“They had fallen into the habit of considering their universe to be boring—and their universe had duly fallen into line with their expectations.” The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton
Upon arrival in Jamaica, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer told us to “take time”, what I would soon treasure as Jamaica’s unofficial motto. For a flighty person like myself, this is both easy and hard- easy to be flexible because life is not a straight line, and hard to stay committed to never ending projects that require constant care. Even unwrapping the concept of taking time has taken time; I had to live through a summer as slow as molasses only to jump into a spring of activity once school (and a flurry of Peace Corps conferences, and the hurricane season) began.
I packed these lessons up in my head, reminding myself not to get too upset after the 20th phone call to the man who could replace our lightning struck router. “Soon come” in Jamaica might not mean soon in a North American context, but whatever it is will happen at some point. Fittingly, each time I put finger to keyboard to write about time taking, I paused, unsure what to tap out.
I’ve never admitted to writer’s block; I always thought that affliction visited those whose brains had become tired, who didn’t snap to attention at the sound of a twittering bird or stop to smell each flower along the path. So when the stories I wrote about taking time flopped, no common thread strong enough to save them from the Recycle Bin, I shrugged off the suspicion that perhaps I wasn’t taking enough time.
You have to live keenly, to enter wildly into the world around you, in order to write about it. But you also have to let some things sit, to forget about them as you continue to go through the motions of quotidian habit. Then one day, as the sun pours into your room while lounging in bed, you get it. The expectations you have for people and projects- don’t forget them- but face them. Turn them into a badge you see every time you look in the mirror. When your friend didn’t give you the affection you craved, when your little host brother taunted you, when you had to read each grant application question five times over until everyone heard you: recall that your expectations are the reason you became upset when things turned out differently than you anticipated.
Life will never go quite as planned, but that’s good. What I fight for, the things I take time to accomplish, will end up differently than I envisioned. By facing my expectations, transforming them into realistic windows of my world, I realize I have all time I need, so I’ll take it.