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Friday, May 06, 2005

Impatience

I find myself today opening up the bathroom door once more, to reveal just a little bit more about the things that go on behind the closed door. The visit will be brief, though, and this time there will be no reading involved. This time I am just stopping by to urinate. Though my bladder is still half full I reach out and flush the toilet. Urine touches the swirling water and is immediately whisked away. The water goes around and around as my bladder empties. The swirling stops and the water fills, mixing again with the urine still exiting my body. By the time I finish, I realize that I must either leave this puddle of piss stinking in the toilet or I must flush one more time, thus needlessly wasting water. Though I wish to be as environmentally friendly as possible, I flush again, zip up, wash my hands, and am off to whatever I was doing before this slight disruption.

I don’t know when or how I came to this habit of flushing the toilet before I finish peeing. I do it too often, though. I do it at home and at school. I do it in bars and in restaurants as well. While it isn’t such a big deal if I’m going into a urinal, it is a habit I would be better off without. The strange thing is, every time I do this, I feel stupid and I ask myself, Why? I tell myself not to do it again. As soon as I am standing over the toilet, though, it seems my mind goes blank and I only remember the silliness of this habit as the toilet water and my pee are being sucked away.

I did this again last night and I asked again, Why? I realized that perhaps this action is indicative of a greater personality defect. I began to think of other silly things that I do, like starting to brush my teeth and then walking away to do something else (as I am right now), leaving me with a mouthful of toothpaste and a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth. The conclusion I have come away with is that I am a greatly impatient individual, and this character trait permeates every aspect of my life in a very dangerous way.

It need not be said that impatience is a trait undesirable in those teaching five and six year olds. Sometimes when we are doing our reading lessons, I find myself exasperated that a child has forgotten something that we have been learning.

“Look, you know this. What sound does this make? No, not d! B!! Now, the e tells the I to say what? It’s known name. What is that letter called? A B C D…what is this letter called? Come on, you know that…”


And on it goes until we finally get to the answer, my face red and sweat starting to flow from the exertion. This extends as well to their behavior. Perhaps this is where it is most frustrating.

“How many times have I told you not to run. Come back here! Look at me when I’m talking to you! What, you think this is funny? Do I look amused? No! Now, we walk. Walk, walk…Hey, get back here. Don’t walk like a monkey. Walk correctly, like a normal human being.”

Sometimes I have a fear that microphones have been secretly hidden around the school, not with the intention to spy on us, but to remind us that yes, we do sound like our parents.

And as a brief digression, I have said variations of this phrase myself, and I have heard colleagues do it as well:
“Walk nicely.”
“Sit nicely.”
“Stand nicely.”
How do you do one of these things nicely? Once I realized how silly it sounded, I managed to wean myself from saying it, but the question remains. How do you sit or stand nicely? Properly I get, but nicely? Why do we say that?

Back to the topic at hand. Impatience is an awful thing. When I talk about writing, Natalia always makes a point of mentioning that I don’t have much hope of making a career out of it because I never bother to try to get things published. I don’t think the problem is so much related to confidence as it is to the fact of waiting for something to happen. Letters and manuscripts going back and forth, waiting and waiting for some tangible result to the time spent writing, the time spent selling, the time spent editing and reshaping. My impatience dictates that things be easier for me. That everything happens overnight, with a minimum of effort needed on my part.

If you have read much on this page before, you will know that I have quite a bit on tap for the coming year. Six or seven months of travel in Asia followed by a move to Argentina. In Argentina, plans to study Spanish and Chinese and try finally to launch a career in writing. So now, I will give you a glimpse at my general mindset as related to this:

Only seven weeks to go until teaching is over…I can’t wait. How many days is that? How many hours of class? Hmm, not bad. I can’t wait to get home…But really I can’t wait to go to Canada with my family and NY with Natalia. No, I can’t wait to get to China. How many days until I will be there? I can’t wait to get back to Laos and to see Burma. No, I really can’t wait until I see Natalia again and am studying Spanish and back into serious studying of Chinese. But really I can’t wait until we are traveling together through South America. And then I begin imaging all the things we have talked about in terms of possible futures and I think, ooh, I can’t wait to see what happens.

By the time I stop thinking about things I can’t wait for, I am fifty-five and more than half of my life is gone.

I have seven weeks in Taipei. I have seven weeks left with the kids who have meant so much to me, and the co-workers and parents who have become my friends. I will have less than three weeks with my grandparents and friends in Cincinnati, just a bit more time with my parents and brother. I have just more than two months with Natalia until we say goodbye until next year. That I can so easily forget such things as I busy myself dreaming the perfect future is an act bordering on criminal. And yet, how do we change the things that are ingrained in our personalities?

2 Comments:

Anonymous Natalia said...

Keep telling yourself to slow down and look around yourself. (I will help with my naggings) Enjoy the present, that's what it is, a present.
Carpe Diem my dear.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Alan,

Your brother, David, gave me the URL to your blog and I have come back to it often over the last three weeks. Your discussion of impatience hit home for me as I have reached my forties. The years on my life journey have taught me that life is to be enjoyed and not simply endured. But often I need a reminder. Thanks for sharing your daily life's adventures for all to read.

8:37 PM  

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