Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Crossroads Pause…

In a few hours from now, I know of a good friend that is going to step on a Jumbo jet for the first time in his life. Not only is it his first time flying, but it’s also the first time he ever crosses the South African “home” border. Excited yet nervous, he asked me for a word of advice.

I gave him a few pointers on how to build his curriculum vitae and to write a killer presentation letter, making him wish he’d paid more attention in Mrs Brown’s Guidance class. I ignored his comment about his only regret was not having me around to help on his C.V and tried to focus on what he needed to remember. I also gave a few suggestions on what he should and shouldn’t pack and some advice and how to go about organising himself in England. All that was left to do was wish him a good flight when he surprised me with a rhetorical question that I expected from anyone but him.

“I’m going to miss my parents aren’t I? I’m going to know their true worth?”

As overconfident as my friend usually is, he also reached his crossroads pause. I realised that he wasn’t asking for advice, he was asking for understanding from someone who’d gone through what he knows, he’s about to face… I could’ve told him about the nights that he’s going to spend wondering why he ever decided on leaving the comforts of his home! I could try to describe the contrasts of the sharp and dull pain of missing the people he cares about. He too will know that missing someone you love is like the pain of a thousand knife wounds to your heart with a blunt blade. The lonely nights, the insecurities and self-doubt will also be newfound friends no matter how successful he becomes.

I suppose that after I told him all of this, I could also say: “It’s a little crappy in the beginning but then you’ll get used to it”.
Of course I’d be lying… to anyone who’s far from home or calls himself an immigrant, will know that it doesn’t get easier… you just learn to live with it. Like a pebble in your shoe, you’ll get so used to it that you will hardly notice it’s there, until a Sunday evening when you can no longer ignore the throbbing pain.

But here I was speaking to an intelligent person, and we both knew that I wouldn’t be telling him anything he hadn’t already imagined in these last couple of days, so the only piece of advice I could give him was to savour the moment and enjoy the ride.

He was never one to dwell on emotional drama, yet he seemed to understand when I told him that the last words to the people he cares about should describe how much they mean to him. As he walks through the metal detector, he should wave goodbye, looking back one last time… and then… he must look forward. I told him not to think of the future while he boarded the plane or while being thousands of metres up in the air. I told him to hang on to his crossroads pause as long as he could.

To me, waiting at the airport or being on a plane is a crossroads pause. When feelings shouldn’t be about what you’ve left behind, or what you’re about to face but a simply about the moment you’re living. Anytime that I’m in transit at the airport, a natural tranquiliser settles over me. It is the pause of no judgement. Time seems to stop and you seem to be on freeze frame whilst the world is on fast forward. Just like an athlete observing a game from the bench, you see the positive things and the things you need to improve but you’re not directly playing. I enjoy that opportunity to watch the world around me as if I was invisible. Everybody around you is either going to or returning from a journey, a chapter in their lives and just for that short time period, everything seems crystal clear. The advice I gave my friend, is to savour that rare moment, he would surely remember it later.

I wasn’t sure if I’d made sense but silence followed by a choked Thank-you told me that he knew exactly what I was talking about.

The crossroads pause is what I call the deep breath before plunge. Anyone who’s ever found the courage to make life-defining changes will recognise this rare time period between the decision… and the jump. I call it the jump because it reminds me of my first bungee jump. At first it starts off as a joke, then you realise that it’s something that you could do just before you decide to go for it. Although you know more or less what to expect, you tell yourself that all it takes is the initial burst of courage. You start climbing the ladder fuelled by the energy your friends at the bottom shout at you. Halfway up the ladder, you cease to hear their voices and your knees begin to quiver as you begin to realise the reality of your decision. Listening carefully to instructions, you know what you have to do and take a deep breath. You don’t have to look down to know what you’ll see if you do, you simply don’t look because you know that if you do, you’ll turn back.
That’s you find yourself stuck in the crossroads pause.
It begins when you stop hearing the instructions from person next to you and begin to only hear the loud beating of your heart. Your body stiffs into position and your arms stretch in mercy of the wind that keeps encouraging your fall. Some might say a little prayer, others will swear on the moment that they took on that dare, I remember closing my eyes and simply letting go… And then you fall, for what seems like eternity before landing back on “solid” ground.

No matter how you land, the world will always look different after the jump, the crossroads pause defines your landing.

Time is precious, it’s the one thing everybody needs and no one can buy. At times, when you’re waiting for something, it goes by too slowly. 29 days can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting for the key to your brand new apartment! Other times, it flies by so quickly that it seemed like just yesterday your little brother wore diapers and called you Kaya. Time stops for no one… however, then and again you feel as if it’s been placed on pause. During what I call the crossroads pause, you stop and auto-evaluate your life before choosing the road to keep on going forward (or backwards). It is the rare time when suddenly there are no doubts or confusion, and you see your life with crystal clear vision.

The last two days I’ve found myself sitting once again at the crossroads… I don’t have any decisions to make but I know that I have big changes ahead of me. However it’s not the changes that caused me to stop, nor is it the need for self-analyses. It is a rare moment in my life where I feel that destiny has brought me down the right road and that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s the sweetest feeling of satisfaction. I have no certainties about my future however somehow I feel that I’m exactly where I should be in my life. This liberates a little more faith in fate and trust in the man with the remote control. Soon the moment will pass and my life will return to its lightening speed of decisions but in the meantime… I’m savouring this moment, while it lasts.

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