‘Excuse me, I just want to ask… are you getting any wi-fi here?’ the elderly gentleman sitting beside me turned to ask. He’d been struggling for a while with his laptop and I’d just sat down, mobile in hand, as usual.
‘Yeah, I do get wi-fi here.’ I looked at my phone, just in case.
‘Well, do you mind helping me check the results of the FA cup on ESPN? You see, I just flew in from Australia and missed the whole thing.’ He looked troubled.
‘Sure!’ I replied, opening the browser on my phone. ‘You must be a huge football fan.’
‘Yeah, I am. I’d play if I still could, but as I’m already in my 70s, I doubt I’d do much good on the field.’
‘In your 70s? Wow! And still traveling around for work?’ I was astonished. ‘Why?’
‘I can’t stay still. I must keep moving on. I see my friends and they’re all hunched over in chairs, staring at their television sets… there’s no way I want to let myself get that way. You grow old when you have no goal, you know?’
I nodded, then read out the results in my best imitation of a newscaster.
‘Wait… are you the one always up there?’ He pointed at the stage.
‘Umm… yeah. Well, not much often these days anymore.’ And for the weirdest reason I can’t understand, I began talking about the past and how things had changed for me since then. It was oddly pleasant, chatting with this stranger.
‘Well, it was nice meeting you,’ he shook my hand before leaving. ‘And finally seeing you in the flesh.’
I chuckled. It was nice.
‘Oh no!’ I cried out, banging my head on the table.
‘What? What!’ JapGirl turned to look at me, before laughing.
‘I forgot to hook the photographer up with the project manager for a shoot that was supposed to happen yesterday! They were all on standby, ready for instructions and I clean forgot. Oh…’ I moaned. I was frustrated at how easily I’d let slip that important detail.
‘Can I be honest?’ JapGirl asked quietly. But these questions are not really questions. They just set you up for a statement. So I kept quiet.
‘I don’t think it’s surprising that you forgot that detail. You are simply handling too much.’ She said. ‘I’m here! You need to pass me some of your responsibilities…’
‘I do want to share the work,’ I sighed, lifting my head off the table. ‘It’s not that I want to hoard the work, it’s just that sometimes things roll too quickly to hand them over to anyone else.’
‘From what I see, your strength is in the big picture. Conceptualizing. Stories. And mine… well, let’s just say I suddenly have this insane desire to be the best coordinator in the world,’ she quipped.
‘You’re a darling, you know that?’ I laughed. ‘Okay, I’ll try. I swear I’ll do my best.’
‘Let’s start by letting me fix this problem with the photographer and manager.’ She whipped out her mobile. ‘Give me their numbers.’
‘Wait…’ I pleaded. ‘Can we start by getting some coffee?’
‘Hey! How have you been?’ Justin waved. ‘How’s work?’
‘Work’s been good. Very fulfilling…’ I said.
‘How’s the family?’ He continued.
‘Well, we’re in a transition phase right now as my mom’s leaving soon, so there are a couple of things I need to take care of while she’s gone.’
‘You look a little tired, but happy.’ He smiled.
‘I am a little tired.’ I shrugged, ‘But it’s all good.’
‘Hey… don’t mind me saying… I don’t know why but I feel I need to tell you this. You seem to take a lot on yourself.’ He frowned. ‘I’ve seen people who give and give… and reach the place where they give themselves out. Do you take time to withdraw? To be on your own and quieten down with no thoughts whatsoever?’
‘I try…’ I replied. But honestly, I’ve never been without my thoughts. Whether it’s writing, or reading, playing games or sleeping, my brain is always either involved with what I’m doing, or thinking completely irrelevant thoughts.
‘You need to recharge.’ He said. ‘Really. Do it.’
Some days, conversations around me feel as if they were pre-conceived. It’s as if while I was sleeping, they had somehow gathered together, discussed the theme for the day and dispersed to their separate hours, merely waiting to be lived out.
I’ve never been one to stay still. As a child, I was climbing the windows before I knew how to walk. As a girl, I was singing before I could complete whole sentences. As a young woman, I wanted to fly before I had even begun building my foundations.
I always wanted more.
But maybe… just maybe… I really am beginning to do too much and the time has come for me to stand still.
‘Listen – are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’
– Mary Oliver