed away in January of 2019; novelist Toni Morrison left us a few months later in August. Just a couple of weeks ago, we also lost poet and essayist Louise Glück, on October 13, 2023. Losing these writers has prompted me to re-visit their words, and to consider again their thoughts on life. One theme that has popped up repeatedly is that of waiting for life to happen versus creating a life we love.

I have a china cabinet that was my great-grandmother’s, and several cups and saucers that were my grandmother’s as a child. My sister and I were allowed to use these for tea parties when I was little, and we have passed a few down to our own girls. I used to only bring out these treasures for birthdays and holidays, but years ago I read that someone said to use the good china and make the memories now because we never know what tomorrow holds.

Ever since, I have used these pieces more frequently. If I want a cup of hot tea, or the girls want to have a tea party, or we just want to feel “fancy,” I pull out the pieces that make me smile and let the girls do the same—there is no real reason to wait, after all. The memories mean more than the china does.

Other times, the waiting is what makes the memories special. My girls are already anxiously awaiting the trifecta of holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I enjoy making menu plans with family, crafting decorations and putting up the Christmas tree. My children often lament that every day isn’t a holiday, and I remember feeling the same when I was their age. As an adult in charge of creating the magic and memories, I am glad every day isn’t a holiday.

There are some things we wait on, though, when maybe we shouldn’t: making that phone call, answering that text, reading that book, making that appointment, reconciling with that friend. Often, waiting only results in missed opportunities to make new memories and connections. We can wait ourselves into oblivion.

Toni Morrison, a Nobel Prize-winning writer whose work I often teach, said: “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” She knew that we can’t always wait around for the opportunities we want. Years ago, before I was teaching full-time, I knew I eventually wanted to be in the classroom. My position, though, was not in education, so I began to tutor, taught community workshops, and led a writing group for students. I couldn’t wait around for the opportunities, so I made them.

Today, I often tell my students that if the situation they are looking for doesn’t exist, it is up to them to create it, and that their ideal situation doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. Whether they want to create a future that includes two seemingly disparate fields of study, like Accounting and English, or they are trying to juggle school and family and a full-time job, or they just want to set themselves up for a peaceful existence in the future, waiting around won’t make it happen. Creating a life we love requires that we stop waiting and do. Or, as Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet asked us: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

Creating a life you love doesn’t just happen, and waiting for someone else to make the memories for you, or create your opportunities often results in more waiting. Louise Glück, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning Poet Laureate of the United States reminds us that we never know what may be in store for us when we stop waiting:

“Is waiting forever always the answer? Nothing is always the answer; the answer depends on the story. Such a mistake to want clarity above all things… On the other side, there could be anything, all the joy in the world.”

Tabitha Bozeman lives in Gadsden with her family, and teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed in this column are her own. To contact her, email tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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