I sometimes inadvertently get lost in my own ideas and theories. I’ve learned to check this tendency in recent years, since it can happen at very inappropriate moments, such as in the middle of a conversation, or even while teaching. One setting where I give my thought processes free reign, however, is in the airport, with all of its novel stimuli and awkwardly long wait times. This has led to many an interesting or useful insight over the years.
As luck would have it, my connecting flight back to LA was delayed by about five hours today, which gave me ample time not only to think about the past few weeks, but also to read through my reflections from similar airport experiences in the past. One in particular that I wrote five years ago (as a freshman in college) stood out to me:
The airport is a curious place. People don’t go to the airport for the sake of going to the airport. They’re always in transit—either going somewhere or coming back from somewhere. In a single day, I could see over a thousand faces in passing, and chances are that I would never see any of those faces ever again. Most of the people are too busy to care, but when I’m at the airport, I like to stop and imagine what each of their stories might be. Where are they going, and why are they going there? Who are their loved ones, and where are they now? What are they thinking about as they try to make it through the hustle and bustle of airline travel? Even though every person may come from an entirely different background, it’s interesting to see that they and I are all connected, at least for a few hours, by this common thread of being “in transit”; neither here nor there, but making that journey from one to the other.
In a sense, we’re all in transit. I would be hard-pressed to think of someone who has truly found his or her place in life and would be content with just staying there for the remainder of his or her life. For obvious reasons, people my age are not content to stay in school and be students forever. But what about those who have graduated and are working to support themselves and their families? Is there no end to the wondering and the wandering? In high school, I thought the ultimate end would be college; I would take classes for four years, attend grad school, find a well-paying job, and live happily ever after. I suppose it was a highly idealized dream, but why should it have to be? Why is it so difficult for most people to settle down and be satisfied with their lives—to land at a final destination? These are questions that I’ve never asked myself before, but that will become more and more significant as I progress through this phase of my life. After all, when I’ve graduated, the majority of my life still remains.
So why this sudden outburst of philosophizing? I’m currently sitting in seat 11E of Flight 1446, about fifteen minutes into a five hour flight from LAX to Philadelphia. I wish I could say that I’m done with my Thanksgiving break homework, but I’m not; I just don’t feel like typing up a lab report when all eight people around me are fast asleep. For some reason, the prospect invokes a sense of loneliness. So I sit, listen to my iPod, and write a pensive (and admittedly, sort of emo) LJ entry.
I can see the city lights of LA receding into the distance. It’s somewhat comforting to know that I’ll be back within a month, and yet I realize, after this break more than ever, that LA will never be the same “home” that it has been for the past eighteen years. Where will I call home four years from now? I wish I knew.
This is interesting to re-read for a number of reasons:
- It’s fun to picture what my reaction would be if I were to go back and tell my 18-year-old self that in four years, I’d be teaching high school math in Providence, Rhode Island. I probably would have laughed at myself and pointed out that I had actively avoided dealing with kids (and people in general) during high school.
- I don’t remember if I seriously expected to have my life figured out by the end of college, but the ensuing five years have been nothing if not a reality check that God’s ways are higher than my ways (Isa 55:9), and that trusting in Him while embracing a certain degree of uncertainty in life always leads to good things (even if I can’t recognize that goodness in the moment).
- Speaking of uncertainty, this was written during a period in my life when I was really struggling with issues like faith vs. reason, absolute morality vs. relative morality, and belief vs. non-belief. (As most of my friends know, I entered college as an ardent atheist and converted to Christianity sometime during my freshman year.) While I still struggle with these issues at times, I’ve come to peace with the possibility that I may never resolve all of my doubts, and that in the meantime, abiding in Christ-like love for both God and the people around me (1 John 4) is by far the most fulfilling way to live my life. And the past year has shown me that working with kids in the inner city (and others in need, through various ministries at my church) is my personal answer to that call to abide in love. Never mind that five years ago, finding a “well-paying job” was apparently important to me. (Goodness, how values can change in a short amount of time.)
- I realize at a meta level that in five more years (or ten, or twenty), I may read this Teach For Us entry and be equally amused at the naivete of my thinking. Such is the nature of growing older and more mature, I suppose.
And with that, I think I’ll return to reality. I’m excited to spend the next two weeks relaxing and enjoying the company of family and friends at home, but I’m even more excited to start of the new school year and implement some of the great ideas that I heard about or observed at Institute. I’m revamping so many aspects of my classroom that my kids won’t know what hit them. Go go student achievement!