It’s finally summer, which (this year) means mosquitos, rain, and flash flood warnings going off twice daily on everyone’s phone. Literally.
It also means field trips for our students, which in turn means sitting on a school bus trying not to breathe in the thick, still air as we sit unmoving in the Austin traffic.
Someone told me later that the kids sitting in the back of the bus were throwing fruit snacks at each other’s faces. When I heard this I smiled because it made me think of fun and laughter and friendship, and how those things can be found in the smallest of moments.
I started thinking about what it’d be like for those kids to one day look back and smile about the time they were throwing fruit snacks at each other’s faces. I wonder if when they’re older they’ll think about how carefree they were, and how they wish life were still like that. I wonder if they’ll smile at the memory or if they’ll think instead about the bus driver who probably had to stay late and pick up the fruit snacks that had fallen onto the floor or had melted into the plastic seat – and I wonder if they’ll think about it and become sad because maybe that bus driver was getting old and had a bad back and had to slowly bend down to reach those fruit snacks thrown by the children.
Lately I’ve been trying to force myself to get into the habit of noticing the things around me. It’s as if it’s a muscle I haven’t used in a long time because I’ve been staring at my own feet for such a long time that I’ve forgotten how important it is to look around. You miss a lot of things when you’re not paying attention. The other day I was sitting in the office of a high school drop-out-prevention–specialist and I was getting frustrated with her because she was saying things like some kids are just like this and I started to think angry words in my head like ignorant and heartless.
But then I stopped and tried to notice things. I noticed that she was wearing sneakers with bright purple laces. I noticed that she had sock monkeys strewn all across her cabinets, and little Precious Moments statues perched gently on the surface of her desk, as if at any moment they would fly or twirl or do a little dance. There were thank you cards, pictures of her children ( grandchildren?), and boxes and papers scattered everywhere. And then probably the most curious thing – a tank of liquid nitrogen.
Part of being alive, I think, is learning to pay attention. And not only paying attention, but then communicating what is going on – and finding meaning therein.
Sometimes I sneak away from the office for a moment to buy coffee. There’s a little bakery/cafe across the street, and I buy coffee to go and sit at one of the tables underneath the umbrellas and think for a bit, listening to the sound of the violin music.
These past few months were strange. But there’s beauty in failure, I think.
I was recently at a work thing that involved me and many people well above the age of 40, and as part of the longest icebreaker ever, we all went around the room and said what advice we would give to our high school selves. Being that high school was actually not terribly long ago for me, the only thing that really came to mind was don’t eat curly fries every day for lunch. As everyone was sharing, I wrote down some of my favorites:
- Slow down
- Laugh more, sooner
- Everything is not so important
- Things are changing quickly
- It’ll all work out – slow down and enjoy life
- Every part contributes to the whole
- Ask her to dance